What NIT Srinagar ruckus tells us about Kashmir

The cricket match scuffles at NIT Srinagar have rapidly turned into a nationalism v/s antinational debate, thanks to the way media has reported it. There are multiple conflicting versions of the incident- if one were to look at both Indian as well as regional Kashmiri media reports. ‘Whodunnit first’ seems like a useless exercise.

Comparisons started being drawn to JNU incident, tricolour waving students being touted as right wing’s answer to Kanhaiya and Umar. (while conveniently leaving out mention of police action at HCU). Amusingly, after the J&K Police lathi-charged NIT Students, ‘patriotic’ media and especially social media badgered and battered ‘sickulars’ and ‘left liberals’ for the action. Abuses to the usual suspects- Rana Ayub, Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai flew around liberally.

Absurdity knows no bounds in a country where journalists get blamed for brutal state action. Instead of questioning the newly minted PDP-BJP state government of J&K, the issue has been spun as something sickulars are responsible for. The J&K Police is being blamed for being ‘anti-national’ for beating patriotic students who just wanted to raise the Indian flag. Yes, the same J&K Police which battles militants, tear gasses protesters and shoots pellets into Kashmiri bodies to ‘mantain law and order’ has now suddenly become anti-national. One is almost tricked into thinking that the valley is a stomping ground for liberty and freedom, seeing the amount of outrage a lathi charge has generated. Make no mistake, the police action on the students has to be unequivocally condemned (regardless of the issue of whether they were indulging in vandalism or not). However, to assume that the valley has suddenly turned into an illiberal police state is a fallacy. (Just like the notion that India has suddenly turned intolerant after PM Modi took charge is a flawed one.)

Ordinary civil liberties enjoyed in states where JNU and HCU respectively are situated are simply not available to Kashmir. Under AFSPA and Public Safety Act, any person deemed to be a threat to security, law and order can be shot/detained/imprisoned without trial, and the security forces are not accountable to any civil administration for any of these deaths. The J&K Police might have as well detained them and kept them in prison for two years without charges or trial legally, within the ambit of the PSA. Further, under Section 22 of the Act, any legal proceeding against officials for acts “done in good faith” are also disallowed- which means they are answerable to none.

In a recent development, actor and activist Anupam Kher has been stopped at Srinagar airport to prevent him from going to the already troubled campus. It is definitely a wrong and unjust deed on the part of the state government. Mr Kher’s grievances are just and should be supported by any lover of liberty:

But Mr Kher, in Kashmir ‘orders’ mean diddly squat. There is no need for orders if threat perception of security forces beeps like crazy. There have certainly been no orders for the thousands arrested under PSA, or detained for ‘prceived threats to peace’ on special occasions- especially Independence Day and Republic Day. Mr Kher’s fellow colleagues and supporters in this noble endeavour are even more ignorant

Any resident of the valley will die laughing if questions like these are posed. While ‘Emergency’ has been used rhetorically to speak of the unfortunate position Mr Kher and Mr Pandit are in, the valley is certainly in Emergency for quite a few years now with a huge military presence(it is the most heavily militarised zone in the world) with the jackboots wielding arbitrary powers.

A curious situation has thus developed, in which ordinary Indians have now found themselves constrained and suffocated by the very provisions the Indian state imposed on Kashmir, ostensibly to maintain law, order and control. This is something big media outlets won't emphasize since that means acknowledging the authoritarian hold India has on Kashmir, and raises serious questions about the over ‘integral part of India’ trope.

How does one outrage over NIT Srinagar while remaining mealy-mouthed over police action in Kashmir University? The Students at NIT and Mr Kher at Srinagar Airport have seemingly tripped over the wires laid out for Kashmiris. The vocal support in the public sphere for them is a luxury forbidden for the Kashmiri ‘other’. It would be fair to say that the law of unintended consequences has finally caught up with the Indian state and its local regime in J&K.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.