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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 11 New Delhi March 2, 2019

Kashmiris Hounded and Attacked

Sunday 3 March 2019, by Humra Quraishi


This entire week I have been sitting and recollecting those words and phrases from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lengthy speeches where he had spoken of kashmiriyat,insaniyat, jamhooriyat, in the context of the Kashmir crisis. Not to forget his assurances; that he and his government would reach out to the Kashmiris.

I wonder what happened to those promises and assurances, when last week hundreds of the young and even the not-so-young Muslim Kashmiris were targeted in Uttarakhand, Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra and in several other States of India. Well, hounded and harassed to such an extent that they had to rush back home; travel back to the Kashmir Valley from where they had stepped out, to either pursue academics or else to earn a living. Mind you, a large percentage of these hounded and targeted Kashmiris are from modest middle-class backgrounds, so now what happens to their livelihoods and lives? Disrupted if not ruined, on not just the academic front but also on the very survival front. Where do these Kashmiri students go now in the midst of the academic term? Which college or university in the country will give them admission? What happens on their fees and travel expenditure front? Who will take the responsibility of their safety and well-being? Who will ensure that they are not lynched or killed in this atmosphere of hate and hatred getting whipped up by the political hawks? Who will tell us the exact reasons why the Right-Wing outfits, who were responsible for the blatant hounding of the Kashmiri Muslims, are not banned and banished? Why are these Hindutva outfits and the men manning them left untouched and not labelled terrorists and charged under any of the terror acts—after all, they terrorised these hapless Kashmiris?

The tragedy for the Kashmiri Muslims gets compounded, as even in the Valley the situation has been deteriorating. Leaving the Valley residents apprehensive and unsure of what lies ahead, what with ongoing arrests and detentions. To quote CPI-M leader from the Valley, M.Y. Tarigami, from the statement, which he issued in Srinagar very recently, on February 23, 2019—“The crackdown and arrests of separatist leaders without any solid legal grounds does not augur well for the State. It has been done before as well in the State, but it has never yielded anything. On the other hand, it just exacerbates the anger and gives rise to further uncertainty. We have always maintained that dissent should always have a place in a democratic society. Curbing the dissent and those holding a contradictory viewpoint is not democratic at all. On the other hand, such sections should be engaged. Moreover, from the last couple of days, rumour-mongering and chaos-type situation is being created in the State which is causing anxiety among the people. The State administration has failed to assure the people on this. The way it has sought paramilitary reinforcements and started issuing ‘advisories’ to the various departments without giving reasonable answers has caused further panic among the people. The State cannot afford more chaos and uncertainty at this juncture.”

It is a grim situation, getting complicated and compounded on a daily basis. On one hand, the Valley Muslims are finding the going very tough in their home State and on the other hand, shifting to other States of the country would be riddled with trauma and tension, in this surcharged atmosphere dripping with the obvious strains of communal poisoning.

In fact, for the last several years Kashmiri Muslims coming to the different cities and towns were not just looked with suspicion but even faced severe hurdles in finding jobs, school admissions, rooms on rent. They faced hostility and humiliation; hit that they were by snide comments and communal unleash. Why? Because we, the masses of this country, have been rather too steadily fed with all sorts of prejudices and lopsided propaganda about the ‘Indian Muslims’ and more so about the Kashmiri Muslims. And now with the Right-wing government at the Centre the situation has only aggravated. Worsened to such an alarming extent that even a Kashmiri student or a shawl-seller or a shawl-buyer is not spared...becomes a victim of severe hatred unleashed by the Hindutva brigades going about scot free; several of these hate-brigades even enjoying state patronage! And not to overlook the absolutely provocative comments of the Meghalaya Governor, Tathagata Roy, calling for the economic boycott of the Kashmiris. What action has been taken against him! None, so far. He still continues as the Governor of Meghalaya.

Today we seem hell-bent to sit like mute spectators, seeing the mess getting messier. After all, in the last over thirty long years we have been witnessing uncontrolled violence and counter-violence in the Kashmir Valley. Kashmiris have been severely affected by the unending killings and counter-killings.

Innocent Kashmiri civilians have been killed, if not grievously injured, in these recent years. They have witnessed the deaths of their children in firings and cross-firing, crackdowns, searches...they have witnessed their young sons picked up for interrogation by the security forces, never to return...they have seen decay and destruction spread out on varying fronts. Trapped they sit, sieged, at the mercy of the state might.

Amidst this grim situation the only little ray of hope stands out in the fact that the Supreme Court on Friday (February 22) issued a notice to the Central Government and 11 States, seeking their response on a plea for its intervention to prevent the alleged attacks on Kashmiri students after last week’s terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama. The notice has been issued to Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Meghalaya, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR). The Court said the Union Home Ministry will issue advisories to all the State governments to ensure the protection of Kashmiris in their respective States. It asked the chiefs of the State Police to ensure the safety of Kashmiris.

I cannot end this column without focusing on the efforts of the Khalsa Aid volunteers in reaching out to the hounded Kashmiri students; rescuing and helping them in all possible ways in this crisis time. After all, the basic aim of the Khalsa Aid volunteers is to treat each and every human being as a human being, irrespective of the caste and creed and region and religion factors.

My salaams to the Khalsa Aid volunteers. May their mission and outreach grow steadily, so that we human beings can live in a better and safer world, where Right-wing hawks’ terrifying and terrorising tactics don’t manage to tear us apart.

As I end this column, I wonder what long term measures will be taken to ensure that the Kashmiris are not hounded and targeted. What happens to the academic future of the Kashmiri students who were forced to vacate hostels and class rooms? What happens to their survival? What happens to all those Kashmiris who dare to venture out of their State and also to those who have no choice but to sit in home confines, tense and apprehensive of what lies ahead.

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