It was once lovingly referred to as “Paradise on Earth” by a Mughal king. Today, it’s also the most densely militarized region in the world. Located in the northernmost part of the Indian subcontinent, Kashmir is as famous for its natural beauty as it is for the political conflict that’s taken the lives of countless Kashmiris.
Last summer was especially violent. As street protests grew larger to oppose the occupation, Indian security forces responded with fierce brutality. Nearly a hundred civilians were killed with many more severe casualties. Once again, turmoil is spiraling out of control in the valley.
Last week, paramilitary forces raided a university campus and injured more than 50 students. In a disturbing video, Indian soldiers tie a young shawl weaver to the front of an army vehicle to act as a human shield. Human rights abuses have a long history in the valley and have been well-documented by international observers including the United Nations, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.
At the end of the day, the Kashmiri people are the most affected by this conflict. While the world watches in silence, as it does the atrocities in Syria, Myanmar, and Yemen, there must be immediate action taken on the ground to assist the civilian population through these difficult times.
Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) has been active in Kashmir for years. In 2011, ZF promoted peace through education by building a brand new high school. In the aftermath of the disastrous floods in 2014, ZF immediately sent emergency relief. The following year, ZF provided fresh Udhiya (Qurbani) meat to Kashmir’s poor. This past winter, ZF aid workers distributed winter kits and food aid.
“We are thankful to Zakat Foundation,” said Ghulam Nabi Yatoo, a beneficiary from Srinagar, the capital city of Indian administered Kashmir. “These past four months, we have seen the worst phase of the conflict. There are many starving and wounded people. Once again, we thank ZF and the entire team in Kashmir for their support, especially for the poor. Your contributions have really made the difference.”
Often, the oppressors of the world will not only attempt to destroy the bodies of the oppressed, but also dismantle their unique histories, languages, and cultures. If you cannot financially support relief efforts in Kashmir, then at least take the time to learn more about the current political reality. Many of us belong to narratives of political, social, or economic struggle and can easily draw connections to the persecution in Kashmir. Solidarity is a powerful weapon for change, and as stated in Islamic tradition, God is always on the side of the oppressed.