Tricolour in NIT, Srinagar : Our nationalism is further alienating Kashmir

Jagjit Singh

The author is pursuing Masters of Art in Development from Azim Premji University, Bangalore.

“The greatest patriotism is to tell your country when it is behaving dishonourably, foolishly, viciously.”

― Julian Barnes

The debate on Indian nationalism ends in Kashmir.  The question of whether Kashmiris are nationalists or anti-nationalists doesn’t even arise.  They don’t even call themselves Indian; it’s actually an abuse in Kashmir to label someone as an ‘Indian agent’. And anyone who’s been engaged with Kashmir for some time knows it for a fact. The Tiranga and national anthem have no takers in Kashmir. In Kashmir, they are symbols of oppression and injustice and I think as soon as AranabGoswami’s prime time viewers understand these facts the better, otherwise these nationalist –emotions will never let a saner debate to take place in India. The other thing, though trivial, that I should mention is all the prime time news channels when they discuss Kashmir in such a context receive only a mocking in Kashmir. Kashmiris don’t consider these so-called arguments even worthy of an angry response. They are always happy to be labelled as ‘anti-nationalists’ or more precisely ‘anti-Indians’. Kashmir, where every small incident leads to protests and stone-pelting, doesn’t even bother to discuss what Indians think of them.

But, our nationalists have always been troubled by this indifference of Kashmiris, and sometimes enraged by the disrespect the National Flag has often received in Kashmir during numerous protests. But things have not been like this forever. Jawahar Lal Nehru unfurled the Tiranga at Lal Chowk in 1948 with the promise that Kashmiris are free to choose their political destiny through a plebiscite. Of course, these promises are long-forgotten. Then in December 1991, Murli Manohar Joshi, then President of BJP, started his EktaYatra from Kanyakumari to be culminated at Lal Chowk with the unfurling of national Tricolour. The Yatra received over-joyous response and cheer from many sections of Indian society. The unfurling of Tiranga became a question of national prestige. It was the same Lal Chowk but different Kashmir. India, from a rescuer in 1947, became an oppressor in 1992. Just couple of years ago, militancy had taken the centre stage on Kashmir issue. Kashmiri Pandits had left Kashmir valley in the wake of violence. There was chaos in Kashmir, and only guns had the final say.  Wisely, Joshi took a helicopter from Jammu and hoisted Tiranga at Lal Chowk.  No one asked the question as to what the unfurled Tiranga at Lal Chowk achieved?But itdid provide fodder to the doubts of Kashmiris that India wishes to force itself on them.

Now, the Tiranga has again raised its head in Kashmir. The gladiators this time are non-Kashmiri students of NIT Kashmir and the whole nation is spectator to this show. It was Kashmiri students who were beaten up for cheering India’s defeat in a Cricket match though such a cheering is not something new in Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir police that lathicharged these students have a much worse record when it comes to handling protests in Kashmir. So clearly it’s not a pro-Kashmiri force as some people are accusing,but still the government decided to deploy ‘nationalist’ CRPF for the security of NIT. Well, the record of paramilitary forces, including CRPF, in Kashmir is a different story. Who they are protecting and from whom is not clear. Then,BJP leaders threatened Kashmiris by warning them of the backlash Kashmiri students might receive in the rest of India. Well, that ‘prophecy’ seems to be taking reality with News of Kashmiri students been threatened and abused in some parts of the country. If that was not enough AnupamKher, the new brand ambassador of schizophrenic-nationalism, tried to enter Kashmir in support of these students. Obviously he knew he won’t be allowed to enter Kashmir but he did convey the symbolic gesture that ‘India’ stands by the national heroes who are fighting for Bharat Mata in Kashmir.

Much to the disappointment of hate-mongers, Syed Ali Shah Gilani appealed to NIT’s Kashmiri students to take care of the safety of non-Kashmiri students as they are “the guests of Kashmir”. But on the other hand, Kashmiri students who are studying outside Kashmir kept feeling the heat. Many Kashmiri students in Jammu University have left the campus and are back in Kashmir.Around 150 students from different parts of the country led by BJP national secretary R P Singh on Saturday started their journey from Delhi to Srinagar to show solidarity with the outstation students of NIT.

Finally, they have managed to receive a response from Kashmir. Yesterday, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and Hurriyat Conference have called for a shutdown against the growing attacks on Kashmiri students studying in various colleges in India. Just like Jammu Bar Association extended support to NIT students, Kashmir Bar Association has supported the bandh. Syed Ali Shah Gilani and Mirwaiz Farooq are placed under house arrest. JKP and CRPF have been deployed at the sensitive places in Kashmir. Again the borders are drawn, audiences have taken their seats and people who didn’t get the ticket are glued to their TV screens.

This nationalism with a religious fervour has alienated the Kashmiris from the very beginning, if India as a nation wants Kashmir to be a healthy part of Indian union this aggressive nationalism can never achieve it. Instead it’s going to further alienate Kashmiris. If Indian civil society or political class wishes to work towards a peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue they have to start by vehemently criticising these publicity stunts in the name of nationalism. This forceful symbolic gesture of hoisting Tiranga only solidifies the idea that India is an occupation force in Kashmir. This is the blindness of jingoism. It reminds me of the story of the fool who was cutting the same branch on which he was sitting.