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Collateral Damage?: The Shelling Of JNU's Soul And JKEDI's Body

02/03/2016 8:13 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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Hindustan Times via Getty Images
NEW DELHI, INDIA - FEBRUARY 18: JNU students took out a march in support of JNUSU president who was sent to Judicial custody, all the student supporters join other AISA activists at Mandi House for a Solidarity March, at JNU Campus on February 18, 2016 in New Delhi, India. The ripple effect of protests against the arrest of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges is visible in a wave of demonstrations in educational institutions across India. Delhi's Patiala House court on Wednesday sent JNU student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar to judicial custody till March 2. JNU has been on the boil over the arrest of its student's union president Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges after some students organised a meet to mark the anniversaries of executions of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. (Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

This year, two very important institutions were damaged -- JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) in Delhi and JKEDI (Jammu Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development), the scene of a recent militant attack, in Kashmir. The soul of the former is under attack and the corporeality of the latter razed to the ground. I have some questions about both.

At the outset, I want to make it clear that when it comes to the Kashmir dispute, we Kashmiris do not see any difference between India's right-wing and the leftists. However, on every issue, Kashmiris can have an opinion.

If a university offers no space for those whose thoughts are not in compliance with those of the establishment, it ceases to be a university.

The Indian government led by the BJP, banked upon many regressive developments in the year 2015 -- love jihad, beef ban and ghar wapsi (home-coming), to name a few. While these issues seem to have been put on the backburner for now, they've been replaced by the even more retrograde measure of curbing the right of academia and students to express dissent.

This was the last significant arena which wasn't saffronized, yet. If a university offers no space for those whose thoughts are not in compliance with those of the establishment, it ceases to be a university. This is what differentiates higher educational institutes from schools. In schools, we learn how the world runs and in universities we can figure out how to run it better; if that thinking is caged, arrested and labelled as seditious, only because it doesn't conform to the state narrative, you are producing dumb zombies, not tomorrow's leaders; you are manufacturing robots, not scholars capable of critical thinking; you have jingoists in the making who in the name of nationalism won't accept there's anything wrong in the system. You will not produce people who can reason, analyze and then work to set the things right for their country. If everything is already so perfect with India, and that to question it is sedition, where is the room for improvement?

In schools, we learn how the world runs and in universities we figure out how to run it better; if that thinking is caged... you are producing zombies.

It's absolutely conceivable for a State to make mistakes, at times. Every State does it. Only God doesn't and even then, He says: ''Indeed, the most disliked created beings in the Sight of God are the deaf and the dumb, who do not use their intellect.'' (Quran, 8:22). This is a clear reference to blind faith. And if the nation and its leaders are held to be incontrovertibly holy and divine, where is the room to rectify mistakes? In fact, a mistake might just set a wrong precedent, become the norm, thereby taking country onto the path of self-destruction.

If some students at JNU, most of whom are neither Muslim nor Kashmiris, feel that the death sentence handed to a Kashmiri Muslim -- Afzal Guru in this case -- was actually constitutionally incorrect and politically or even emotionally motivated, it only reflects their concern for the country and its legal system. It reflects their opposition to discrimination on the basis of region or religion in this case. Now this is their narrative which differs from that of the state. Big deal? What makes them anti-nationals? In fact, they are more nationalistic in their striving for non-discrimination, especially when it comes to their country's judiciary. If raising questions on Afzal's judgement is being anti-national, then why not arrest P Chidambaram (who held the Home and Finance portfolios at the time of Afzal Guru's hanging)? A few days ago, he said that Afzal's case was perhaps not correctly decided.

My question is why does the army need to raze structures to the ground every time a militant takes shelter in it? I ask this as a taxpayer...

As far as the encounter in the Entrepreneurship Development Authority (EDI) building in Kashmir is concerned, my query is directed to the army and not to the government. Not that I am more concerned about the infrastructure than the lives lost, but then I'll have to get into politics, which is not my topic here.

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My question is why does the army need to raze structures to the ground every time a militant takes shelter in it? I ask this as a taxpayer whose money funds the army as well as important government facilities like the JKEDI. I understand that the army lost men and to them my respect, but why is there a need to destroy public property? Why? Please don't mind me asking this: why wouldn't a team of civil engineers, trained in 'building implosions' be handed over such cases, instead? I'm sure they can bring down structures in a much more controlled and efficient manner. As a layperson, I believe the army should be able to get in and neutralize militants. The cycle, instead, always goes: army cordons, attempts to zero-in, fails, loses some men and then withdraws and pushes the button from a safe distance and destroys the whole structure. That's not what they're trained to do.

Moreover, this time it wasn't an ordinary structure but a huge multi-story building of an institute, which was at least trying to foster much-needed entrepreneurship in a Kashmir that is struggling with unemployment.

Why weren't commando forces able to get in to do the job and save the building?... Is it because they could not or because they didn't want to?

With all the resources, modern weaponry and ample time at hand, why weren't commando forces able to get in to do the job and save the building? How was it a successful operation, as per the Army statement, when a civilian died and the army lost five men and they had to destroy the building? The civilians were let go of by the militants, according to reports and the civilians themselves, but then it changed into the statement that the employees were rescued. The point I'm trying to make here is that their only goal should have been to get the militants -- dead or alive -- without bombing EDI premises. They couldn't achieve it. Why didn't they? The question remains: Is it because they could not or is it because they didn't want to?

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