Stand with Kashmir Boston and its allies request that Harvard University and the India Conference at Harvard distance themselves from Sandeep Chakravorty and individuals like him who make highly irresponsible statements that target entire communities. Such individuals should not be given a platform at any institute of higher learning.
In November 2019, a video began circulating among Kashmiri communities across North America. The video appeared to be taken by someone in the audience of the speaker, a middling man with round-rimmed frames addressing what seemed like an invited audience in a private home.
The content of the video includes a 2-minute segment which has stoked tensions between groups of a community — namely Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits) and Kashmiri Muslims — who have already suffered deep repercussions from an occupying rule by India.
The man in the video is Sandeep Chakravorty — the Indian Consul General to the United States. The people he is addressing — a group of diaspora Kashmiri Pandits. The statements he is making — deeply problematic. Chakravorty minced no words when he clearly advocated for settler colonialism in Kashmir. Using Israeli settlements in Palestine — which are illegal under international law and constitute a war crime — as a model, Chakravorty tells the crowd,
“We already have a model in the world…… 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.”
He then proceeds to say, “Kashmiri culture is the Indian culture, it is the Hindu culture,” disregarding the state’s multi-religious and multi-ethnic composition, and erasing its Muslim majority population and other religious minorities that populate the region, including Sikhs, Christians, and Buddhists.
In an atmosphere of already increasing fascism and Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry in India, this comes as a huge blow for proponents of self-determination in Kashmir and an affront to all who believe in human rights.
On February 16, 2020, the same Sandeep Chakravorty will be a featured speaker at the 17th annual India Conference at Harvard University.
Chakravorty made these statements in the wake of India’s August 5th illegal annexation and siege of the disputed region of Kashmir — the most militarized zone on earth. He made these statements in the midst of an ongoing, now 6-month long internet shutdown–the longest in a democracy — and lockdown characterized by arbitrary detention of thousands of Kashmiris — including children — on draconian and dubious “public safety” measures.
As the Consul-General of the Indian embassy, Chakravorty is a representative of an increasingly authoritarian Indian government that is implementing a series of controversial freshly-passed laws that threaten the citizenship status of Indian minorities, from the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to the update to the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The CAA overtly discriminates against India’s Muslim minority, and has been associated with violent repression of student protestors, killings of Muslims with impunity, and the rise of fear and hate in India. And in what has been described as a tool to render Muslims stateless, the NRC rendered nearly 2 million people — the majority Muslim — stateless in Assam, the Indian state with the second-largest Muslim majority. According to Genocide Watch, Muslims in Kashmir and Assam are one step away from extermination.
Chakravorty’s words are dangerous. They pander to the right-wing Hindutva belief that Kashmir should be a Hindu enclave and that Muslims are interlopers. Chakravorty is advocating for a change to the demographics of the Muslim-majority region, which the area saw before through state-sponsored violence. In the 1947 Jammu Massacre, for instance, nearly half a million Muslims were killed or displaced, leaving Hindus the majority in Jammu in the aftermath of this genocide.
Moreover, Chakravorty’s words normalize the violent repression and subjugation of Palestinians, who live in an open-air prison characterized by lack of freedom of movement, excessive state-sponsored use of lethal force, lack of access to electricity and water, a crumbling economy and healthcare system, and systemic discrmination. This “Israeli model” is hardly one that any representative of a democracy should promote.
Universities such as Harvard must not provide a platform for those who engage in hate speech and propagate ethnic cleansing of a community by encouraging settler colonialism.
We request that Harvard University and the India Conference at Harvard distance themselves from Sandeep Chakravorty and individuals like him who make highly irresponsible statements that target entire communities. Such individuals should not be given a platform at any institute of higher learning, particularly a prestigious institute like Harvard University.
Harvard and its students have taken a principled stand against hate speech and settler colonialism in the past. In 2011, Dr. Subramanian Swamy, an Indian economist who advocated for the destruction of mosques and disenfranchisement of Indian Muslims who refuse to acknowledge Hindu ancestry, was barred from teaching at Harvard. In November 2019, over 100 Harvard students staged a walkout on Dani Dayan, the Consul General of Israel in New York, holding up signs that read “Settlements are a War Crime.”