An unfortunate fallout of the terrorist outrage in Pulwama is the targeting of Kashmiri students in other parts of the country
Column : Political Circus By Amulya Ganguli
As a result, there has been a virtual exodus of them
back to their homes in the Valley, sometimes escorted by security personnel.
They have also been helped in their distress by well-meaning non-Kashmiris such
as the Sikhs in Dehrudun or Chandigarh.
Among the Chief Ministers, Amarinder Singh and Mamata
Banerjee have been prompt in assuring help and punishing the guilty.
Not Kashmiris only but people from the northeast
are the victims of racial prejudice
This is not the first time when the country has seen
such panicky fleeing of harassed individuals. A few years ago, the people from
the northeast had to leave Bengaluru and other towns following taunts or
assaults because of their Mongoloid features. Africans, too, have been the
victims of such racial prejudice.
Is Meghalaya Governor responsible for present
victimisation of Kashmiris
The present victimisation of Kashmiris may have been
fuelled by ill-conceived statements by dignitaries like Meghalaya Governor
Tathagata Roy, who, with his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) background, echoed
the views of a retired army officer calling for a boycott of Kashmiris and
Another BJP stalwart, Subramanian Swamy, reiterated
his party’s longstanding demand for abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution
conferring special status on Kashmir and argued in favour of constituting
Isreali-style settlements in occupied Palestinian territories by helping
retired Indian army personnel build homes in Kashmir and prepare the ground for
the return of the Kashmiri pandits who had left the Valley from the early
It is not surprising that in such an atmosphere of
antipathy towards the Kashmiris, it has become unsafe for them to live and
study in other parts of India. It is relevant to note in this context that
several colleges in the Dehradun area were forced by right-wing activists to
give written undertakings that they would not admit Kashmiri students.
As Congress leader P. Chidambaram has said, it is
ironical that “some people” want Kashmir to be an integral part of
India but not Kashmiris.
The difficulty with the targeting of Kashmiris is that unlike the cases of the northeasterners or the Africans, which were one-time aberrations, the situation in Kashmir is unlikely to return to normal anytime soon.
Nor will there be a let-up in the acts of terrorism as
long as Pakistan continues to harbour the “snakes in its backyard”,
to use former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s words, to hiss and strike
For various reasons ranging from the Pakistani
instigation of terror to the failure of successive Indian governments to
incorporate the Valley within the country in a framework of insaniyat
(humanity), as Atal Behari Vajpayee had said, the alienation of the people in
the Valley, especially the youth, is a living reality.
This feeling of estrangement cannot but be deepened if
the Kashmiris feel unwanted in other states or a Governor or an MP is not
publicly reprimanded by senior BJP leaders.
Otherwise, the feeling might grow in Kashmir that for
all the administrative steps that are being taken to safeguard the harassed
students, there is a tacit approval of what the governor or the MP have said in
their party because they reflect the widely prevalent though generally unspoken
feelings in the organisation.
It will be futile to deny that anti-Muslim sentiments
provide the substratum of the signs of animus against Kashmiris, which are made
all the more intense by the prevailing hostility towards Pakistan.
There is little doubt that the BJP (and India) have
moved far from Vajpayee’s sane plea to let a sense of humanity exemplified by
brotherhood and harmony which constituted the bedrock of the so-called
Kashmiriyat, which enveloped the state in the 1960s and 1970s when Kashmir was
the backdrop of numerous Hindi films.
It is obvious that it will take a herculean effort to
revive the spirit of insaniyat and Kashmiriyat in the present surcharged
atmosphere when divisiveness has apparently become a paying electoral
There does not appear to be any leader in either side
of the political divide who can rise above partisan considerations to see
Kashmir as a distinct entity where the role of Pakistani-inspired jehadis
should be regarded as peripheral to the main narrative of integrating the state
ever more closely in India’s embrace by ensuring civil liberties and not
pushing the people further away by curbing their special rights.
But no progress can be made in that direction if all
the people of Kashmir are seen as real or potential terrorists and, therefore,
a threat to the rest of the country.
Nor will it help to ostracise them at personal and
commercial levels and treat the state as a colony by acquiring land for
settling “outsiders” with a military background.
Because of years of flawed policies, a stage has been reached when only a genuine statesman can heal the breach by keeping politicians at bay. The need of the hour is a gentle touch and not a heavy-handed approach.
(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views
expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])