October 27th, commemorated annually by Kashmiris, marks 72 years since India’s occupation in Kashmir began.
Stand With Kashmir and its allies called for an International Day of Resistance, observed with candlelight vigils throughout the world.
Today is also Diwali, which, in the simplest of terms, is the Hindu festival of light.
Different stories from Hindu mythology mark this festival depending on the part of the world in which you are observing it. What Diwali has in common for all Hindus though, is this: Diwali is when we remember the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, hope over despair.
That’s precisely why I’m standing in solidarity with Kashmiris this year.
Kashmiris and their allies are lighting candles in vigils in over 50 cities all over the world, to drive out the darkness imposed upon Kashmir by the communications and media blackout. We side with good over evil, by standing with Kashmiri civilians fighting for their homeland in the face of arrests, torture, and mass disappearances. We insist on knowledge over ignorance, by telling the truth about what is happening in Kashmir despite the swell of lies and propaganda that meets us at every turn. We choose hope over despair, hoping that Kashmiris will win the right to self-determination that they deserve.
All too often the conversations around Kashmir are reduced to a dispute between India and Pakistan. Folks fall back on the false and easy narrative of religious communalism. But Hinduism, like most faiths, teaches us to choose the truth, even when it is the harder choice.
And the truth is that the Indian state has kept displaced Kashmiri Pandits in turmoil for years because that helps justify their intense military presence in the valley. The truth is that the Indian state regularly conflates insurgency with insurrection, and uses Islamaphobic rhetoric to discredit opposition on any level.
This movement is about truth, not religion. We stand with all Kashmiris. We believe it is important for Kashmiris and Indians, irrespective of religion, to work together against the Indian government’s continued occupation of Kashmir. We need to be allies and supporters of Kashmiri voices.
One of the most powerful signs of solidarity today comes from the allies in India who have been working underground for weeks, despite threats from their own friends and families, organizing candlelight vigils this Diwali in the absence of their Kashmiri neighbors who are scared for their lives.
Part of the Diwali story I was told growing up was this: the people of Ayodhya lit so many diyas to light Ram’s way upon his return from defeating Ravan, that even on a no moon night, it was bright as day.
And isn’t that what drives a movement like ours? All our small direct actions, protests, vigils, and teach-ins — each shining a small light on Kashmir that collectively becomes so bright it cannot be ignored or denied.
That’s why the best way I can think to observe Diwali is to light a candle in solidarity with Kashmiris as a symbol of commitment to this fight for justice and for truth.
I hope the candles lit throughout the world today can help lift the darkness and light the way.
Our voices will do the rest.