History Forgotten History

The “alternative” history of the Partition that school didn’t tell you about

 Trigger warning: Mention of sexual violence.

Imagine you are living in the subcontinent in 1947 under British colonial rule. Imagine it is the last few months of India and Pakistan being one country. The Indian Independence Act declares the existence of the countries as two sovereign states. A border is about to be drawn through the center of your country. No one knows fully which city would fall on which side of the border. No one knows if the neighborhood they live in would be a part of Pakistan or India.

An atmosphere of anxiety and treachery pervades through the streets. Communities, once celebrating diversity where Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs lived in harmony are suddenly painfully and awkwardly silent. Everyone is unsure of their allegiances. Religious bigotry is palpable in the streets and in Parliament alike. And then amidst all that uncertainty, Cyril Radcliffe draws an arbitrary border. Chaos breaks out. Mayhem takes over. Neighbors turn on each other. Your once-loved class fellow or colleague is suddenly the Other. And an unprecedented moment of violence in history ensues.

And amidst all that, imagine if you are a woman. Or even a girl. Imagine your family telling you to hide in the darkest corner of the house in the middle of the night, every time they hear a mob of rioters with their swords clinging pass your home. Your father tells you you might have to commit suicide with the other women of the neighborhood before the Other reaches you and taints your “honor.” Your father has already received a set of bangles at your house, his temper swelling at the mockery of his masculinity. He fears his “pure” bloodline may be contaminated if the enemy lays hands on you. Though your family might be displaced any minute, losing their home and all their belongings, their “honor” and pride resides in preserving your shivering body. 

“Hundreds of women jumped into wells in order to protect their honor. But sometimes when they jumped into wells, they did not die because the wells were already brimming with dead bodies. Many men, Sikh and Muslim, would kill their wives to prevent them from being raped by the enemy. If the “enemy” was spotted at a distance, mothers would hide their girls under opaque surfaces.” Shakeela Khan*, a resident of Dehli and 10 at the time of the partition recalled her own experiences from the time as I interviewed her. “A lot of dramas have been made and novels published such as Dastaan have been published about this topic.” She continued to say.

The mention of Dastaan struck a chord with me. The television series, adapted from Razia Butt’s fictional novel by the name of Bano, that aired during my teen years was my first exposure to this alternative, grass-root history of my own country. Of course, the module of partition was always taught in rigorous detail in school. We were taught about Quaid-e-Azam, Allama Iqbal’s prophetic dream, and Gandhi’s peace-loving resilience. We were taught about colonial Britain’s divide and conquer policy. However, all of this was done in the light of a certain kind of nationalistic romanticism. The founders of the nation were at once established as heroes, to whom we owed our “independence” and life. The human cost of their decisions was carefully left out.  Dastaan, however, chronicled the life of a girl who on the eve of her engagement is abducted and subsequently raped by an enemy mob. She eventually returns to her family years later where she no longer feels welcome.

It was then that I realized that somehow the nationalistic agenda of history failed to mention these many millions of women. Eventually, their stories were silenced at the state level. Real people and their real stories were hushed and shoved under the rug of martyrdom. The sheer dissonance between official history and real histories inspired me to pursue my undergraduate thesis in the narrative of silenced women during partition years later. 

“Many women had to sacrifice their honor for our independent homeland,” Khan emphasized, careful to not use the actual word, “rape”. In fact, most of the interviewees I encountered often used euphemisms, all revolving around the word “honor”. “Yet, when these women returned to their families, they were often not accepted and sometimes sent back to their abductors.” Khan’s observations made one thing clear: though women were elevated to the status of martyr, they were certainly not rehabilitated or celebrated as war heroes are. 

Such conversations raised some important questions for me: why was mass abduction and rape (of an estimated 75, 000 to 100, 000 women on both sides of the border) a weapon of choice? Was it because the enemies knew to hit where it hurts a patriarchal society the most? And why is mass rape so popular in history? From the rape of Nanjing in 1937 to the Partition of West Bengal in 1971, there are multiple other dark moments in history where this is a disproportionate number of atrocities committed against women. 

*The name of the interviewee has been changed. 

Celebrities Pop Culture

This is why Riz Ahmed’s PDA in the Oscars shocked the Brown Muslim community

Riz Ahmed made headlines after last week’s Oscars gala, but not for the reason you think.

Rizwan Ahmed, more famously known as Riz Ahmed, made history at the 93rd Oscars as the first Muslim to ever be nominated for Best Actor for his role as Ruben Stone in “The Sound Of Metal”. The announcement of his nomination was lauded by the Muslim world, with Pakistani celebrities tweeting in their congratulations. The community considered this to be a shared victory, as the impact of his recognition would trickle down and surely help pave the path for more inclusive storylines and casting in Hollywood.   

Learning that a person of Pakistani descent was being recognized for his acting struck a chord with me. As someone who’s accustomed to seeing Indian actors hold a monopoly on South Asian representation (Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh lumped together) in international media, this felt surreal. 

However, despite his notable achievements, what made his name trend globally on social media was this 30-second clip of him stopping to “fix” his wife, Fatima’s hair on the red carpet.

With his name trending on Twitter, and so many people lamenting how they didn’t have “a Riz Ahmed”, writing articles dubbing them “couple goals” or just expressing how jealous they were of Fatima, let us dissect why a small moment of shared intimacy had such a profound impact on so many people. 

To unpack why such a simple gesture had everyone talking, we should first recall the decades-long anti-Muslim propaganda so conveniently threaded into Hollywood films. Muslim men post 9/11 have overwhelmingly occupied negative roles, with a long-running joke about Hollywood having no trouble finding brown actors to be cast as terrorists. Most movie plotlines since the early 2000s have only served to further propagate hatred towards the Muslim community by typecasting them as terrorists. The general perception of brown Muslims due to exposure to such media has been empirically proven to result in promoting violence towards them.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, where most of the directors are male, masculinity is defined almost exclusively through the male gaze. “Soft traits” such as empathy and kindness are implicitly discouraged and the prevailing message of what it means to be a man is polluted by such regressive ideas of masculinity.

