Dear NIT Students, A Wall Of Slogans and Flags Is Not The Answer

Kavita Krishnan

Is it not ironic that NIT students’ rationale for wanting the campus shifted out of Kashmir, is that ‘This isn’t India’? Instead of fanning the polarising flames, the Govt needs to keep off the campus and prosecute police for unleashing brutality on NIT students. And the Admin of NIT as well as teachers and other interlocutors need to build bridges among students, get non local students and Kashmiri students to talk to each other – really talk, not demand slogans of each other. Being in Kashmir is an opportunity, after all, to actually speak to Kashmiri people, learn Kashmir’s history, try and feel empathy for those living there, to learn where Article 370 is coming from, why Kashmir has a flag of its own, pain and grievances all their own. Forget for some time if Kashmir is or isn’t India, speak to each other as human beings, with distinct histories and experiences that have shaped you.

NIT unrestNIT Srinagar students from outside Kashmir, you’ve experienced unconscionable brutality by cops, and your anger at that is justified. Would you pause for a moment, and ask how many such beatings and firings have sowed seeds of anger in your Kashmiri classmates? Dialogue with them is the way out, the only way forward that isn’t narrow and destructive.

Kashmiri and non Kashmiri students of NIT need to assure each other of mutual goodwill and show the willingness to keep each other safe, resolve their issues through dialogue and protest the police brutality together, demand answers of the J&K Govt together. Remember, shifting NIT out of Srinagar won’t keep students safe – where will it be shifted, to Hyderabad? Where students have been subjected to even more horrific brutality by cops?

Much needed mutual empathy is impossible if a wall of slogans and flags is erected, if cricket matches become barricades. NIT students from outside Kashmir, try and speak to Kashmiri fellow students, and understand why they may not feel emotional over the Indian team in a cricket match – perhaps their emotions are soaked up by their fellow men and women in mass graves, by young kids shot dead by cops or security forces in funeral processions for other young kids shot dead… ? If violence has been done to them in the name of India, is it any surprise that students of Kashmir and the North East tend to lose little love for Indian symbols?

What is most worrying is that BJP leaders are threatening violence against Kashmiri students all over India on the pretext of retaliation for NIT. Kashmiri students, as it is, have been vulnerable to violence on campuses outside Kashmir. I recall an instance from some years ago, when Uttarakhand comrades and activists of various groups had had to intervene to help Kashmiri students facing violence there. More recently in Mewar, Kashmiri students were attacked and even arrested, because a mob claimed falsely that they had cooked beef in their rooms. The Home Min not long ago asked West Bengal campuses to provide lists of Kashmiri students. Is the NIT issue being used by the BJP to justify an intensified violence against Kashmiri students on campuses? What would be best would be for NIT Srinagar students to sit together, talk together, resolve issues themselves, and appeal against any violence on Kashmiri students anywhere in the country.