PSA literature sparks conflict
By Becky Somerville
Equity week continued yesterday, but not without incident, after a confrontation between the Pakistani Students' Association and the Western Indo-Canadian Students' Association.
A disagreement erupted when WICSA described literature presented by the PSU about the disputed territory of Kashmir as racist and an attack on the Indian government.
"Equity week is not a week for us to bash each other as cultures and countries, but is a week to celebrate and enhance ourselves as minorities," said Pras Chatterjee, co-president of WICSA.
The literature was offensive to WISCA, he said, adding the PSU took quotes from international sources and used them out of context to portray a negative image of India.
Chatterjee said he issued a letter to University Students' Council VP-campus issues, Pete Hill, which expressed WICSA's displeasure with the way the USC was running Equity Week. The letter also suggested the equity commissioner, Najeeb Shafiq, resign from his position if the situation was not remedied.
"As a WICSA president I'm taking a stand for my club regarding what the USC was allowing to be presented at Equity Week," Chatterjee said. "These things should not be part of the spirit of Equity Week."
Omar Yarkhan, president of the PSU, said his club was merely trying to make people aware of the fact there is a human rights violation going on in Kashmir.
"[WICSA] say we're offending Indians. We're saying we're not," Yarkhan said. "We're pointing out the facts that human rights violations are taking place in Indian-occupied Kashmir."
Shafiq would not comment on WICSA's recommendation he resign and said although there had been issues in previous years, he did not think this type of problem would occur during this year's Equity Week.
"It's our responsibility to make sure concerns are addressed, but the USC did everything in their power to make sure nothing went wrong," Shafiq said.
The conflict between PSA and WICSA could have been avoided, he said, if both groups had attended the mandatory equity round table meetings which provide an open forum for diversity clubs on campus to discuss important issues. "Had both of them been at the round table they would have come to a mutual understanding."
Hill said the USC would be issuing a formal response to the incident.
The main purpose of Equity Week is to celebrate Western's diversity and encourage minority groups to get involved, Shafiq said. "I'm just hoping this week continues in its purpose."