Violence dampens Holi celebrations at University of Karachi
ast week, a group of students playing Holi to herald the arrival of spring and celebrate diversity were attacked by members of another student group at the University of Karachi.
Sindhi Shagird Sath, a student organisation, had decided to host a Holi event to honour fellow Hindu students, show solidarity with the community and promote multiculturism and diversity.
Initially, the event appeared to be a resounding success as students from various backgrounds came together to celebrate the festival of colours. However, the celebrations were cut short when a group of Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba (IJT) reached the venue and stated pelting the gathering with stones. Some of them also used batons as they charged the participants in the festivity. Several students were injured and traumatized in the attack.
The incident received some media coverage after a video showing a group of students describing how they had been “beaten with sticks, harassed and intimidated for celebrating Holi” emerged on social media.
While it blanched the colours of Holi in Karachi and raised concerns about the safety of students at universities across the country, it also triggered a wave of solidarity amongst students.
Students from across the university rallied together to condemn the attack and demand action from the administration to ensure the safety of students on campus. Social media was flooded with messages of support for the students who had been attacked and calls for an end to hooliganism and religious intolerance.
Commenting on the assault, Anand Parkash, a Progressive Students Alliance member and organizer, said that the attack came at a time when the state had initiated a crackdown on students at major universities across the country, citing religious extremism as a reason. “Many believe that these measures are an attempt by the authorities to divide and oppress the student communities, especially those from the working class,” he asid.
There was palpable tension on the campus following the attack and the circulation of the video. A number of students came together later to disavow bigotry and intolerance.
Abdul Sattar, an organiser of the Progressive Students Federation, Karachi, commended Sindhi Shagrid Sath for organizing the Holi event. He said the students deserved recognition for their bravery and determination.
“Their efforts to promote inclusivity and diversity on campus in the face of threats and intimidation are truly inspiring,” said Sattar. “They are a beacon of hope for those who believe in a just and equal society,” he added.
“It is important to support the student movement and demand action to address the growing threat of religious extremism and intolerance. We must stand together in solidarity and resist all attempts to divide us,” he said.
This was the second reported attack on a Holi event in the country during the week. Earlier, a group of IJT members had attacked a similar event hosted at the Punjab University in Lahore. As many as 15 students were reported injured in the clash that followed.
The author is a Karachi-based freelance journalist. He reports on student politics and activism.