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NIT row an excuse to fuel communal fire in Kashmir

Aijaz Ashraf Wani
Aijaz Ashraf WaniApr 08, 2016 | 14:26

NIT row an excuse to fuel communal fire in Kashmir

As West Indies players and supporters were busy dancing to DJ Bravo's victory song "Champion", Kashmir was gearing up for yet another controversy, with National Institute of Technology (NIT) Srinagar at its centre.

Soon after West Indies defeated India in the semifinals of the World T20, most parts of Kashmir Valley saw the bursting of firecrackers to celebrate the victory. According to reports, the local students at NIT Srinagar also celebrated the victory of West Indies much to the displeasure of non-local students. As someone who has been living near the NIT for long, I have always witnessed such celebrations by non-local students whenever India won a cricket match, especially when they defeated Pakistan and vice versa, all without fuss.

690kashmir_eid_prote_040816022506.jpg
Protesters at a rally in Srinagar.

It needs to be mentioned that NIT is located close to the residence of Hurriyat(M) leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and another separatist leader Azam Inqilabi. Despite that I have never witnessed any reaction from the youth of the surrounding localities or Kashmiri students residing in NIT to such celebration by non-local students. And why should there be any reaction? It is absolutely an individual's freedom to support or cheer for any team or player in any game.

This is not the first time that people in Kashmir have revelled in the defeat of Indian cricket team and it is surely not going to be the last.However, what is worrying is the fact that this time around it seems to have taken a dangerous communal turn. The politicisation of this issue that is deepening day by day is dangerous not only for the institution but also for the state at large.

There are few important issues that need to be discussed.Firstly, if the agitation of the non-local students is in response to West Indies' victory celebrations by the Kashmiris, then it should have been sorted by students themselves or at the most with some amount of mediation by administration. Taking out processions on such an insignificant issue and then turning it into a communal crisis does not make sense.

You can protest against the celebrations from one group only if you yourself don't laud your favourite teams' victory. As I said earlier, celebrations and counter celebrations have been happening for some time, why did they take such an ugly turn only this time? Even if the students were to demand that a temple be built on campus, it can be done without politicising the issue. But we need to be clear as to what the fiasco was really about.

During the 2014 floods, when the NIT was submerged, it was not the Anupam Khers who came for help. The non-local students were welcomed by local students of Kashmir University, who made arrangements for them. They may have ideological differences with their non-local counterparts, but that has never led to polarisation on communal lines.

And non-Kashmiri students at NIT, even though a majority, have always treated local students well. The Arnabs, Khers and others will do a favour to all by keeping silence and letting the students resolve this issue among themselves amicably.

I am sure the saner voices among the student community dominate and will not let fringe elements vitiate the atmosphere of the institution. 

Secondly, the non-local students are demanding a probe into the brutal use of force by the Jammu and Kashmir police, asking that the guilty be punished. This of course should be done. But has not this been done against Kashmiris day in and day out? Have not Kashmiris been served bullets, pellets, tear gas shells et al in response to even peaceful protests leading to loss of precious lives?

There are hundreds of cases where even small children have lost their eyesight due to pellets fired by police. A group of elderly women were very recently served with teargas shells in response to their protest against the implementation of National Food Security Act, which they believed would leave their families starving. Shouldn't enquiry be done into that also and the guilty punished.

Why do politicians remain silent when it is a Kashmiri at the receiving end? Did not the brutality (killing of a small boy) by some policemen in 2010 snowball into a major uprising in Kashmir valley, which later led to the deaths of more than a hundred youth during protests?Funerals led to more funerals as processions were fired upon. Has any policeman or CRPF personnel been booked for the deaths yet? Why was it national duty at the time and police brutality today? Why were policemen patriots then and pirates now?

The real issue is that when you militarise the police force this is the result you get. For long now, the police has been at the forefront to fight militancy, whereas elsewhere in the world the police is meant to maintain law and order within civilian areas. Jammu and Kashmir police is no favoured name among most Kashmiris, and the present crisis is only proving them right.

The unwarranted intervention by the Centre is questionable. This has been described either as an administrative or law and order issue; in either case it had to be left to state government. Yes the central government could intervene, but that intervention should have been limited and through backdoor.

The way the MHRD has rushed in the team to Srinagar and the way the Union government has intervened has not only complicated the issue, but also raised doubts about the local government, which is already struggling to establish its presence among the Kashmiri people. Over the last year or so, there has been a number of incidents in universities outside the Valley where Kashmiri students faced attacks by local students as well as the university administration.

Only recently, in Mewar, a group of Kashmiri students were beaten up and even jailed over false allegations of having cooked beef.Was it not the duty of the central government to intervene in these cases? How many statements did the MHRD or the Union home minister make in these cases?

The statements by some BJP ministers that Kashmiri students all over India will be targeted are senseless and need to be condemned in the strongest terms. What will that do? At most, you may force thousands of Kashmiri students studying in different universities to return to Kashmir. But have these politicians any idea what that means? It only means further alienation of the already alienated youth of Kashmir. Hundreds of them will very easily be pushed towards militancy.

Some people may not like this, but the fact remains that the separatist leadership has shown maturity and dealt a moral defeat to politicians. Syed Ali Shah Geelani immediately after his arrival in Srinagar made the statement that it is the moral duty of locals to protect non-Kashmiris. Politicians especially from BJP and Congress have only tried to communalise it.

NIT students want the campus to be shifted out of Kashmir, the rational for this demand being "This is not India". While most Kashmiris will thank Indians for saying this, I wonder what action these students and the BJP leaders would have demanded if the same statement had been made by Kashmiri students? Before communalising issues such as this, politicians need to realise that they are only adding fuel to the fire.

The situation is Kashmir is already very serious. Politicians like Muzzafar Hussain Baigh may well fool themselves by stating that militants are few in number and militancy is confined to one district. However, what they are conveniently hiding is the fact that thousands are joining the funeral processions of militants; what they are not revealing is that Kashmiris risk their lives by marching towards encounter sites to help militants escape.

This has never happened in Kashmir before. The Valley youth, including those who are educated and from well-off families, feel more alienated than ever.

If, at present, this is more visible in just one part of Kashmir, it will not take much time to spread across the Valley. Just don't push Kashmiris towards the wall. Accepting the reality and working towards finding realistic solutions is maturity. Fanatic communal vote bank politics will only prove disastrous.

Last updated: April 09, 2016 | 21:32
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