Indian students at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) protested over a webinar/panel discussion titled “Global Freedom Struggles from Kashmir to Palestine” which was held on 9 May by The Institute of Arts & Humanities in association with multiple other bodies of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). The panellists who were to participate were May Shigenobu, Department of Media and Cultural Studies, UC Riverside, Huma Dar, Adjunct Professor, California College of the Arts and Taher Herzallah, Director, Outreach and Community Organizing, American Muslims for Palestine. The webinar was to discuss “the linked global struggles against colonial occupation in Palestine and Kashmir, the struggles in these places, the global movement for decolonization and deoccupation”.
However, the event met with strong objection from 44 Indian students studying at UCSD. They opposed the very inclusion of Kashmir in this webinar and the Indian government being labelled as “colonialists” and “oppressors”. They said in an email to the university administration that “Kashmir has been an integral part of India and the residents have always had the rights and equal status as any other person in the country. The false narrative of the colonial occupation of Kashmir needs to be debunked and we as Indian students are ready to take all possible steps to avoid such fake narrative being spread in the university”. They further wrote that thousands have sacrificed their lives protecting the Indian borders and that they cannot stay silent just watching the efforts of the martyrs being dehumanized and terrorist crimes being whitewashed.
The protesting Indian students vehemently opposed the invitation of Huma Das as a speaker at the event, who they claimed has a proven record of supporting pro-terrorist agendas including spreading anti-India hate and supporting terrorist organizations which have been blacklisted by the CIA. Through relevant documents they opined and objected that the speaker has a vicious agenda against India. The students also demanded an apology from ISPO for not considering Indian voices before amplifying this event through their newsletter. Secondly they demanded the removal of Kashmir as a topic from the panel discussion and lastly that UCSD should not provide a platform to a separatist sympathizer like Ms. Das for spreading anti India hatred. The International Students’ Association at UCSD showed solidarity with the Indian students and wrote in the email to UCSD that Kashmir is a very important topic for Indian people everywhere and that any false accusations and heavily biased rhetoric should not be endorsed. The students also carried out a signature campaign on campus followed by a formal complaint being registered with the Indian Embassy in the U.S. Finally, the programme was removed from the University’s iEvents calendar and the webinar was conducted sans the Kashmir issue.