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Minnesota: Protesters demand end to human rights violations in Kashmir

By Austin Jensen

Richa Nagar speaking at the rally.

Columbia Heights, MN – Nearly 400 people protested along Central Ave on September 22 to demand an end to the atrocities being committed against Muslims in India by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right-wing government.

On August 5, the Indian government announced its decision to revoke Article 370, which guaranteed the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir special status, which allowed the region to govern its affairs autonomously in all areas except defense, communication and foreign policy.

Currently, Kashmir is under media blackout, with the cutting of phone, internet and TV access with very little information getting out of the human rights violations being committed by India’s military.

Richa Nagar, a University of Minnesota professor, spoke on these violations. “There have been continuous incidents of abuse and torture in prisons and in night raids. People are afraid to leave their homes. Violent processes of othering, hatemongering, criminalizing, disenfranchisement, dispossession, and displacement including brutal incidents of lynching are reported regularly from one part of India or another. The targets of this violence are Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis or indigenous people, Christians, journalists, civil rights workers, and others deemed 'anti-national'”

The speakers also expressed concern about Modi's expanding anti-Muslim policies including the setting up of detention camps and requiring Muslims to prove their citizenship.

Meredith Aby-Keirstead of the Anti-War Committee explained the connection between Islamophobia in India and the oppression being inflicted on immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. “As people of conscience we cannot be silent about the concentration camps on the U.S.-Mexico border or in India. And we need to understand that when we let Trump cage children on the border we are sending a message internationally that this is acceptable. As international solidarity activists we call on both governments – the government of the U.S. and India – to stop their repressive policies targeting Muslims.”

Imam Asad Zaman, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, spoke on some of the atrocities that have been committed thus far. “Churches have been burned, mosques have been confiscated, people have been arrested, people have been disappeared, minorities have been killed, and lynchings are occurring on a weekly basis. For all of these reasons we gather here to bring the world's attention to these problems.”

After the speeches, protesters marched down the sidewalks of Central Avenue, which stretched out a half a mile. Chants heard throughout the march included “Stop genocide in Kashmir, right now, right now!” and “Hey ho hey ho, Modi needs to go.”

Signs seen across the protest included: “Allow media in Kashmir,” End human suffering in Kashmir,” End military presence in Kashmir,” and “Why is the media silent? The atrocities are real.”

This action was organized by the MN chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the MN Anti-War Committee and the Muslim American Society of Minnesota.

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