Popular dramas tend to shy away from social upheaval and stick to the script of upholding a patriarchal narrative. It is more common to see domestic violence romanticized on-screen instead of real romance (because that would be crossing a line, of course). This results in a sickening majority of the population holding warped views about acceptable displays of affection in relationships. 

It is more common to see domestic violence romanticized on-screen instead of real romance

Desi culture prides itself on being more conservative than “the West”. Many of us have grown up without really ever seeing our parents be openly affectionate towards each other. We are taught that there is inherent shame in expressing our feelings. This has grown to have a lasting impact on generations of brown kids. This mentality criminalizes intimacy while considering the acknowledgement of romantic feelings to be scandalous and disrespectful instead of just human.

This isn’t the first time Riz Ahmed and Fatima Farheen have had everyone talking about their relationship. When the news of their coffee shop meet-cute, scrabble tile proposal, and private, mid-lockdown wedding broke out, people were quick to call their story a real-life rom-com. This is especially significant because the majority of the people who feel represented by them belong to a culture of arranged marriages. To this day, the idea of families not being heavily involved in the matchmaking process is foreign to South Asians. An individual choosing their spouse is said to have had a “love marriage” (the word “love” having to be specified to add to the gossip-worthy nature of the news), with the subtle implication of it being a detraction from the norm, where love comes after marriage.

These factors combined, help explain why Desi Twitter and so many international publications reacted the way they did.

Riz is a Muslim of Pakistani descent, and despite existing at the intersection of both identities, he chooses to embrace his own definition of masculinity. This results in the simplest of gestures having the greatest impact.

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History Historical Badasses

Remembering Fatima Jinnah, the Mother of the Pakistani nation

Muhammad Ali Jinnah is celebrated as the founder of the Pakistani nation. Yet his sister, Fatima Jinnah, who served as a pillar of support for him, never got married and abandoned her medical profession to assist his political endeavors, remains obscured by his magnanimous legacy.

She was born in 1893. The epoch in which Fatima Jinnah was raised (colonial British India) was largely male-dominated, with fewer women belonging to the upper echelons of the professional and political world. In such a world, Jinnah heralded a new dawn for women.

She was an inspiring woman who was known for her power, perseverance, resilience, and fortitude—stuff that legends are made of. She received an excellent early education, which was rare for a woman during her time. This helped her eventually secure a position in a competitive medical college, Dr. Ahmad Dental College in Calcutta. She established herself professionally by running her own dental clinic in Bombay. She was financially independent and self-sufficient—the epitome of modern-day empowerment.

The years leading up to the birth of Pakistan in 1947, paralleled Fatima Jinnah’s transformation from a dental surgeon to a political figure, shadowing her brother. Choosing to not get married, she abandoned her profession and continued to manage the domestic front of the Jinnah household for 28 years. However, it would be a great disservice to restrict her contribution to the domestic sphere. When her brother embarked on his political journey and coped with widowerhood, she became her brother’s chief political confidante. Once Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, told ADC Ahsan “nobody had faith in me; everyone thought I was mad except Miss Jinnah.”

She accompanied him on numerous political tours. In 1932, she attended the Second Round Table Conference with Muhammad Ali Jinnah. She also became a part of the Working Committee of the Bombay Provincial Muslim League and held that position until 1947. In March 1940, she was present at the Lahore session of the Muslim League (the political party led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah), where she stood in favor of democracy. By this time, she was convinced that the Hindus would continue to practice dominance over Muslims, and the latter would have to wallow in poverty, oppression, and subjugation till the end. Because of her belief, she helped in organizing the All India Muslim Women Students Federation in Delhi in 1941.

After her brother passed away in September 1948, she assumed the role of taking his legacy forward and ran for the presidency of Pakistan as a candidate for the Combined Opposition Party of Pakistan (COPP) in 1960. Her opponent was Ayub Khan, whom she openly proclaimed to be a dictator. Her political campaigns attracted massive crowds, swarming all over Dhaka and Chittagong. Later, she famously came to be known as Madr-e-Millat (Mother of the Nation).

In 1965, she contested elections at the age of 71. She stood against Khan—the dictator and self-installed president of Pakistan. Khan’s victory was inevitable. He exercised complete power over the governmental apparatuses of the country and drew legislation over electoral matters as the head of the state. He lumped together with the discontented, yet equally fundamental aspects of the social spectrum in the country to his favor, and drew support from the ulema (Muslim scholars), bureaucrats, students, and journalists.

When the elections were finally held, Jinnah suffered a defeat, leaving the populace in disbelief. Some even claimed that Khan dabbled in filthy election tactics such as rigging, coercion, and manipulation. They believed Jinnah’s defeat was impossible and advocated her rightful and democratic claim to leadership.

Jinnah died on July 9th, 1967 under mysterious circumstances. The cause of her death continues to be ambiguous to this date; with interpretations ranging from political assassination to natural death.

She made enormous contributions to Pakistan’s political history. Yet in the historical archives, her existence is obscured by her brother’s dominant presence. Muhammad Ali Jinnah is revered in Pakistan as the man who outfoxed his political opponents and stood up to the British. The mantle of attention conveniently falls on him, while Fatima’s own political and personal participation in nursing the nascent country goes unappreciated.

Jinnah fought for all Muslim women—for equality, for their economic independence and liberation, and for their political empowerment. She became a symbol of hope for Muslim women.

She will always be remembered in the yellow, parched, and frail pages of history.

For more awesome history facts, follow our brand-new history Instagram account. 

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Editor's Picks World News Coronavirus The World

Sri Lankan Muslims are fighting against forced cremation

Earlier in November, the last three recorded deaths of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka, all of Muslims, had seen the bodies cremated for disposal by governmental authorities. These were not the first, and despite many attempts to stop it from further happening, won’t be the last to be disposed of in a manner prohibited by their religion, all in the name of public health. According to the country’s Muslim community, the government is using the coronavirus as an excuse to discriminate and add to the suffering of the minorities.

The practice of cremation had been taking place in Sri Lanka since the start of May, a violation of both the religious and emotional sentiments of the people who had lost loved ones to COVID-19. After months of trauma and in search of justice, minority groups filed a petition against the unending discriminatory pattern by authorities in July. Much to their dismay, the Supreme Court blatantly threw out the case as a result of the country’s mandatory cremation policy for dead bodies that are suspected to have been infected with the novel virus.

