Post-Pulwama madness must stop; peace be given a chance
The display of madness by Hindutva zealots post-Pulwama suicide bombing that killed 40 CRPF jawans on 14 February is further alienating Kashmiris. People from the Valley in Jammu and rest of India are being attacked, harassed and insulted by mobs led by activists of BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal. Reports coming from Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Bihar, etc. are alarming. Everywhere Kashmiri students and traders are intimidated and asked to leave. According to the Indian Express (21 February 2019) at least 10 Kashmiri students have been booked and 24 suspended or rusticated from colleges across the country for what officials called “anti-national” social media posts. One college admitted that it had suspended a dean, belonging to Jammu and Kashmir, because the mob asked for it.
Several colleges have admitted that they are encouraging students from Kashmir to return to the Valley until “things settle down.” Hundreds of Kashmiri students, migrants, traders and professionals from many northern states, particularly Uttarakhand and Haryana, have had to pack up and leave. In Uttarakhand alone, at least 800 Kashmiri students have left the hill state, according to Nasir Khuehami, spokesperson of Jammu and Kashmir Students’ Organisation.
This is another kind of terrorism which followers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi are indulging in. Senior leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party, including Modi and party president Amit Shah are continuously making provocative statements which are further vitiating the atmosphere. The initial restraint that the ruling BJP, along with opposition parties, had shown has been given way to politicising of a national tragedy. The speeches made by Modi and Shah during the last few days are anything but sober. Meghalaya Governor Tathagata Roy has gone a step further. Through a tweet, he supported a call for a boycott of “everything Kashmiri”, including the Amarnath Yatra and purchasing products from the state.
Little do these enthusiasts realise that their action is going to be counter-productive. Already, Srinagar and other parts of the Valley observed a shutdown on 17th February to protests against the nation-wide attacks on Kashmiris. Two former chief ministers of the state, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, who are otherwise political rivals, have expressed dismay over attacks on Kashmiris and urged the central government to ensure the safety and security of Kashmiris outside the state. In a joint statement, they said attacking innocent people because of their ethnicity or religion is “no way to honour the sacrifice of the CRPF men.”
The Amnesty International, too, urged India to ensure safety and security of Kashmiris living outside the Valley. “The Government of India and J&K government must ensure that ordinary Kashmiri women and men do not face targeted attacks, harassment and arbitrary arrests following the killing of 40 security personnel in Jammu and Kashmir by a suicide car bomber,” Amnesty India said in a statement. Many students are reported to have fled their universities in fear. Two colleges in Dehradun and one in Moradabad have stated that they will not admit new Kashmiri students, noted the Amnesty.
This is just the beginning. More such international reactions are likely to follow. Once again India is going to face embarrassment internationally.
Kashmiri students who are enrolled in universities outside their home state are victims of circumstances. They are sent by their parents to keep them away from the imbroglio that Kashmir finds itself in for the last three decades. It means they leave their home state in search of peace and harmony. It also means that they are no more part of the ongoing agitation in their state. This should have been taken as an opportunity by people of India to make them comfortable so that the process of their integration into the fold of India could have started.
Instead, on university campuses they are treated like aliens coming from another planet. This is done not only by their fellow hostel mates but, at times, even by university administration. Those who decide to live outside the campus face difficulties in getting accommodation. Even those who succeed are constantly viewed with suspicion by their neighbours. Post-Pulwama, such Kashmiris as well as those perceived to be sympathetic to them became easy targets of Hindutva thugs. This was done in an organised way.
Within two days of suicide bombing on 14th February, a Facebook group “Clean the Nation” was created. According to Scroll.in, it began with 42 founding members, including engineering students, consultants and entrepreneurs and a youth worker of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the BJP. Among its administrators was Ankit Jain, who is followed on Twitter by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, among other BJP leaders. Other members were followed by Union Minister Smriti Irnani. The members’ pictures with Modi and Irani are proudly displayed on their personal FB posts. Scroll.in has published some of the pictures.
Within no time, the group’s membership swelled up to 5,400 people. But then it disappeared mysteriously on the 18th. However, during the two days of its existence, it attacked hosts of people it considered “anti-nationals”. The group claimed to have successfully targetted more than 50 people by filing complaints about their social media posts and eliciting a range of official actions: A case was filed against an associate professor in Guwahati; in Rajasthan, four Kashmiri students were suspended by their college; and after the group sent several emails to a college in Dehradun, the institution promised to file a case against a former student who is a Kashmiri.
The damage that these thugs have done to India’s case in Kashmir is going to have long-term consequences. Those going back to Kashmir will be sworn enemies of India. It’s a missed opportunity. Had we treated them well, they could have been our cultural ambassadors. Kashmir worsened after the killing of Burhan Wani in July 2016. The Hizbul Mujahideen commander became an instant hero following his death at the hands of the security forces. He became a rallying point for a spontaneous mobilisation of people – men, women, and children – against the security forces and the government. What has happened now may trigger another round of anti-India mobilisation in the valley.
We need to act fast to arrest this situation. Let the civil society come forward. Remember the 60s and 70s when dreaded bandits of Chambal ravines in Madhya Pradesh had become a headache for the government. All sorts of forces were applied to overwhelm them. But none bore fruit. The success came through two unassuming souls: Vinoba Bhave and Jayaprakash Narayan. Their non-violent way pacified the bandits who – numbering 500 – not only surrendered their arms but also agreed to face courts of law.
Today, we no longer have towering personalities like Vinoba or JP. But, still there is no dearth of people who can help resolve the Kashmir crisis. So far, Prime Minister Modi has stone-walled any such effort. It’s high time he reviews the policy of his government for the sake of unity and integrity of India.