Muslims for Social Justice, a North Carolina-based organization dedicated to social justice and human rights for all, protested human rights abuses in Kashmir Thursday following a speech by the Indian Ambassador to the U.S. at the FedEx Global Education Center.
Kashmir is a heavily militarized disputed territory in India with a majority Muslim population. India revoked a constitutional provision granting special status to Kashmir in August, removing certain autonomous powers and raising concerns of future conflict in the region.
An escalation of reports of torture and human rights violations in the region prompted Manzoor Cheema, an organizer for Muslims for Social Justice, to hold a protest to coincide with Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla's talk at UNC in solidarity with those experiencing human rights violations.
“The purpose was to highlight human rights abuses in Kashmir,” Cheema said.
Cheema said India detains political opponents and supporters of Kashmiri officials. Opponents are subject to torture, he said, and intimidation tactics are used against the Kashmiri population. Cheema said Genocide Watch, an organization that seeks to predict, prevent and punish forms of mass murder, placed Kashmir on a list of alerts for genocide.
“Their goal is to wipe out the non-Hindu population in India,” Cheema said. “So what’s happening is not in isolation. We feel that this is a rise of fascism.”
Cheema said he believes the Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is pursuing a fascist agenda, including what Cheema considers to be ethnic cleansing.
There were 20 to 30 protestors at the FedEx Global Education Center on Thursday, according to Cheema. Those interviewed for this article asked to remain anonymous for fear of government retaliation against family members still in Kashmir.
“The fear and the uncertainty of whether our loved ones are safe at home in this scenario and situation — we haven’t been able to sleep," a demonstrator said. "It’s affecting our kids here; it’s affecting our whole life."