Srinagar: A group of Kashmiris living in the United States heckled Omar Abdullah on Friday at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) when he arrived there to speak on Kashmir. Omar was invited by the University of California for a conversation on “The Path Forward in Kashmir”. The venue was the “Great Hall” in the Faculty Club of the famous varsity.
A video clip from the event went viral on social media in which people were seen heckling and questioning Omar. The protesters accused Omar of being a “war criminal” along with his father and grandfather. The protesters threatened that they will “drag him to the international criminal court”.
“You are trading in Kashmiri lives. Stop dirty politics and stop being an Indian agent,” the protesters said to Omar.
In the video, Omar is seen questioning one of the protesting men about his antecedents. The man responded: “I am from Gojwara area of Srinagar and now I am living here for 25 years.”
Omar asked him: “Why are you here for 25 years? Why are not you coming back?”
The man responded: “You threw us out.”
The protesting group told Omar that he has “still blood of innocent Kashmiris on his hands”.
Later in the day, Omar termed the heckling incident a “tamasha” (drama). “I had a great session at @UCBerkeley & don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. FOUR hecklers (in an audience of 150+) who waited till the event concluded to make YouTube videos of themselves can’t take away from an excellent Q&A session there,” Omar wrote on Twitter. “I’m looking forward to the organisers putting the video of the entire session online so that the people who’ve seen the short tamasha can see how much substantial stuff happened before that (SIC).”
Omar further tweeted: “And lastly I’ve never claimed to be universally loved or even liked so if 4 people in such a large audience make their dislike known it’s really not such a big deal at all. At least no one threw eggs or a shaving foam pie at me.”
Academics, research scholars and activists across the world had already launched an online campaign against the event at UC Berkeley where Omar was invited to speak.
Netizens had started an online campaign on Google Docs which termed Omar as not the “real” representative of Kashmir.
An online petition had also appeared calling for a campaign against the US varsity for inviting Omar. It demanded that the university call off the event.
“Berkeley is wilfully providing a platform to Mr Omar Abdullah and allowing him to masquerade as the representative of the people of the occupied Kashmir, which he is clearly not,” the petition that was circulating on Facebook read. “We expect Berkeley to do their due diligence in the future and consider the repercussions of allowing client politicians such as Omar Abdullah the privilege of speaking on behalf of the people whom he does not represent.”
A number of academics and scholars had signed the document before Omar landed in the US. The petition appeared on various petition platforms as well. It termed Omar a “client politician” insisting that more than a hundred civilians were killed in 2010 when he was the chief minister. It held him responsible for introducing shot-guns that use pellets. Kashmir has hundreds of people who have lost their eyes to the pellet guns. The document also accused him of shielding the rape and murder accused of Asiya and Nelofar in 2009 in Shopian.