Nothing short of a sermon can recapitulate the series of events that took place this year in the ASUC Senate. But amidst the petty bickering, party politics, and misplaced blame, there are a lot of lessons to be learned, that I hope the future senators here will take note of.
This year, I (along with other senators here) have been called elitist, over-privileged, racist, amongst other things. We’ve all felt upset, insulted, and demeaned at various times. Over-privileged? My parents left their homes in India and came to this country in ABJECT poverty; they worked, they studied, and they succeeded.
I’m privileged, yes, I’m lucky that my family got the opportunity here in America that they would have never had back in their home. I’m privileged to be happy and be getting a world class education here at Berkeley, just like everyone in the room. Instead of focusing on what holds us back, I wish we would look forward and thank everything that got us here, to where we are and where we will be.
Racist? Just because I ran with a certain party or cut funding for a financially irresponsible group, I am not a racist; actually, I am offended at how loosely that word has been thrown around this year. Actually, I’m much more conscious about that issue than many people may imagine.
As many of you know (and some of you have tried to use against me personally), I am a Kashmiri Hindu, a displaced minority in India.
In 1989, Kashmiri Hindus (who were a minority in the region) were forced to leave their home f thousands of years because of their religion – militants from across the border and within Kashmir sent notices to every Kashmiri Hindu family telling them to leave or be killed. Thousands were murdered in cold blood, also called a “soft ethnic cleansing”, there are now .09% Hindus left in their homeland, all the others were killed, fled, or now live in refugee camps across India. omen were raped, men were taken hostage to be tortured and made an example of, and families left their ancestral homes with nothing in their hands – 400,000 Kashmiri Hindus were killed or exiled that year.
As a minority myself, of a population that was ethnically cleansed out of their homes in Kashmir because they were Hindu – who now are .09% of Kashmir and have fled their homes to either out of India or to refugee camps – trust me, I know.
I will most probably, in my lifetime, not be able to see the place where ancestors lived. My ethnic history is so much deeper than many people assume and my OUR identity should not be tossed around, as it has, for political reasons by some people in this room. That’s wrong, mean, and insulting to my and our communities.
So, to the senators, to the people listening, but most importantly, to the future ASUC members, please remember to learn from our mistakes. Next year will be an opportunity for you to grow immensely and please use it to that effect. Do what you’re here to do- serve your communities, but most importantly, the entire cal campus. Sometimes, while we fought our partisan battles, we forgot to realize how inspirational, revolutionary, and unique each of the 20 of us in this room are. So next year, future Senators, appreciate the person sitting next to you, but also the person sitting across from you. Remember how hard all of you worked to get here and what that means in the grander scheme of Berkeley and life. Think before you speak; be thoughtful, be strong; but be wise and patient. Remember your first job is to help the campus, and what can be better to do that together, in unity. Thank you all for a great year.
The Student Action Senators before a Senate meeting in the Senate Chambers