Srinagar: Hundreds of students staged demonstrations at the Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU) Monday and served free ‘kehwa’, traditional Kashmiri beverage, to protest against the hooliganism of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidya Parishad (ABVP) activists.
On January 26, Kashmiri students were denied permission, allegedly under pressure from ABVP, for setting up a counter during the varsity’s annual International Food Festival .
This despite having fulfilled all the formalities and having deposited security money to showcase traditional Kashmiri cuisines at the festival organized by the International Students Association (ISA) each year at JNU on January 26.
Activists of the ABVP, the student wing of India’s ruling party BJP, had threatened the ISA to not to allow the Kashmiris students to exhibit their cuisines in the festival.
On Monday, hundreds of students converged at the venue and set up a stall to register their protest against the “highhandedness of the ABVP activists and the helplessness of authorities.” Kashmiri students, joined by their fellow class mates and the representatives of various student organizations, including the Democracy Students Union (DSU) and Baba Ambedkar Phulkey Students Association (BAPSA) served kehwa to visitors in cups inscribed with slogans like “Drink to the freedom of Kashmir”.
The protesters were also carrying placards that read “No more guns, no more bombs, republic is killing kids and moms,” “From Palestine, Tibet to Kashmir, Occupation is a crime,” “Fighting the Chutzpah of a republic, and “Kehwa is not a weapon of mass destruction.”
“As the students were holding a peaceful protest, the ABVP activists carrying Indian and saffron flags reached the spot and resorted to pro-India, pro-army sloganeering. Kashmiri students too reacted by shouting pro-azadi slogans. The sloganeering and counter sloganeering continued for some time,” eyewitnesses said.
A Kashmiri student, wishing not to be named due to fear of reprisal, told Kashmir Reader over phone from New Delhi that the stall was set up outside the venue as a mark of protest against ABVP hooliganism, helplessness of officials, and an attempt to reclaim the space which was granted jointly to the Kashmiri and Tibetian students for showcasing their cuisine.
“While Tibetans were allowed to participate in the festival, our contract was cancelled after ABVP goons issued threats to the organizers. By this protest, we also wanted to assert that Kashmir is not an integral part of India, but a disputed territory,” the student said.
“Saffronisation is a serious threat to student politics in the higher educational institutes. The need of hour is to defeat the designs of the Hindutva forces and reclaim the space of free speech which the students have been enjoying for decades,” she added.
This is not the first time Kashmiri students have been bullied by the ABVP activists. Last year on February 9, at least three Kashmiri students at the JNU received minor injuries after attacked by the activists of RSS youth wing for commemorating the first anniversary of Muhammad Afzal Guru, who was hanged in Tihar jail after being convicted for attack on Indian Parliament.