Cremation is prohibited in Islam. The practice is considered a violation of the dignity of the human body, making it a direct clash with teachings of the faith. The Buddhist-majority nation initially agreed to let Muslims bury their own in accordance with their religious practices. However, these inconsiderate amendments were made on April 11, depriving the nearly 10% of the total Muslim population of their basic religious right.

The Sri Lankan authorities have also denied any accusations of discrimination against Muslims, maintaining that the cremation order applied to other religious groups as well, including minority Christians. The government’s chief epidemiologist, Dr. Sugath Samaraweera said that it was the Sri Lankan government’s policy to cremate all those of either die from the virus or are suspected of having infected from it. According to the authorities, burials could contaminate ground drinking water. They only intend to do what is best for the people, regardless of religious differences.

In light of the rule proposed by the local authorities, a senior Muslim leader of the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress Party, Ali Zahir Moulana said that the Muslim community would accept this rule, despite religious obligations and belief system, if there were enough scientific evidence to prove that the act of burying the dead underground caused harm to the health of the living. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people who die of the coronavirus can either be buried or cremated. There was no mention of the burial causing harm to the living or affecting their health by contaminating the groundwater, whatsoever.

The Buddhist majority nation’s cremations policy disregards the religious beliefs of minorities such as Muslims and Christians living in the county for centuries now – dead bodies should be buried six feet under the ground and not cremated as they are done in other religions, including Buddhism and Hinduism. In Islam, specifically, Muslims believe that to cremate the dead is equivalent of making them rot in hell which is considered as a punishment in the hereafter from God.

The story of religious hatred and injustice goes far beyond the affected bodies of Coronavirus patients being cremated. Muslims in the region believe that they have been demonized since April last year when a local group of Islamists started targeting Churches in the east side of the country. Another thing that has increased this outrage is irresponsible reporting by a few local media outlets, which were quick to blame the spread of Coronavirus in Colombo onto the Muslim population after the death of a Sri Lankan Muslim patient in March. According to the BBC’s story, many cases that were reported to be cremated by the Sri Lankan authorities were not tested positive of having the virus.

As per recent data by TRT World, Sri Lanka has had more than 25,000 cases of Covid-19 and 124 deaths, including more than 50 Muslims who were cremated. Despite the interim guidelines by the WHO and several efforts by Muslim activists to stop the act of cremation of dead bodies of their own, the Sri Lankan government has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the minorities concerns.

The issue has been raised by many human rights organizations, including the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International calling it inhumane and urging the Sinhalese government to respect burial rights of its Muslim minority.


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Is Anti-Semitism still prevalent in Muslim communities?

In recent years we have witnessed a prevalence of Islamophobia around the world, as a result of which Islamophobia has been denounced globally and the freedom to practice different faiths has been demanded. But before we point fingers at others, it is important to look within Muslim communities and examine the extent to which we are impartial when it comes to different religious groups. Anti-Semitism is still prevalent in different Muslim countries and diaspora communities. It is rather surprising to see Anti-semitism in Muslim communities today because for much of history Muslims and Jews lived in harmony. In fact, Jewish historians often regard the centuries when Jews lived among Muslims to be a “golden age” for Jewry

Muslims’ hostility towards Jews began to grow in the twentieth century with the Jewish immigration to Palestine leading up to the formation of Israel. The animosity did not just grow in Arab countries. Journalist Mehdi Hasan pointed out the commonality of Anti-Semitic attitudes in Pakistanis as well, even though Pakistan has an almost non-existent Jewish population. 

Similarly, Malaysia too has often displayed an anti-Semitic stance. Malaysia’s former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, on different occasions suggested that Muslims and Jews are natural enemies. However, it did not emerge because of Malaysia’s small population of Jews. Instead, it has been attuned because of Israel’s ascendance and the subjugation of Palestinians. 

The brewing conflict between Israel and Palestine paved the way for anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. It is commonplace to turn to Anti-Semitism during times of conflict. Mainstream politics in many Muslim countries use prejudices against Jews to explain political and economic issues in the country. As Malaysia Journalist S. Thayaparan put it, “Anything wrong with the Muslim world is blamed on the Jews.” However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Anti-Semitic attitude is often fueled by Anti-Israel and Anti-Zionist sentiment.

It is important to distinguish between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism. Zionism is a movement that was established in the nineteenth century aimed at countering anti-Semitism and establishing a Jewish homeland. Therefore, anti-Zionism is opposition towards the Zionist movement and ideology. This, often, involves opposition towards Israel as well. It can be understood as an Anti-Israel attitude, which involves criticism of the Israeli government, politicians, and its policies.

Anti-Semitism, however, is a form of prejudice or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group. It is important to understand that the condemnation of the Israeli government must be distinguished from the condemnation of Jewish people at large.

In recent years, many Muslims have confronted and opposed anti-Semitism. A video that went viral in 2019 shows a Muslim woman confronting an anti-Semite on the London underground. Other instances include the American Muslim groups that raised voice for the victims of Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting last year and the Norwegian Muslims who formed rings of peace to protect Jewish places of worship from similar attacks. 

It is not entirely uncommon for diaspora Muslims to stand aside with Jews when it comes to racial abuse or prejudice. Perhaps, because they understand that intolerance and discrimination is not something that can be combatted divisively. However, within Muslim majority countries, anti-Semitic behaviors are largely prevalent. One of the reasoning behind this could be that anti-Semitism is often conflated with anti-Zionism. 

The conflict between Israel and Palestine, however, is a political one and not an ideological one, although, religion has served as a backdrop for the conflict. Some of Israel’s most assertive policies in the region — including the controversial “nation-state” law — are fueled by explicitly religious arguments from the country’s right-wing. The religious rhetoric is also reflected in the Palestinian and Arab resistance movements, most of which have an Islamic flavor. The conflict is, however, broader than just religion. 

The conflict between Israel and Palestine needs to be considered in a broader scope than that of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Similarly, anti-Semitism need not be considered in the scope of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Whilst, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism may have differing origins and sources. Both, however, manifest intolerance and discrimination. Drawing on the history of Muslims and Jews, it is vital that Muslims and Jews should be allies in the fight against intolerance and discrimination.

