Visiting speaker Dr. Hafsa Kanjwal speaks on the crisis in Kashmir

Story and photo by Kristin Jones / Contributing Writer

Middle Tennessee State University welcomed Dr. Hafsa Kanjwal as the speaker for the 2020 Spring Colloquium held in the Student Union.

She spoke about the ongoing historical and political problems in Kashmir, India. Kanjwal used her own original research to provide an insight into Kashmir’s struggle for self-determination.

Kanjwal has dubbed this a “humanitarian and human rights crisis.”

She is an assistant professor of South Asian History at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. Kanjwal has a Ph.D. and B.S. in the History of Women’s Studies and in Regional Studies of the Muslim World.

Kashmir is a very religiously diverse region as the population is made up of Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. Kanjwal gave the background history of Kashmir before leading into the main events that have happened in the past year.

Kanjwal elaborated on the events that occurred on August 5th of 2019. The hashtag #redforKahsmir was spread by government and government allies. The Hindu nationalist government took away Kashmir’s constitutional autonomy and deployed more troops into the already very militarized zone.

The government also shut down and arrested Kashmiri leaders, activists, journalists, lawyers and students.

“Indian government does not allow international journalists. There are very brave Indian journalists who are working for international newspapers such as the New York Times or Washington post to attempt to get the stories out. Those journalists can be targeted for that as well,” Kanjwal said.

Kashmir has gone under extreme conflict as the government has begun to use pellet guns against the people instead of traditional firearms. Pellet guns are usually used against rodents and other small animals. The gun sends out pellets in a shotgun-like way.

This method is to create a non-lethal way of taking control, but according to Kanjwal and other sources, the pellets can puncture internal organs and cause death.

When using pellet guns, the shooters aim above the waist and have permanently or partially blinded over 1,200 people.

The government has also enforced strict curfewed days, weeks and even months where all internet, social media, businesses and schools are required to be shut down.

“Cell phone use was put to an end. There was no communication outside of Kashmir, some citizens found a way to get social media, but when the government found out, they threatened to label anyone using social media as a terrorist,” Kanjwal said.

Because of the intense curfews, people are not able to transport friends and family to the hospital in the event that there is an emergency. Kashmir is in a healthcare crisis and death certificates are not being documented.

India had the most internet shutdowns of all countries in 2018 at 134 shutdowns. That number is expected to have been higher in 2019 and 2020.

Kanjwal also explained what living under militarization is like. She mentioned how men and boys will go missing or forced to go under intense interrogations. Leaving home can be a dangerous thing to do.

“Over 50% of the Kashmiri population is suffering a type of depression or PTSD,” Kanjwal said.

Students are also only recently being able to go back to school after seven months of the school system being shut down. Families are hesitant to send their children to school in the event that they can not get a hold of their son or daughter.

“The Indian government has allowed certain U.S. or International diplomats to go on a ‘propaganda’ tour as they do not come in contact with any citizens, and they only go from the airport to headquarters, to a beautiful lake and back to the airport,” Kanjwal said. “It is very hard to give aid to Kashmir. You can only do it through the government which is for educational resources and orphans. The red cross is allowed to come in on very targeted small projects,” she added.

From Jan. 1, 1989, to Nov. 1, 2018, there have been almost 100,000 killings, over 11,000 rapes, over 100,000 structured arsons and over 100,000 orphaned children.

There has been no justice for anything that has happened. Citizens and organizations trying to help are curious if this time will end in a resolution or genocide.

One of the biggest advocacy organizations is Stand with Kashmiri. You can find more resources and how to help take action at

To contact News Editor Savannah Meade, email

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