Indian-Australian students allegedly bullied, harassed and intimidated at the University of NSW

"My mom doesn't want me to suffer like she had, her friends turning enemy one fine morning just because she is Hindu"

By Pallavi Jain and Jai Bharadwaj

Mr Sunit Ganjoo* a Kashmiri Pandit student of the University of NSW (UNSW) has been seeking counselling for what he calls bullying and harassment that the Hindu students have faced in the last two weeks.

Mr Ganjoo told The Australia Today that he felt like what his grandparents and parents would have felt when they were forced to flee from their ancestral homes in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) 32 years ago (January 1990) by terrorists.

“My mother was of almost my age when she heard slogans calling for ‘Ralive, Tsalive Ya Galive’ in her home at Srinagar.’

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The words mean Ralive=surrender (convert to Islam), Tsalive=leave (your homes to be a refugee elsewhere), or Galive=perish (to be killed if not complying with demands).

“These words changed the course of life of lakhs of Kashmiri Hindus including my mom and their coming generations which is me.”

“Given the choice what would anyone of us opt for?”, Mr Ganjoo questions.

He further adds:

“I am having nightmares, I hear people saying- you have only these choice, I wake-up in middle of the night and feel as if I need to runaway somewhere safe.”

What happened thousands of miles away from Kashmir at UNSW

Members of UNSW Hindu Society were allegedly bullied, harassed and intimidated by students representing the UNSW Muslim Students Association (UNSWMSA) against the screening of the movie ‘The Kashmir Files’.

How it happened

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To understand and discuss the truth behind the Genocide of Hindus in Kashmir, the UNSW Hindu Society voted to screen the movie at the Colombo theatre on campus on 9th June.

They published it on their Instagram account.

The Australia Today has learned that students from the UNSW Muslim Students Association wanted the UNSW Hindu Society to not go ahead with the screening.

The UNSW Hindu Society as a responsible student body agreed to a Zoom meeting with UNSWMSA to resolve any issue. The threats against Hindu students were allegedly made during this “Zoom meeting’ which took place on 7th June and was recorded.

In this meeting, the spokesperson of UNSWMSA Usman Mehmood took names of religious leaders, journalists and politicians to allegedly intimidate the Hindu students. During the meeting, he, who allegedly made the threats, acknowledged that he had not seen the movie.

Nevertheless, the spokesperson for UNSWMSA allegedly warned the Hindu students against screening the movie with words to the effect:

Let me be clear and blunt with you guys. If you guys agree, all well and good, we really appreciate it on behalf of the Muslim Society of UNSW and greater Muslims abroad.

If not, ‘there’s other actions that can be taking place. ..these other actions are not lovely actions

Either we can go about this nicely or we can go about the other route. The other route is as we mentioned right now.”

To put pressure on Hindu society students he claimed,

We’ve got dozens of contacts, from Senators to newspapers, to news channels, to charity organisations, to religious organisations as well… I’m going to mention just a few names that we have direct contact with…that will basically be helping us in our fight against this.”

The spokesperson of UNSWMSA then went on to mention some names. Among them, prominent were Greens Party’s senator – Mahreen Faruqi, Journalist – Mustafa Rachwani, Grand Mufti of Australia- Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, Chief of Staff of ABC News, Asia Pacific – Mosiqi Acharya , Deputy Editor ABC News – McCarthy (Joanna McCarthy), Australian National Imams Council member – Sheik Wisaam, United Muslims of Australia member – Sheik Omar El-Ghaz.

Mr Ganjoo told The Australia Today, “Some people from multicultural communities are supported and empowered by politicians, media and other not for profit groups but than these people using this power as weapon against other minorities like Hindus is unacceptable.” Mr Ganjoo questions:

“Why is the system so not looking at us and our plight when we are targeted as Hindu minorities in Australia?”

The Australia Today reached out to the people whose names were taken to allegedly threaten the Hindu students.

Among those who have responded are journalists Mostafa Rachwani from The Guardian, Joanna McCarthy and Mosiqi Acharya from the ABC, and Dr Shabbir Ahmed from Masjid Qubaa. They have categorically denied that they permitted anyone at UNSW to use their name.

The Guardians Mostafa Rachwani categorically denied when asked if he has given permission to anyone at UNSW to use his name.

“To answer your question: No.”

In a written statement via ABC’s Communications lead, Ms Acharya and Ms McCarthy said,

I have no idea who this person is, am not associated in any way with either of those organisations and have not given permission for anyone to use my name.