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The Breakdown Race Inequality

Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Appreciation: Know the difference

The Breakdown is a Tempest exclusive series that attempts to tackle issues, concepts, terms, and histories that are relevant and intrinsic to conversations about social justice. This is our version of a 101 on Social Justice, with a grassroot level approach that hopes to simplify and make political and cultural conversations accessible in a global level.

The debate around cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation has existed for a while. However, it gained significant momentum recently after the re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement after criticism against how Black culture has been heavily appropriated in pop culture and fast fashion. Since May a number of celebrities, influencers, and brands have been called out for cultural appropriation on mass media. One such example is Reformation – a sustainable clothing brand – who was called out for the lack of Black models on their Instagram feed. The brand has since attempted to diversify its feed. On the other hand, rapper Bhad Bhabie came under fire for comparing herself to Tarzan and had to defend herself against accusations of appropriating Black culture.  

But there’s always a question when you see people donned up in clothes, ornaments, or participating in things that are not part of their culture. Are they appropriating another culture or is it appreciation? 

The academic definition of cultural appropriation is “taking over of creative or artistic forms, themes, or practices by one cultural group from another. It is in general used to describe Western appropriations of non‐Western or non‐white forms, and carries connotations of exploitation and dominance.” Appropriation involves enacting on certain parts of a culture such as clothing or hairstyle without a full understanding of the culture and reinforcing stereotypes or holding prejudices against its people. It can also involve not crediting the culture itself or its creators.

An example of cultural appropriation could be wearing a bindi. Buying a bindi from a tourist shop or a company that just produces the item does not give you the full perspective of the culture. In fact, in some ways, it creates a false perspective that it is just merely a decorative ornament. Bindi symbolizes different aspects of the Hindu culture and Indian women who wear it, do so with significance to their culture. 

Wearing a bindi or another piece representing a specific culture might get you positive attention or appreciation. However, when someone from the same culture wears an item from their culture but gets more negative remarks than positive is where it becomes problematic. For instance, wearing a ‘hipster’ headdress is not okay. The warbonnet headdress perpetuated by Hollywood projects the view that all Native American’s have the same culture. There are, however, approximately 500+ distinct tribes with their own cultures. Warbonnets or feather headdresses are not a fashion choice but a symbol of respect and honor that needs to be earned

People are straight-up told that their cultural practices are old-fashioned or conservative. Often times, they may be told to conform to the social norms, or worst case, they may become a target for hate crimes. Remember, when Zac Efron wore dreadlocks “just for fun”? To which, he was reminded that Black people get turned down on job interviews for wearing locs and braids. 

Cultural appreciation, on the other hand, involves appreciating and taking an interest to understand another culture. This involves sharing knowledge with permission and credit those who belong to that culture. For instance, when you purchase an item you buy it directly from the creators. You understand how the item is intended to be used and learn the value it holds in the culture.

Once, a friend of mine was invited to attend a sermon at the mosque. Despite being agnostic herself, she explained to me that she understands the significance of wearing a headscarf to the mosque and respects it. Therefore, she intended on bringing a headscarf to the mosque and cover her hair to show respect during the sermon.

Cultural appreciation involves paying respect to the artists and creators and understanding the origins of a culture. Remember, 2015 Met Gala’s high-risk ‘China through the looking glass’ theme? Rihanna was one of the few attendees of the gala who wore a dress that was crafted by an esteemed Chinese designer. It is not the perfect contextualization but at least a more suitable one. 

I cannot stress enough how important it is to know the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. Romanticizing and sexualizing certain cultural aspects whilst rejecting other aspects that do not interest you trivializes the culture. Appropriation perpetuates stereotypes and racism. It obstructs the views and voices of those who belong to the culture giving it to those who have appropriated it. 

With Halloween just around the corner, here is a quick reminder that culturally appropriated costumes are offensive and should not be worn. Wearing costumes that are cultural stereotypes literally reduces an entire culture and its people to a costume. Need I remind you of Scott Disick’s costume of a ‘Sheikh’ or Julianna Hough who darkened her face to portray a character from Orange Is the New Black. A good idea is to do some research and find out whether or not your costume is racist. Bear in mind though, if you need to do a lot of explaining as to why your costume is not racist, then it is a sign that you should reconsider. (Here is a handy guide of “costumes” you should NOT be wearing)

The bottom line here is that there is a fine line between appropriation and appreciation. We live in an increasingly globalized world and it is important to be mindful of our words and actions. Certain behaviors are never appreciative and should be avoided. It is a learning process but one that is not too difficult. Keep educating yourself because, at the end of the day, we all learn and grow everyday.

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I am more my true self on my fake Instagram account than on my real one

Linda leaned against the glass window of a used book store, her cheeks painted red under the gleaming neon light. The glowing “BOOKS” sign reflected in her tiny white shades which were balanced precariously at the edge of her nose. She peered over them in the direction of the camera, grinning. The accompanying caption was the starting point for many jokes to be had throughout her account: “She can’t read”. This was mostly amusing due to the fact that was Linda, a then-junior English Literature student.

It was my roommate that came up with the tasteful name, Linda, as soon as I put on those white shades for the first time in an Urban Outfitters. They were so unlike me, a girl who exclusively wore black. They were a very “bitchy accessory” that drew attention. With their encouragement, I created a finsta (a fake Instagram account) embodying Linda and her bold fashion choices– the list of which grew gradually as I was in New York City after all.

Is having an alternative online persona or a finsta dishonest? We’ve moved on from thinking that everything we are being presented online is genuine. We know social media warps our expectations of each other and is not a true reflection of someone’s reality (although there has been a call for users to show more authentic versions of themselves). 

I pressed ‘share’ more times in a day than I blinked.

Having an alias, finsta account, spam twitter or any other side account allows you to let loose. I believe that they allow you to explore different parts of yourself. Your unbothered side, that unironically enjoys Tik Tok videos, gets to shine through. Or your liberal views get to be made known despite the sternness of your conservative home. Who is to say which is more authentic? And does it matter? 

