Houston prides itself, quite rightly, on the diversity of its population. It’s often said that the Bayou City is the most diverse big city in the United States. That diversity extends to its international population — as I was reminded at a recent event, Houston has perhaps the largest number of foreign consulates in the country.
One of those is the Indian Consulate, which is housed in a rather nondescript mid-sized office building directly across the street from a city park that sits behind my apartment complex. Houston has a very large South Asian population, much to the benefit of our cultural and culinary scenes.
But yesterday, while on my way to an event at Miller Outdoor Theatre, I came across something I’d never seen in my three years at the complex — a full-fledged protest by residents of Kashmiri origin across the street from the consulate.
Walking toward the protest, I came across a man whose two small children were playing in the park’s small playground, and whose wife was among the protestors. He explained to me that the protest was over violence over the past several months in the disputed Kashmir region, in which many have been killed and children have been blinded by pellets during the current insurgency in this much-too-long conflict.
As a journalist, I’ve always tired to keep up with current events, including foreign affairs. But I must admit I was only dimly aware, if at all, of this most recent round of trouble in the Kashmir region. Like far too many Americans, my understanding of the history and underlying issues of the conflict is spotty at best.
I told myself after leaving the protest (which went on for a couple of hours and was entirely peaceful except for the vitriol exchanged by the protestors and the smaller contingent of people standing outside the consulate) that I needed to do some more research into the Kashmir conflict. By an extremely odd coincidence, I woke up early this morning and turned on the local public radio station just as an hour-long BBC program on the conflict was beginning.
But one thing I can say — during a time of massive unrest in the country and perhaps the ugliest presidential campaign in my lifetime, it was good (if you can call it that) to see that this protest went off without any violence. It demonstrated to me that as divided as we can be, America is still a great country.
NOTE: This post originally stated that the protestors were of “Pakistani” origin. As was pointed out by a reader, they are more accurately identified as being of Kashmiri origin.
Copyright © 2016 Ken Fountain. All rights reserved.