By Alexandra Marquez
For The Diamondback
In the wake of a deadly terrorist attack in Kashmir, more than 60 University of Maryland students gathered on McKeldin Mall on Thursday for a candlelight vigil and silent march to honor those killed.
The vigil, “March to Remember the Martyrs,” was organized to raise awareness about the attack — which killed dozens of members of the Indian Central Reserve Police Force in the disputed state of Kashmir on Feb. 14 — and the global dangers of terrorism, said Brijesh Soni, a member of Yuva, an organization for Indian graduate students.
“We want to protest against the terrorism going on in the world,” the project management graduate student said.
The vigil began just before sundown when organizers handed out candles and spoke to attendees about the attack and the importance of honoring those who lost their lives the previous week.
“We are here for a very solemn reason,” said Milin Chandra, a junior economics major and head of logistics for the Indian Students Association. “On Feb. 14, when the world was celebrating love, there was a terrorist attack in Kashmir spreading the seeds of hatred.”
Two student organizations, Develop Empower Synergize India and Yuva, organized the event. They were inspired by seeing groups around the country hosting similar protests and vigils.
“It has been going on lately around the world in Indian communities,” Soni said. “They’ve been posting silent protests against this thing.”
The protests began in the wake of the Feb. 14 attack in the Pulwama district of Kashmir — a region that both India and Pakistan lay claim to — when a bomb exploded near an envoy transporting members of the Indian Central Reserve Police Force.
Reports vary on the number of people killed. CNN reported 37 police force members died, but Indian news organizations have reported between 39 and 42. Dozens were reported wounded in the attack, which Indian authorities blamed on Jaish-e-Mohammed, a terrorist group based in Pakistan.
Computer science doctoral student Rohan Chandra was shocked when he learned of the attack and attended the vigil to protest against terrorism.
“We were horrified,” he said. “We feel really bad and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families. … We came out here to show our support and spread the message that terrorism is not okay and that we are against it.”
Sonu Patel, a junior early childhood and special education major, grew up in India and attended to show her grief and support for people who lost family members in the attack.
“There were some 5- to 10-year-old children who had to do their father’s last funeral rites, so I thought, as an early childhood major, I could feel for the children,” she said. “I thought it was really important for me to support those kids and mentally and physically be there for them.”
After lighting their candles and listening to Chandra and Kapur’s speeches, the large group split up and headed on a silent march up each side of McKeldin Mall to Testudo, in front of McKeldin Library. There, they congregated again to leave their candles around the statue and mourn.
“As you go home today, think: For your today, they gave their tomorrow,” Chandra said.
CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Hindu Students Council, Sikh Students Association and Indian Students helped host the event. The event was solely organized by Develop Empower Synergize India and Yuva. This story has been updated.