Muzamil Farooq, a student, was arrested last year by police forces after picking him up from Kashmir University, for protesting against coerced Yoga Day celebrations in the varsity. Police version said it was due to his alleged militant links and presence of certain android apps in his smartphone. And a reminder – Viber in Kashmir is a militant app. Massive protests and demonstrations followed. Police from the nearby station were called in. Entrance gates of the university were shut, for journalists and everyone else. The students inside were locked up, and some were beaten. Police resorted to aerial firing. The next day more police poured in. They thronged hostels, both boys’ and girls’, and forcibly dragged out students while the university was publically closed.
This is what we call a crackdown. No human chains formed. No condemnation from the cowardly teachers association, most of whom associate themselves with the “state” in such cases. Despicable comments from the Vice Chancellor himself. The university ceased to be the learning, debating and discussing space, and I believe it never was, or ever tried to be. Both the prominent parties in J&K have had their unions inside the university who frequently resorted to vandalism and hooliganism. However, the only independent students union Kashmir University Students Union has been banned for a long time now with the incumbent VC reasoning that unions suit universities like Jawaharlal Nehru University. If he revisits this old statement, I would love to hear what he thinks about it now.
The students inside were locked up, and some were beaten. Police resorted to aerial firing. The next day more police poured in. They thronged hostels, both boys’ and girls’, and forcibly dragged out students while the university was publically closed.
The slogans raised in JNU have created a nervous reaction in India, accentuated by the alert sounded by the Indian government over a tweet from a parody account of Hafiz Saeed. The state, that is “democratic”, is unable to digest the bitter facts about its brutal occupation of Kashmir. If JNU cannot debate Kashmir, I doubt it to be a free space in the first place. And then, a JNU student opines that he wants the free environment of JNU to be restored and, in the same vein, says he doesn’t want secession of Kashmir from India even though he confesses to possessing insufficient knowledge about political happenings in the valley.
When the news first broke out, students and leftist leaders distanced themselves from the slogans raised inside the campus. Pertinently such slogans are introductory passages to every anti-Indian event in Kashmir. As soon as he was detained, the first words Kanhaiya Kumar mouthed were “Kashmir is an integral part of India”. Then, all the leftist proponents went on to climb a similar ladder. The movement from “anti-national activities” stance to demand “democratic spaces” was quite swift for the Indian Left. Rahul Gandhi displayed solidarity too, probably forgetting it was Congress which hanged Afzal Guru in 2013 and in whose memory the event was organised.
I wonder what democratic space is being demanded in JNU when they cannot tolerate harsh realities about Kashmir. It has been a good 67 years now and Indian masses seem to be still stuck with the “integral part” rhetoric. They refuse to grow up. They pay tributes to soldiers killed in Siachen but don’t question why armed forces are posted in such subzero temperature conditions where only 200 soldiers (out of 1000 dead) have lost their lives to enemy bullets. They don’t question army atrocities in Kashmir and the subsequent immunity provided to them by their “holy book”.
The outrage over Kanhaiya Kumar’s booking under sedition law was missing when students at an Indian university were thrown out and booked under the same law just for cheering an opposite team in a cricket match. Dissent against the Indian state is sedition and sedition for Kashmiris tantamount to resistance. JNU students may evade police or university action by proving their nationalism and backtracking from their involvement in the event. However, this current phase sounds a spell of harassment for Kashmiris studying in India who have already been witch-hunted for questioning purposes. The protesting fraternities are demanding the restoration of free debating conditions in JNU. On Kashmir, they are silent. And Afzal Guru is still a “terrorist”.
I wonder what democratic space is being demanded in JNU when they cannot tolerate harsh realities about Kashmir. It has been a good 67 years now and Indian masses seem to be still stuck with the “integral part” rhetoric. They refuse to grow up.
Some time back, a girl by the name of Shehla Rashid Shora made headlines for becoming first Kashmiri to win the Vice Presidential post in JNU student elections. Few days after the event we heard this girl speak, quite courageously but hypocritically. She, like rest of her “comrades”, played the same ballad. She ended up assigning an entirely different connotation to the word Azaadi. To stay relevant in political echelons, and to appease “nationalist” masters, she invoked Bhagat Singh and other comrades in her speech. Maqbool Bhatt and Afzal Guru found no mention. After all, they are “terrorists”. Heart, though, is with Umar Khalid who refused to bog down to the “nation wants to know” cavalcade and is being persecuted on social media by alleging his links across the border. I wish more strength to him.
The epicenter of this whole unrest was the celebration of the martyrdom of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhatt who were hanged by the Indian state. They say both were terrorists. We say “your terrorists are our martyrs”. This also exposed the hypocrisy of Indian Left on Kashmir, which, in the words of one of our professors, is practically struggling for power in a system it theoretically opposes.
An important corollary deduced is that the fight is of Kashmiris and Kashmiris alone have to fight their fight. We have to stand up and spearhead our movement. There is no room for representation or appropriation from any quarters. Good if anyone stands by us. Better if they don’t.
PS: Lance Hanumanthappa’s colleagues in Kashmir have killed an armed rebel and two unarmed (rebels) teens, both students, including a girl. Bravo !
(The writer is pursuing masters degree in Political Science at Kashmir University)
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