In my online persona case of Linda, I could play with inside jokes. I could post whatever I wanted whenever I liked. Gone were the days where I had worried about any curated scheme or began overthinking about whether the content seemed like ‘me’. I didn’t have to care if people from high school (who I don’t even speak to anymore) or my mother’s cousin’s nephew’s friend got the ‘wrong idea’ about me. 

Having an alias, finsta account, spam twitter or any other side account allows you to let loose.

My online persona was confined to my private finsta account and I only followed people close to me. I enjoy having a page that I can look forward to posting on. It wasn’t about the likes or comments. It was about the joy that came with the account itself. The fact that it was clearly a finsta made it clear that I was saying, “Don’t take me seriously. Not here at least”. 

In propagation for finstas, I’d like to make it known that the ‘share’ button is always a site of anxiety for me. That looming moment just before you press it often fuels a lot of tension within. I know that it isn’t a real social interaction, not in the same way as a handshake. But it would rather be eternalized in the digital realm – something a finsta can combat. Having an alternative persona allowed me to overcome this anxiety and let me share whatever came to mind. I pressed ‘share’ more times in a day than I blinked. If the post contained a poor fashion decision or an ill-received spoken word video, it was Linda’s doing. 

In my experience as a Muslim woman, we, as well as other women with more conservative backgrounds, use finstas and online personas as a personal outlet. An alternative account is seen as a haven away from the male gaze or even their family’s eyes. The accounts become a way to have a presence online while also remaining private.

Other friends of mine use twitter accounts with aliases to release any pent up thoughts. They read like journal entries. They aren’t forgetting who they actually are or trying to fool anyone. Instead, it is simply a space for us to put ourselves out there while not fearing anyone’s judgement.

The accounts become a way to have a presence online while also remaining private.

There is the fact that any of these side-accounts could turn into a breeding ground for gossip. I can’t deny that I haven’t seen the dark side of being unfiltered and unencumbered by social judgement. People tearing each other down behind aliases and exploiting anonymity to be cruel to those around them or other strangers. But there is a potential for so much more. 

We need these spaces. We need to be under-the-radar and ourselves…or maybe someone else entirely. It may be an illusion, but finstas and alternative accounts do feel more private and personal. Linda can attest to this. 

Editor's Picks World News The World Inequality

Palestine is in imminent danger: here’s how you can help

The strengthening relationship between the United States and Israel has put Palestine in more danger than ever, with the Trump administration becoming increasingly invested in the ongoing conflict. The US government has publicly supported Israel’s claims to the historically contested land, drawing up a policy that will enable Israel to seize 30% of Palestinian territory.

The annexation process, initially due to start on July 1st, has been widely condemned by the international community. The backlash has temporarily stalled the process, due to Trump’s hesitation to support elements of Israel’s plans for the territory.  

If the annexation of the West Bank commences, Palestine is unlikely to survive. The proposed move signals Israel’s disregard for any sort of resolution and stands to endanger the lives of thousands of Palestinians who risk being displaced in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic.  

The ongoing  conflict between Palestine and Israel is one of the longest of the 21st century, spanning over 70 years. Since the formation of Israel in 1948, violence has plagued the region. Between 1947 and 1949, at least 750,000 Palestinians were displaced leading to one of the world’s worst refugee crises to date. 

Since then, tensions and violence has repeatedly escalated in the contested Holy Land. The Israeli state has shown no restraint in their attempts to gain control over Palestine- murdering, torturing and imprisoning men, women and children in a systematic process of ethnic cleansing.

Currently, Israel is the only country in the world that tries minors in military court

One of the greatest detriments to the conflict is that it has been constructed as a purely religious dispute. This narrative has pitted the nations against each other, simplifying it to one that is essentially ‘Jews versus Muslims’. The Israeli government has intentionally promoted this narrative in an attempt to make the will of the state and that of the Jewish people synonymous. Using this approach has allowed the Israeli state to brand any criticisms of their actions as anti-Semitic. This detracts from real instances of antisemitism and has previously thinned condemnation, especially from democratic strongholds in the EU, such as Germany.

Lack of international intervention to progress or repair peace talks, or effectively restrict Israel’s occupation, has been detrimental to the Palestinian cause. The nation itself is not recognized in its own right in many parts of the world; Google has never officially labelled the territory as Palestine on the world map.

Israel has incrementally invaded and subjected the nation to decades of sustained assault underpinned by apartheid rule and a gross violation of human rights. The Israeli invasion initiative has recently been strengthened through increased foreign aid in the form of economic and military assistance. In 2019 the US provided Israel with $3.8 billion in foreign military aid. 

The proposed annexation is part of Trump’s 2020 ‘Peace Policy’ which aims to enable Israel to seize control of 30% of Palestinian territory. It also suggests that Palestine be further divided and demilitarized. Netanyahu recently announced that Palestinians currently living in the targeted areas will not be given Israeli citizenship, leaving them stateless. 

Trump’s plan completely disregards the will and best interests of Palestine, and the annexation has been deemed as a contravention of international law. The EU has warned Israel that there will be consequences if they move forward with the illegal action, although sanctions remain off the table. 

Thousands of Palestinians across the West Bank are at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods if the planned annexation of one-third of the territory goes through.

Here are some things you can do to help protect Palestine and its people:

Support the BDS movement

Support and promote the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement in your country. The BDS movement started in 2005 and promotes the boycotting, divestment and sanctioning of Israel and all Israeli products, business or trade. It was inspired by the successful sanctions campaign against South Africa during the anti-apartheid movement.

Demand that your government implement sanctions against Israel’s apartheid state and divests until Palestine is free and protected. Start petitions calling for your government to promote the recognition of Palestine. Make sure to lay out why supporting Palestine is an act of justice and equality. Campaign for your country to support pro-Palestine treaties, such as those promoted by the United Nations. In 2019, many countries that had previously abstained from voting, effectively failing to support Palestine, voted in favor of Israel. However, recent developments have caused these same countries to switch track, publicly opposing Israel’s new annexation plan. This is a crucial moment to capitalize on and should be used to sustain and increase action that favors the protection of Palestine. 

Start petitions and campaigns to get local businesses and organizations involved in the BDS movement. Be aware that petitions are most effective when you are able to engage with those who you are calling on to act. Campaigns which address those who are inflicting the violence, such as the Israeli government, often go unnoticed. It is more impactful to direct petitions to those whom you can demand a response from, or where you can apply pressure consistently. 


