When does a situation qualify for it to be taken seriously as an issue by a government? For chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, it appears that nothing short of some cataclysmic happening, which Kashmir is used to, is an issue. That is probably why she refused to confer on the raging NIT row the honour of an ‘issue’. Let us see whether the chain of events at the institution actually were an issue. About 1700 non-Kashmiri students have been protesting for various things: they should be allowed to hoist the Indian flag at the campus; there should be fewer Kashmiri staffers, etc. They nearly killed a courier who refused to say Bharat Mata Ki Jai, attacked a faculty member and Kashmiri students. The police are yet to book the assailants, although they drew flak from the extreme rightwing elements for beating non-Kashmiri students.
The police were promptly replaced with CRPF. Indian home minister Rajnath Singh discussed the issue with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and was briefed about the steps taken to reduce tension at the NIT. New Delhi sent a team of officials from its human resources development ministry to meet with the agitating students. Mehbooba’s deputy, Nirmal Singh and her education minister Naeem Akhtar also met the students. Kashmiri students have been harassed across the India. A national secretary of BJP, Mehbooba’s ally, embarked on a march to boost the morale of the non-Kashmiri students, so did Anupam Kher and Tejinder Pal Singh Bagga who leads rent-a-mob that has been attacking anyone who speak up for Kashmiris in India. After being stopped at the state borders, he still managed to sneak into the Valley.
By dismissing the row as non-issue,Mehbooba was perhaps trying to wish it away. But why the energies of two of her senior colleagues were expended on handling a non-issue? Why even call a non-issue a non-issue? In reality, what seems clearer is that the chief minister’s reading of the issue has been clouded by the aggressive nature of her ally’s politics. By and large the row appears to have been handled from New Delhi. Otherwise why would India’s home minister discuss the situation with the NSA and the state’s home minister, Mehbooba herself, calls it a non-issue? The handling of the situation by the state government reminds one of the 2010 uprising when relaxation in curfew was announced from New Delhi, leaving then chief minister Omar Abdullah wallowing in embarrassment.