When 67 Kashmiri students were thrown out of a university in the Uttar Pradesh state of India recently, the necessary outrage was instantly expressed. Statements by the resistance leadership and the active community of well-meaning, freedom lovers more than convincingly proved once again what our lives have been reduced to, and the precariousness of the future of our children. And amusingly, even Omar Abdullah felt angry.
But, what now?
Some reports suggested that these students might apologise to the authorities who had sent them home as if they were some unwanted piece of furniture. We shall not judge them if they apologise and rejoin the varsity. Even if they are shown singing Jana Gana Mana on Aaj Tak and NDTV. Because, as recent history bears witness, such spectacles end up as that singing kid, Qazi Tauqeer. Masarat Alam was made to sing Jana Gana Mana. They have been keeping him behind bars since.
But the episode has raised before us an issue we cannot ignore. Every year we will continue to produce thousands of graduates, post-graduates and professionals. With job opportunities at home, and abroad too, shrinking by the day, the first destination, even if undesirable, is India, which despite a slowdown offers some employment avenues. How do we create a balance between these two conflicting situations? How do we send our children to India on the Indian Prime Minister’s scholarships and ensure they remain inoculated against what we fear the most: the so-called integration.
First, we must have faith in our children. The biggest exodus of students to India occurred around the same time the armed struggle peaked. There is no fact which suggests that the political sentiment of hundreds of thousands of students who studied in Indian institutions all these years has undergone a shift that could allow New Delhi not to lose sleep. In fact, the presence of Kashmiri students in large numbers across India is a constant reminder to the Indians that the state acting in their name is holding Kashmir only by force. Except for a class which makes its living out of collaboration, every Kashmiri has been an emissary of his brutalised nation, educating the people in India and across the globe about the hidden and hideous aspects of the Indian military occupation. After the resistance leadership, armed and political, credit must go to the Kashmiri diaspora, including the student community, for making the world aware about Indian brutalities.
Second, as long as the Abdullahs, the Muftis, the Bakshis and others continue to collaborate with New Delhi in Op Sadhbhavna and its civilian variants, the resistance leadership will have to devise a strategy to deal with the issue. Muslim nations can absorb Kashmiri students in their educational institutions. And several of these nations, like in the gulf, also offer good job opportunities. In this connection, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chief Muhammad Yasin Malik can play a role, the former for his clout in the Organisation of Islamic Countries and the latter for his rapport with several western diplomats.
Since Azad Kashmir is part of the state, it would be worthwhile if a quality university is established by the diaspora, where students from the occupied part can study without interruption, or the fear of the Indian soldier at home, and harassment by the state and jingoists in Indian cities. Currently, scores of children of resistance fighter and leaders are studying in Pakistani professional institutions. These institutions should increase the intake of Kashmiri students.
Third, we need a revolution of sorts in education. Many of our needs -educational, economic for example – are informed by the occupation. Hence, our approach to education has to be different. The education system, as it is presently placed, even if we assume Indian machinations have not touched it, will only worsen our condition. For example, every college in the state has a roll which is nearly five to nine times its intake capacity. Some years ago, the number of faculty members who were fresh out of universities and were teaching at the Women’s College at MA Road was nine times the permanent teaching faculty. Similarly, the intake of the state universities has been increased by setting up campuses in districts. At the same time, universities operating from residential houses and others with grossly inadequate infrastructure are being set up to provide admissions to more and more graduates.
If you dig deeper, you realise that the government finds it manageable to provide admission to every Class 12 pass-out in a college and to as many graduates as possible in a university even if those students have no aptitude for higher education and might be better off in other fields. A Class 12 pass-out, who can be a better entrepreneur, an agriculturist, artist, or chef, gets encumbered by a master’s degree he has easily earned, or has been allowed to easily earn. Not many MAs in Sociology are inclined to start a chicken farm. Possibly, the government does not have to worry about creating jobs for those who want to work after finishing school. A student who might embark on a profession after finishing Class 12 spends another five years in futility and some more years in waiting for a job. A master’s degree, which should have liberated a student in more than one sense, ends up giving him an erroneous estimation of himself. Such graduates and post-graduates are easy prey for the Indian government’s job schemes which pay peanuts.
A debate on these issues should become part of the resistance discourse. And the resistance leadership and conscientious intelligentsia would do their troubled nation a great service by speaking on such subjects more often and offering solutions.