Indian leaders never tire of parroting that Kashmir is a part of India. Significantly, they never say the same about Kashmiris. But then, that is what colonial mindsets are all about. You claim the land, not the people who are just an encumbrance or at best chattel to be used and abused. Even as Kashmir continues to be an ‘integral part of India,’ the atoot ang, the Kashmiri remains an irritating speck in the eyes of all who gaze lovingly on their beautiful land. Chased, shooed and pushed around in his own land, he remains persona non grata in the rest of the country, an easy prey and a soft target. Maltreatment at the hands of the Indian aam aadmi as well as authorities is no breaking news so far as Kashmirsi are concerned. The suspension of 67 students from a Meerut university and slapping the draconian sedition law on them is just the latest such episode. And all this just for cheering the ‘wrong’ team! Indeed, Indian democracy has been caught and bowled on the silly point.
If you are wondering why it is that Raj Thackeray’s goons can go on a rampage and destroy toll booths and public property worth lakhs and get away with it and yet when some Kashmiri students rejoice at the win of their favourite team they can be booked for life imprisonment (yes ‘sedition’ can get you that) well that is the difference between us and the rest of India, the conquerors and the conquered. Not that this fact needs to be drummed into the minds of the Kashmiris. They should be well aware of it by now with pretty recent reminders like one of them being hanged on priority basis to satisfy the ‘collective conscience’ of a nation even if the case against him had more holes than your average tea strainer.
Mind you, this time it was not that the booked students were suspected of preparing to carry out some terrorist act which, by the way, is always a risk if you happen to be a Kashmiri, even if you ultimately make it to the national cricket team. No, it was not the collective conscience this time which provoked the harsh punitive measures, but collective hate against a particular people. What makes the episode even more galling is that it was not an impetuous act by a group of hooligans as has been recently happening in racial attacks in Delhi on students from northeast. No, this demonstration of malice and vicious prejudice was orchestrated by an educational institution where young minds are supposed to be nurtured, and was carried out by state machinery. Wonder if this university offers a doctorate in prejudice? Maybe celebrations by the students got a bit boisterous. But rioting? And then again, when did Akhilesh Yadav’s UP start booking people for sedition on goondaism and rioting? Read a newspaper any day and you will find that the two activities are the most popular pastimes in his state.
Kashmir witnesses a rush of tourists from the rest of India for most of the year. Kashmiris are the most hospitable of people and Kashmir continues to be a safe place for Indian tourists in spite of the turmoil it has been witnessing for a quarter of a century now. Compared to the rest of the country, the place is almost crime-free – even though its people have had access to quite a bit of weaponry in recent times, there have been negligible criminal or violent events involving tourists who are seen as guests by the local people. Notwithstanding the violence that they have been through for a whole generation, Kashmiris by and large continue to be a gentle people. The average Kashmiri may harbour a particular sentiment towards the neighbouring country but that has never influenced his behaviour with the common man from India. Even the violence, humiliation and death and destruction that he has had to face at the hands of security forces belonging to various regions of the country hasn’t made him resentful towards people from these areas. It is true that anger and violence can erupt on Kashmir’s streets without a moment’s notice but in spite of that the place has remained safe enough for thousands of students who studied in its educational institutions like B.Ed colleges across the length and breadth of Kashmir.
The treatment meted out to Kashmiris in the rest of India is in sharp contrast to this. Meerut is not the first time Kashmiri students studying outside have been targeted, and is not likely to be the last. When Kashmiri youth are hounded in their own state, how can they expect to be spared in the rest of the country? And who is there to stop this when, instead of having any real leaders, this unfortunate nation is at the mercy of collaborators.