Here is a list of organizations that you can donate to in order to directly aid the Palestinian cause:

Educate yourself, and then others.

Below is a list of resources/sites that can help you be better informed about the history of the conflict and why Palestine needs your help:

  • A site that provides a comprehensive history of the conflict and divisions, as well as updates on the current crisis.
  • An independent non-profit organization which aims to educate and encourage discussion on Palestinian rights and freedom within the framework of international law.
  • The Balfour Declaration by Bernard Regan

“Most have heard of the Balfour Declaration without fully appreciating its history and consequences. With this meticulous and insightful study, we have a fascinating and timely guide to British colonial policy in Palestine, and its devastating impacts for the Palestinian people to this day.” – Professor Karma Nabulsi, Oxford University

“One of the most prominent Israeli political dissidents living in exile … He is also one of the few Israeli students of the conflict who write about the Palestinian side with real knowledge and empathy.” – Avi Shlaim, Guardian

“A hauntingly written, remorselessly honest, and surely long lasting account of Palestinian loss and struggle.” – Donald MacIntyre, Independent

Palestine Speaks demonstrates that nothing is more eloquent than the voices of those who endure and try valiantly to survive. Nothing is more important for us than to listen to them carefully, to grasp their suffering, to learn from their testimonies about them and about ourselves, and to use this understanding to bring their tragedy to an end.” – Noam Chomsky

Raise awareness and support for the cause:

Talk to your friends, family, classmates and anyone else in your circles. Share accurate information about the crisis and the imminent danger posed by Trump’s policy

Boycott celebrities’ and their work, if they choose to perform in Israel or support the Zionist beliefs of the state. Many celebrities have weighed in the debate; some claim that supporting Israel is an act of Jewish pride, or serves to show their opposition of the actions of Hamas. These justifications are another example of how Israel, Judaism and the Zionist state have been blurred into one. This misconstrues the reality of the Israeli government’s sustained and violent attack on the Palestinian people. Seth Rogan, Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman and Kanye West are just a few of the celebrities who have openly voiced their support for Israel. However, many fans have successfully alerted high-profile celebrities to the importance of boycotting the actions of the Israeli state. In 2017 Lorde cancelled her planned performance in Israel, following a social media campaign highlighting the oppressive nature of the Israeli state. 

Organize marches, research planned pro-Palestinian events/campaigns, join or start online movements to discuss how to take action that further promotes the Palestinian cause.  

Boycott pro-Israel brands, products and companies: Caterpillar bulldozers have been used to demolish Palestinian homes, Hewlett Packard (HP) assists Israel in running the ID system used to restrict Palestinian movement, and Puma sponsors Israel’s football association which has teams in the occupied territories. Join and promote existing boycott campaigns happening in your country. 

Fact check before you share information and make sure about the legitimacy of the source. There is a lot of propaganda aimed at misrepresenting the conflict. 

Supporting Palestine is not anti-Semitic, or disrespectful to the history of the Jewish people. Nor does it signify any sort of religious affiliation. To stand for the protection of the Palestinian people is to stand for Justice, equality and freedom. It is to condemn the violent apartheid state of Israel that is attempting to dispossess the land of thousands, stripping them of their homes and livelihoods. 

The proposed annexation will be the final nail in Palestine’s coffin and we cannot allow this to happen.

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

World News The World

In India, Hindu nationalists have morphed a pregnant elephant’s death into a hate campaign

Trigger Warning: Animal death/abuse

On May 27, a pregnant elephant died in the South Indian state of Kerala. The manner of the elephant’s death is not certain—officials believe she was either fed or accidentally consumed a pineapple filled with explosives. Farmers often employ fruit packed with explosives around forests, as a trap to prevent wild animals from destroying their crops. The elephant walked around for days after getting hurt by the explosion in her mouth, unable to eat and in pain, before dying in a river in Kerala’s Palakkad district. The incident led to outrage, especially from animal rights activists who claimed that the elephant’s death was part of a larger pattern of animal cruelty in India.

While many people have seen the elephant’s death as a signal to pass legislation to protect wildlife, the incident also spurred a terrifying hate campaign led by Hindu nationalists.

When the elephant’s death was first reported, Maneka Gandhi, a prominent animal rights activist, member of parliament and former Union Minister of the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, lied that the attack on the elephant happened in the Malappuram district of Kerala rather than Palakkad. Malappuram, a district approximately 52 miles away from Palakkad, happens to have a 70% population of Muslim people. In an interview with ANI News, Gandhi called Malappuram India’s “most violent district”, although this was also proven false.

Gandhi’s statement came before any location had been specified by the Kerala government. When Kerala’s Wildlife Warden later issued a statement clarifying that the elephant had died in Palakkad, Gandhi did not retract her statement or apologize for her remarks. So with no official evidence to support her claim, why did Gandhi publicly make and maintain this statement? Why did she choose to lie?

The BJP has a long history of violent discrimination against Muslims that has led to numerous attacks and lynchings of Muslims across the country.

The BJP has a long history of violent discrimination against Muslims that has led to numerous attacks and lynchings of Muslims across the country. BJP, the political branch of the Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, is openly and proudly bigoted. The founder of the RSS was infamous for celebrating Nazis and endorsed ethnic cleansing in order to achieve a pure Hindu state. The mission continues to this day. Once the current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, took power, the government has taken deliberate steps to disenfranchise and dehumanize religious minorities and lower socioeconomic classes. This includes banning beef in several states, demonetizing various bills with no warning, and most recently, enacting the Citizenship Amendment Act which explicitly excludes immigrant Muslims from automatic citizenship, while also questioning the citizenship of already existing Muslim citizens of India.

Gandhi also used this incident to attack the Kerala government as unresponsive. This claim was made despite the state government immediately opening an investigation into the elephant’s death. Gandhi’s attack on Kerala was not random, it was a strategic blow to an opposing political party. Kerala is one of the few strongholds in India that has rejected the BJP. Governed by the opposing Communist Party of India, Kerala is known for having the highest literacy rates in the country, embracing secular and inclusive values, and prioritizing welfare. Recently Kerala has received international praise for their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the national government has been criticized for failing to take appropriate steps. The Kerala government has frequently criticized the BJP for being discriminatory and ineffective, leading the two governments to clash. Kerala’s Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan has since strongly denounced Gandhi’s statements as inflammatory and derogatory. Authorities also registered a First Information Report against her. To these far-right figures, the elephant’s death was simply another opportunity to peddle their hatred.

