Interactive wall displayed in university park educates students about conflict in violent region.
By Farheen Dayala, Staff Writer s:dePollyPost
The Pakistani Student Association, along with the Multicultural Council at Cal Poly Pomona displayed an interactive art installation in University Park last week that was dedicated to Kashmir’s struggle for independence.
Although Kashmir has been a region plagued with violence for more than 64 years, it remains under occupation by India, Pakistan and China.
The wall was more than 20 feet long and 10 feet high and had several sections with photographs and a historical timeline that displayed the different areas of Kashmiri life. It was mounted as an effort to inform students about Kashmiri’s fight for freedom.
“The main purpose of the wall is to spread awareness about what’s going on in Kashmir,” said Alicia Vajid, a third-year business student and president of PSA. “It’s something people on and off campus do not know about.”
Although the wall displayed a timeline of Kashmir’s history that dated back to the late 1500s, it was in 1947 when the violence between disputing countries began. According to the wall, since then, more than 93,113 people have been killed, 22,715 widowed and 107,313 children have been orphaned during protests.
While under the control of India, Pakistan and China, protests are common in Kashmir as civilians attempt to fight back against occupation of their land.
“I was born in Kashmir and lived there for 18 years,” said Junayd Banday, a UCLA graduate who helped PSA with the wall exhibition. “Childhood was really bad, seeing blood and bullets were the norm. You would be scared if your mom [came home] 30 minutes late.”
In addition to the timeline portion of the wall, a section displayed photographs of civilians affected by the conflict with the quote, “We may be different political beings, but we are all human beings.”
Although the conflict, rooted in the ownership of Kashmir, is mainly between India and Pakistan, Banday believes that the issue goes beyond the clash over territory.
“Overall, that’s where it gets lost,” said Banday. “It’s an issue between India and Pakistan, but people forget about the [Kashmiri] people. Even with all that’s going on, we still have a life, we still have our culture.”
Students from PSA said those who came to see the wall were unaware that a place called Kashmir existed. Tiffany Rivera, a fourth-year civil engineering student, was one of them.
“I didn’t know about the conflict initially,” she said. “The first thing I learned about [Kashmir] was the location,” said Rivera. “Most think of [Kashmir] as being a textile instead of an actual state. People should make time to learn more about the world around them.”
Recently, Kashmir made news in 2010 when anti-India protests began after the murder of a 17-year-old Kashmiri student. More than 110 people were killed as a result.
“It’s something that’s going on right now, it’s still a major issue,” said Pakiza Chatha, a fourth-year civil engineering student and a member of PSA, while speaking to a student at the wall. “People keep highlighting the Middle East, but let’s not forget about the oppression that’s happening [in Kashmir].
Crystal Goss, a fourth-year fashion merchandising student, said she was upset after looking at the images and information on the wall.
“It’s good to hear something like this is being brought forward,” said Goss. “It makes you angry that nobody is doing anything about [the conflict].”
The last section of the art display was the reaction wall. This portion of the wall gave students the chance to write comments about their reaction to the display. One student wrote, “It is unfortunate to see the tragedy these people face on a daily basis … something must be done.”
Banday, a Kashmiri native, agrees.
“There have been a lot of events on Kashmir before,” said Banday. “Usually [those events] were for the intellectual society, people never reached out to the youth of America. The concept [of the wall] was to involve the American youth so maybe they can help make a change in Kashmir.”
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