Protesters gathered at Harvard Square and held banners reading "Stand With Kashmir" and "Settler-colonialism is barbarity."
A group of Kashmiri and Palestinian activists came together to protest against a talk at Harvard University by India's Consul General to the United States (U.S.) Sandeep Chakravorty, who has proposed in the past that India's government should use Israel's colonizing model.
In solidarity for Kashmir, the protesters gathered at Harvard Square, where Chakravorty was giving his speech, and held banners reading "Stand With Kashmir" and "Settler-colonialism is barbarity."
"What do we want? Freedom! Freedom! It is our right. Freedom! Freedom! Lovely, lovely freedom! Sweet, sweet, freedom!" they chanted.
Chakravorty came under intense criticism in November when he told Kashmiri Hindus and Indians at a private event that far-right President Narendra Modi administration’s will build occupying settlements modeled after Israel to ensure the colonization of Hindu population in occupied Kashmir.
“I don’t know why we don’t follow it. It has happened in the Middle East. If the Israeli people can do it, we can also do it,” Chakravorty had said, referring to the illegal settlements implemented by Israel to occupy Palestine.
Chakravorty was speaking at a two-day conference on the relationships between India and the U.S., an event organized by Harvard students.
Kashmiri organizers sent letters to multiple deans on campus, protesting the Indian consul’s participation. They were told that his intervention was allowed on the merits of free speech.
"Hate speech is not free speech," Arshad Iqbal, one of the principal organizers of the demonstration, told Middle East Eye.
Another protester said that places like Harvard were admired for academic excellence but also for “what they stand for.”
The protester told Middle East Eye the institution's reputation is compromised when "they support panels like these, where a person calls for building Israeli-type settlements in Kashmir".
"They bring a person like him to speak and have no critical session on Kashmir, where for the last seven months people have had no communication.”
On Aug. 5 Modi’s government revoked the special status of Kashmir and Jammu by removing a constitutional provision, article 370, that prevented non-Kashmiris to purchase any property in the Muslim-majority state.
The move was aimed to allow Indian Hindus to purchase properties in Jammu and Kashmir, which activists warned would be a similar policy to that of Israeli settlements in Palestine.
In December, the Indian government also passed the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA), which provides non-Muslim minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who moved to the country before 2015 a pathway to citizenship. Critics and opposition parties say the law, which excludes Muslims, is unconstitutional as it bases citizenship on people’s religion and will marginalize India’s 200 million Muslim citizens.
Strong parallels were made in recent months between the plights of Kashmir and Palestine as India and Israel continue their military control and occupation over the territories of the peoples of these regions, in violation of international law and United Nations resolutions.