Gandhi effectively mobilized social media support for her hate campaign. She spread lies and misinformation, and successfully built resentment against Muslims and the Kerala government. Gandhi’s intention was never to simply condemn animal cruelty. It was to perpetuate a dangerous narrative about Muslims in India in an effort to push her party’s hateful political agenda.

It is a true tragedy that this elephant died such a horrific death and that her calf was killed with her. The weaponizing of fruit filled with explosives is illegal and a major perpetuation of animal cruelty in India. But we cannot allow this issue to justify any form of hate, or allow the ostensible championing of animal rights to distract from the BJP’s many and varied crimes.

When propaganda parades around as advocacy, it pulls people under the impression that such views are actually progressive.

Propaganda and hate-mongering techniques employed by figures such as Gandhi not only distract from the issue at hand but breed bigotry and incite violence. Gandhi’s decision to shift the focus to Islamophobic attacks is disrespectful and ultimately prevents important discussions and reforms from taking place. Perhaps the scariest part of Gandhi’s comments is the fact that they were written under the guise of condemning animal cruelty.

Gandhi’s comment teaches us an important message. Radical figures can pounce on any issue and twist it to fit their narratives, even if that means spreading misinformation and completely ignoring the issue at hand. They cannot get away with this. When propaganda parades around as advocacy, it pulls people under the impression that such views are actually progressive. This form of propaganda is especially dangerous because it calls for empathy while advocating hate.

As we veer towards an increasingly polarized world, preventing such hateful manipulation from gaining traction and validity will become more important. We cannot allow violent Islamophobia to masquerade as animal rights. We cannot allow hate to masquerade as love.

USA World News Politics The World

Trump’s role in the rise of white domestic terrorism

While people were still digesting the fact that a 6-year-old boy, along with two others, was killed less than a week ago at the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, CA, in the past 24 hours, there have been two more mass shooting in the United States. 21 innocent people were murdered in a Walmart in El Paso, TX. and 10 people in Dayton, OH.

This brings the count to 251 US mass shootings in 2019 according to The Gun Violence Archive.

The recent shooters were all young white males, domestic terrorists, homegrown on American soil, indoctrinated by none other than our very own president.

Now before anyone jumps down my throat and says my accusations are criminal, let me be clear by what I mean: the President’s openly racist rhetoric and generalizations about minorities, LGBTQs, Muslims, Blacks, Latinx communities and POCs, in general, has encouraged white males who identify with Donald Trump to accept and amplify the belief that these minority groups are invading America and to blame for the problems here. So they take matters into their own hands and manifest that rhetoric into action: saving white America by any means necessary.

The El Paso shooter, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, stated in his manifesto that the “invasion” of the Hispanic population was the reason for the attack.

It’s no coincidence that the President has openly tweeted about the “invasion” by migrants at the southern border, calling them “gang members and very bad people.”

The Trump administration is fully aware of the connection and in order to control the damage, Trump has appeared to deleted some tweets that used the word “invasion” when referring to migrants, which some say is a violation of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 (44 USC §§ 2201–2207).

[Image description: Screenshot of Amee Vanderpool's tweets about deleting post that use the word "invasion"] via Twitter
[Image description: Screenshot of Amee Vanderpool’s tweets about deleting posts that use the word “invasion”] via Twitter
Even the Quebec City mosque shooter, who killed 6 men at a mosque, the New Zealand shooter who killed 51 Muslims in two mosques, the Poway gunman, and the MAGA bomber cited Trump, either directly or indirectly, as being an inspiration for their killings.

The government and most media outlets have spent years trying to convince the American people that white shooters are lone wolves who are mentally unstable, but people are no longer accepting that excuse.

The rise of white terrorism is real, rampant and people are addressing it more so than ever.

People have taken to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to share their frustrations with the hypocrisy that surround the apologetic behavior towards white supremacists who are terrorizing Americans more than any other group in this country, and for the first time ever, the media is talking about white terrorism because the truth is that they no longer have a choice.

Though our President may not be pulling the trigger himself, his words are certainly indoctrinating, fueling and normalizing the hatred white supremacists feel towards their nonwhite counterparts. Since he doesn’t openly – and consistently – denounce white terrorism, their violence ends up feeling justified within their circles.

Presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren also tweeted about this issue saying, “We need to call out white nationalism for what it is—domestic terrorism. It is a threat to the United States, and we’ve seen its devastating toll this weekend. And we need to call out the president himself for advancing racism and white supremacy.”

It’s ironic that William Happer, Trump’s advisor on climate change, said that he is “concerned that many children are being indoctrinated by this bad science,” but no one in the Trump administration can see the President himself is indoctrinating white supremacists of all ages.

For the first time in years, politicians are starting to admit that white terrorism is in fact a threat, thanks to those brave Americans who are speaking out against it.

Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter, tweeted, “White supremacy, like all other forms of terrorism, is an evil that must be destroyed,” but people are not having it.

[Image description: Image of Ivanka Trump's tweets] via Twitter

Many have responded that Ivanka should start solving this problem by speaking with her father, the President of the United States, first, whose rhetoric, actions, rallies, tweets, and speeches have fueled white supremacy to the extent that it has now reached.

Trump has not just fueled the ideology of white supremacy, but gave it an incubator to manifest individuals willing to commit acts of terror.

So, sorry, Ivanka, we are so far beyond just admitting that white supremacy is a problem. Empty words will not get you or your family off the hook.

The Trump administration now needs to admit that it is the President himself who has allowed white domestic terrorism to run rampant – and make sure he stops fueling the crisis further.

It’s time that white America realizes that all lives are now at risk, not just the lives of people of color.

Ultimately, nobody wants their loved one in front of the trigger – but no one should want their loved one behind it, either.

Race Policy Inequality

When will politicians and influencers finally start calling anti-Muslim bigotry by its name: Islamophobia?