When questioned about giving permission to use his name by spokesperson of UNSWMSA, Dr Shabbir Ahmed from Masjid Qubaa replied…

“I did not give any permission. Where is a proof?”

During the meeting, some allegedly insensitive and Hinduphobic comments were also made by the spokesperson of UNSWMSA.

Mr Mehmood went on to ask the Hindu students:

how many Kashmiri Hindus were killed or tortured?”

He repeated this insensitive question several times until one of the Hindu society member replied that the fact that Hindus were killed and targetted in the Kashmir valley was enough to make a movie on it.

Mr Ganjoo* told The Australia Today, “Two of my mothers relatives were killed that year by terrorists in Kashmir. I have grown up hearing stories about those uncles (Killed in Kashmir terrorist attacks) and seeing their pictures in our family albums.” Mr Ganjoo added:

“Seems like our lives, our lived experience, our trauma, our pain and suffering has no meaning for some.”

The Australia Today sought a response from UNSW specifically asking if the university was aware of any alleged threats by any student against their Hindu counterparts at UNSW and if so what action has been taken so far.

In response, UNSW neither confirmed nor denied these allegations but said in a statement,

The screening of ‘the Kashmir Files,’ organised by the UNSW Hindu Society, proceeded without incident.

The University is committed to providing a working and learning environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, and vilification.

Response from University of NSW

Religious persecution is unacceptable at UNSW. Our university fosters an environment that is a safe and inclusive community. We are proud of the rich perspectives that cultural, linguistic, and religious diversity brings to student and staff life at UNSW.

The Australia Today has reached out to the UNSW Muslim Students Association and the Islamic Society of UNSW (ISOC) and via them to the spokesperson of UNSWMSA Usman Mehmood, who made the comments but has not yet received a response.

The Australia Today is also still awaiting responses from others whose names were taken to allegedly coerce the students into not screening the film ‘The Kashmir Files’ including from Green’s Deputy Leader Mehreen Faruqi, founder of UMA (United Muslims of Australia), Sheikh Shadi Alsuleiman and Grand Mufti of Australia Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammed.

About ‘The Kashmir files’

This film was cleared by the Australian Classification Board and was released in Australian theatres in March this year. The Australian Classification board describes The Kashmir Files as,

“The aftermath of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 due to ethnic and religious violence.”

Kashmiri Pandits, who are Hindus, are the indigenous people of Kashmir with a history dating back thousands of years.

The movie is a cinematographic account of the horrific events that started unfolding in the early 1990s as Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups started a wave of violence in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir including groups like Lashkar-E-Taiyyiba and Harkatul Mujhahiddin which are on an UN-designated sanctions list for terrorism.

Mr Ganjoo* told The Australia Today, “I want you to use my real name, my picture for this story but my mom doesn’t agree.”

“She doesn’t want me to suffer like she had, her friends turning enemy one fine morning just because she is Hindu,”

said a teary Mr Ganjoo*.

Pakistan-based terror groups have also been responsible for terrorist attacks in other parts of India including the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 on 26/11. International affairs analysts like Christine Fair have also spoken about Pakistan using terrorism as an instrument of state policy “that arches across the countries of South Asia” including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka as well as throughout India”.

Pakistan has been on the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) grey list since June 2018 which monitors countries for money laundering and terror financing.

Former Pakistani President and Army Chief Pervez Musharraf, in a televised interview in 2016, admitted that Pakistan was training ‘mujahideen’ (religiously motivated terrorists) in Pakistan to fight in Kashmir. He also admitted to Pakistan training the Taliban as part of a ‘religious militancy’.

In the same interview, he said Osama Bin Laden was considered a hero in Pakistan.

Osama Bin Laden, head of terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda and architect of the 9/11 terror attacks in the US, was found to be living in Abbottabad in Pakistan and killed in a US raid in 2012. Abbottabad is a cantonment area of the Pakistani army. Pakistan Military Academy which is an officer’s training school is also located in Abbottabad.

Former chief of Pakistan’s spy agency, ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), Lt Gen (retd) Asad Durrani, in a televised interview in 2015, also confirmed that Pakistan was on one hand taking billions from the US and its allies to fight against the Taliban and on the other helping and sheltering the Taliban. “We fooled them” said Gen Durrani.

The Taliban which overran Afghanistan last year is responsible for killing 41 Australian soldiers and wounding many others. Asad Durrani, in the same interview, also mentioned that the terror attack on school children in Peshawar, Pakistan, in December 2014 was ‘collateral damage’ for Pakistan’s policies.

* Name changed on request.

Note: The Australia Today will update the story in case we receive a response from any other individual named in the write-up.