India university postpones Kashmir seminar amid protest

File picture of Indian soldier in Kashmir A film on Indian army's role in Kashmir was cancelled

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A university in western India has postponed a seminar on Kashmir after Hindu groups objected to its "anti-nationalist" programme.

The Symbiosis University in the city of Pune also cancelled the screening of a controversial film on the Indian army's role in Kashmir.

University authorities say they will "revisit and rethink" the seminar programme to make it "more balanced".

Kashmir is divided into Pakistani- and Indian-administered areas.

Both nations claiming the region in its entirety. They have fought two of their three wars since 1947 over Kashmir.

The development also comes in the wake of an intensified debate in India over free speech.

Controversial UK writer Sir Salman Rushdie abandoned plans to attend a literary festival in Jaipur amid security concerns earlier this month.

On Sunday, an Indian artist was assaulted in a gallery, where he is exhibiting a number of nude paintings. A hardline Hindu group said that the pictures were "against Indian culture".

'Apolitical'

A spokesman for the Symbiosis University told the Press Trust Of India that the three-day seminar, Voices of Kashmir, which was scheduled to begin on Friday, was being postponed.

He said the seminar was intended to be an "apolitical and academic event", without hurting anybody's sentiments.

Reports say that representatives of the student wing of the Hindu nationalist BJP, and another Hindu group, met college authorities and protested against the screening of a documentary film by filmmaker Sanjay Kak that is critical of the army's role in Indian-administered Kashmir.

"We submitted a memorandum to the college authorities against offering a platform to anti-national elements at the seminar and they told us that the seminar would be postponed," a spokesman for the student wing told the Press Trust of India.

The principal of the university's college of arts and commerce, Hrishikesh Soman, told The Hindu newspaper that the decision to postpone the seminar was taken "mutually over an open and friendly chat".

"The organisations felt that the event should be more inclusive," he said.

"We do not want any unnecessary controversy. If these people are so passionate about the issue, then there must be some valid reason. We, as academicians, want to listen to their views and respect them."

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