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Dragging Kashmir Politics Into JNU Row Is A Recipe For Disaster

24/03/2016 12:04 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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A Kashmiri Muslim protester engulfed in tear gas smoke shouts slogans against India during a protest in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016. Government forces fired tear gas and pellet guns to stop hundreds of rock-throwing Kashmiri youths in Indian-controlled Kashmir after Friday prayers. They were protesting the arrest of a Delhi University lecturer, S.A.R. Geelani, and a student leader of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on charges of sedition for raising anti-India slogans. Geelani also allegedly criticized the 2013 hanging of a Kashmiri man Afzal Guru convicted of attacking Indian Parliament. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

The Delhi Chief Minister recently said that the BJP is an anti-national party because it is not arresting the 'outsiders'--by implication, Kashmiri youth--who chanted anti-India slogans in JNU. The reason, it was implied, is that the BJP does not want to displease its coalition partner PDP in J&K. At the India Today Conclave, Rahul Kanwal also tried to grill BJP president Amit Shah along similar lines. These two political expressions speak volumes about the downward spiral of Indian politics.

Equating anti-India sloganeering by Kashmiris with such sloganeering by mainstream Indian students as a shield to protect the latter is the politics of the most destructive minds.

As a policy analyst, for me, it is quite interesting to witness how Indian politics, in terms of discourse and strategy, is stooping to unprecedented lows. With the increasing domination of social media and a TRP-hungry, profit-oriented, media in shaping and determining political discourse, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep former restraints of civility and grace intact. We are a long way away from the Parliament of Jawaharlal Nehru, Ram Manohar Lohiya or even Atal Bihari Vajpayee and their dignified language, parliamentary values, patriotism and idealism. The kind of language being used today, the kinds of issues being argued, the intensity of hatred with which they are articulated and the venomous agenda being pursued might disgust any sane person. But personally, I prefer to take it in a positive light. I take it as a process of political cleansing or rather churning, something which I would like to compare with the "Samudra Manthan" of Hindu mythology. And, I am sure this phase will lead us towards a more mature and stronger democracy.

But despite this kind of "Samudra Manthan", we have to make sure we don't cross the Rubicon. Petty politicking with narrow electoral objectives over the issues of India's sovereignty and security might seriously hurt national interests in the long run.

Equating anti-India sloganeering by Kashmiris with such sloganeering by mainstream Indian students as a shield to protect the latter is the politics of the most destructive, divisive and dangerous minds.

The coalition of the BJP and the PDP is a milestone symbolic of Kashmir's coming back to India's mainstream.

We all know that the state of Jammu and Kashmir has had a very tumultuous history over the last 60 years. An average Kashmiri's outlook towards India is very different from the rest of the country. We have to admit that there have been feelings of grave disaffection and resentment against the Indian state for a very complex web of causes that cannot be simplified in black and white terms. At this stage, we are still in the process of bringing Jammu and Kashmir back into the mainstream. Whether we admit it or not, we are actually healing wounds and we will have to do that for a long time.

In his book Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years, former RAW chief AS Dulat traces the journey of Kashmir from the 1980s to 2015. The Kashmir of the 1990s, which witnessed tremendous amounts of sympathy for violent extremism and separatism, has come a long way. Over the last two decades, Kashmir has seen an almost complete wiping out of militancy. The Valley has seen militants like Yaseen Malik and Majid Dar coming back on the peace track. Following the Vajpayee government's peace talks with separatists, it has seen the Hurriyat leadership moving towards the idea of political settlement within the Indian union.

We need to appreciate the concerns of Kashmiri students. We need to [make] short-term concessions... if we do not want to lose the gains made in Kashmir.

Today, we have a well-functioning democracy and a relatively stable government in Kashmir. The coalition of the BJP (supposedly a Hindu nationalist party) and the PDP (which has a soft corner for separatists) is a milestone symbolic of Kashmir's coming back to India's mainstream. Today, we have a large number of Kashmiri students the joining civil services and studying in universities across the country. It shows their increasing faith in India as a nation with which they feel that they can identify themselves. It marks the diminishing presence of separatist ideology and influence of Pakistan in the Valley. But the process is not yet complete and to further it, we need to appreciate the concerns of Kashmiri students. We need to be generous with some short-term concessions which might not be defended on legal and constitutional grounds, but are most advisable on the grounds of rationality and wisdom if we do not want to lose the gains we have made in Kashmir.

Now a few leaders and media personalities know well that this is an issue which can put the government on the back foot and render it speechless because of obvious political, constitutional and electoral compulsions. But, they must realize that catching the government in such soft and sensitive spots for narrow political ends might work against our national interests.

Regarding the freedom of academic institutions, I think it is perfectly rational to organize discussions on Kashmir and other troublesome issues, in an open, democratic and liberal manner so that the Kashmiri people and the other oppressed segments feel that they are being heard. However, while organizing such events the institutions need to make sure that they do not degenerate into platforms for emotionally charged anti-India sloganeering and hate speeches.

JNU students and academicians, in a strictly legal sense, might be innocent but they can't escape the allegation of patronizing anti-India activities.

JNU students and academicians, in a strictly legal sense, might be innocent but they can't escape the allegation of patronizing and providing intellectual support to anti-India activities. With their protest march in the support of Umar Khalid and Anirban, there is no shred of doubt left. Unlike Kanhaiya's case, the two aforementioned students have admitted to speaking in favour of Parliament attack terrorist Afzal Guru and there is enough technical, verbal and circumstantial evidence to prove their guilt.

India has always upheld a tradition of debating in a civilized manner. Even in the most lethal war of Mahabharata, our ancestors followed the ethics of war. Hence, we must continue the tradition, exercise restraint, and not let sensitive matters like Kashmir become the subjects of narrow politics.

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