An anti-war protest organised jointly by Indian and Pakistani students attracted more than 70 demonstrators on Saturday.
The protest was organised as a response to rising tensions between India and Pakistan, which saw both nations conduct aerial bombing missions.
One of the organisers, Rhodes Scholar Zehra Naqvi, told Cherwell: “It was powerful to experience the strong sense of community that exists amongst Indians and Pakistanis.
“I feel immensely grateful that we could reach across heart-breaking divides and come together like this in all our diversity and beautiful similarities.”
Staff, students and locals gathered outside the Radcliffe Camera to read out a joint statement signed by 81 Indian and Pakistani students and the Oxford University South Asian Society.
The statement read: “As students in a land that is foreign to our homes – India and Pakistan – we’ve always marvelled at how we seamlessly gravitate towards each other, and how we are able to come together in community in ways we can’t back home.
“We often talk about the similarities we share in our food, culture, histories and the challenges we face. The Indo-Pak community has emerged as a place of refuge and comfort for us.
“However, when we imagine visiting each other’s homes we realise all the ways in which visas and politics restrict us. As we sit together now, watching the increasingly violent direction the current discourse is taking, we are frightened.”
India and Pakistan both claim full sovereignty over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, though each control only a part of it. The heightened tensions began with a suicide bombing in Kashmir last month which claimed the lives of 44 Indian soldiers.
The joint statement strongly condemned the attack while warning that war would be in the interests of neither country, stating: “War only benefits a handful of influential profiteering interests who feed on hatred and fear.
“It is the people who never wish for war that face its repercussions. It is a luxury to be able to debate the possibility of war when the death, grief, and loss that accompany it are not part of your everyday.
“For some people, especially the already dispossessed, the human cost of war is no cliché. It is lived reality.
“We urge our fellow Pakistanis and Indians both within and outside the subcontinent to stand together in unity, focus on our commonalities, and reject divisive narratives.
“We call upon the leaders of our countries to develop de-escalation protocols, organise constructive peace talks and dialogue for the resolution of all bilateral issues, especially for Jammu and Kashmir. It has historically borne the brunt of power struggles between the two states. We call for an end to the violence being perpetuated on Kashmiris.
“War and warmongering are always unequivocally deplorable. At a time when India and Pakistan are lurching from crisis to crisis, we condemn the irresponsible rhetoric flooding the media in both countries in the strongest possible terms.
“We dare to imagine a future that is free of divisions and violence, and unshadowed by the politics of war. We refuse to succumb to this environment of fear and suspicion. We refuse to see our friends as enemies. We refuse to hate those we hold dear. This is not our war.”
Students recited poetry in Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali and English in what organisers described as “a bid to drive home the horrendous consequences of war and to help foster a sense of solidarity in the Indo-Pak community”. The demonstration concluded with the crowd singing ‘Hum Dekhenge’, a revolutionary poem by Pakistani intellectual Faiz Ahmed Faiz