Last week’s terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, have left 50 Muslims dead and a further 34 injured. On social media, public figures – among them politicians, activists, artists and journalists – have offered their condolences to the people of New Zealand, along with their thoughts and prayers.

Two things are different about the online responses to this attack, however. One is that the number of people speaking out about hate crimes against Muslims is disproportionately lower than the numbers that speak out in response to any other display of violence and hatred. This is unsurprising – Islam and anything to do with it has become so deeply politicized that any declaration of solidarity with or sympathy for the Muslim community is perceived as some sort of radical political statement.

To say that Muslims shouldn’t be murdered for their faith is, judging by the few who are saying it, a controversial move in a way that saying it of any other religious group would not be.

The second difference in the social media response to the massacre is that well-meaning as they may be, public figures simply refuse to call it like it is.

There are a lot of mentions of ‘condemning hatred’, of ‘fighting all forms of bigotry’ – vague terms, and, in this case, empty ones. In not mentioning by name the Islamophobia that fuelled the attack and the Muslims that paid for it with their lives, these statements render us invisible. They group the fifty Muslims killed in worship with the victims of countless other attacks, all of whom are denied the right to their individual identities and the acknowledgment of the specific breed of hatred and bigotry that killed them.

Activist Shaun King, in a tweet, described this as “basically ‘All Lives Mattering’ the issue of Islamophobia.” When the motive behind an attack is so blatantly obvious and its victims so deliberately chosen, it is not enough to attribute it to simply ‘hatred’ or ‘bigotry’.

The Christchurch attack was inspired and fuelled by a widespread Islamophobic ideology perpetuated by mainstream media rhetoric, political figures, and social media. It was carried out with the intention of hurting the Muslim community specifically, in their place of worship, on the holiest day of the week.

There is profound power in language.

Vagueness, euphemisms, ambiguity – these are all detractors. They hide the real issues and protect perpetrators. They are of no substantial value, and all they do is prolong the pursuit of justice and accountability.

In not verbalizing the root cause of an attack, in being vague about what fuelled and continues to fuel this hatred, you are doing Muslim communities everywhere a grave disservice. It is not enough to condemn ‘hatred in all its forms’ or to ‘send love to those affected’. The hatred is in the form of Islamophobia, so mention that. The victims are Muslims, mention that too.

There is no ambiguity here, no gray area. In not naming us, in refusing to acknowledge the ideology that is killing us, you are failing us.

World News The World

What you need to know about the conflict between India and Pakistan

There is hope for peace in the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan. Amidst tensions escalating between the two nuclear-armed countries, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said the Indian pilot who was captured by Pakistani forces after his plane was shot down this week would be released as a gesture of peace on March 1.

While many feared the conflict would escalate out of control causing another World War, Khan emphasized his motive to avoid war with India by saying, “let’s settle this with talks.” 

“Our action was only intended to convey that if you can come into our country, we can do the same,” Khan said, referring to the airstrikes by India on Tuesday. “With the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we really afford a miscalculation?”

As of yet, no public statement has been made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

The pending release brings ease to the international community that feared the risk of further conflict between the two countries who were once engaged in a dangerous military encounter back in 1971 with the testing of their nuclear weapons.

World leaders called on both countries to step back from conflict after they engaged in back-to-back airstrikes last month. Including an airstrike launched by India earlier this week where bombs were dropped outside the town Balakot, about 40 miles into Pakistani territory, according to the Washington Post.  In response, Pakistan shot down two Indian military aircraft over its territory, capturing the Indian wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman and launching strikes into the Indian territory of Kashmir.

While Pakistan said the first airstrike from India hit an unpopulated area, India said the location was the site of a terrorist training camp.

The conflict between the two countries triggered on February 14 when a suicide bomb attack on an Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) bus killed at least 40 CRPF parliamentary troopers and critically injured dozens in the Pulwama region of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Pulwama Attack is considered one of the deadliest attack to occur in the last 20 years in the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan.

Adil Ahmed Dar, 20, was identified as the suicide bomber who drove the car with explosives into the bus. Pakistani-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad, also known as Army of Mohammad, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

According to Al Jazeera, Jaish-e-Mohammad was formed by Pakistani cleric Maulana Masood Azhar to fight for Kashmir’s independence from India in 2000. Since their creation, the group has been implicated in a series of suicide bombings in Kashmir, as well as, being involved in attacks on Shia Muslims in Pakistan.

The group was banned in Pakistan in January 2002.

Jaish-e-Mohammad released a video following the attack where Dar allegedly said, “by the time this video reaches you, I will be in heaven. This is my last message for the people of Kashmir.”

Prior to India’s retaliation to the bombing, their foreign ministry accused Pakistan of harboring terrorists and demanded a response.

”We demand that Pakistan stop supporting terrorists and terror groups operating from their territory and dismantle the infrastructure operated by terrorist outfits to launch attacks in other countries,” they said in a statement.

Pakistan called the attack “a matter of grave concern” and denied any involvement and offered to help with investigations.

“I want to offer the Indian government, whatever investigations you want done, we are ready. If you have any actionable intelligence, we will take action,” Khan said.

In a statement from Pakistan’s foreign office, they stated that “[we] have always condemned acts of violence anywhere in the world” and “reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian media and government that seek to link the attack to Pakistan without investigations.”

India and Pakistan have been fighting for Kashmir since before they won their independence from Britain in August 1947. Under the partition plan provided by the Indian Independence Act, Kashmir was free to accede to India or Pakistan.

Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for India-administered Kashmir to either become independent or merge with Pakistan due to its majority Muslim population.

According to data released by the Ministry of Home Affairs, terror attacks between 2014 and 2018 have risen to 176 percent. Government data shows that Kashmir has witnessed over 1,700 terrorist activities in the last five years, Al Jazeera reported.

In 2018 alone over 528 people were killed, including 145 civilians, according to the human rights group Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society.

The conflict between India and Pakistan is occurring during a sensitive time for India, as the country is two months from their parliamentary elections. A time critical for Prime Minister Modi who is up for re-election, his next move would help or hurt his chances in the election, but could also risk starting a war that would leave thousands of civilians caught in the crosshairs.