Why did Kashmiri students celebrate India’s defeat?
By Adil Bhat
In the most brutal and arbitrary display of violence, the Indian army on April 12, 2016, killed two youngsters, Mohammad Iqbal (21) and Nayeem Qadir Bhat (22) in North Kashmir’s Handwara town of Kupwara District. Nayeem and Iqbal were among the several people protesting against a molestation attempt by the Indian soldier. The April 12 incident occurred in a more politically volatile background of the ongoing NIT-Srinagar conflict between the local and non-local students of the institution. The NIT imbroglio was a result of Kashmir’s exuberant celebration over India’s defeat at the hands of the West Indies cricket team in the T20 World Cup on March 31, 2016. Such celebrations (entailing India’s defeat) that are not unprecedented in the Valley led to vandalism, and then further escalating to army onslaught on unarmed local residents, resulting in fatalities.
The issue cannot be dismissed in binaries: whether Kashmir should or should not celebrate India’s losses. Instead, what one needs to do is to probe the reason behind the celebratory exhilarations by Kashmiri students on India’s defeat. Why do Kashmmiris celebrate India’s defeat? And the answer to the question lies in the vitriolic counter-reactions by the non-local students, who form the majority in the campus and find legitimacy to their actions and demands in the current majoritarian political dispensation in New Delhi. It is this militaristic aggrandizement of Kashmir by India, and subsequently, the militaristic overtones in the public discourse that has further hardened the separatist sentiments, which India falsely claims to have “minimized” in the Valley. Say it aloud, mere electoral participation or strategic political alliances is no triumphant unification and does not either indicate the minimization of separatist tendencies harbored and expressed by the Kashmiris from time to time.
Having said that, it is important to locate the current crisis at NIT, which is now spreading to the rest of the Valley, in the larger mood of the ‘nation’ that has gone far in forcefully containing and controlling spaces for alternative views, dissenting voices and contrapuntal perspectives. As the atmosphere in the Valley further vitiates India’s illiberal governance and jingoistic public discourse unfolds. In one of the developments amidst the conflict, the non-local furious students demanded the relocation of the college to a ‘safer place.’ Unsurprisingly, the crowd shouted that it should be relocated to the Hindu majority state of Jammu, thus, unpeeling the majoritarian politics that they represent.
In this quest of ‘safety’, the majority that today feels threatened quite clearly mimics its political masters sitting in New Delhi. This majoritarian group also fails to empathize with the Kashmiri students who have faced the brunt of their dual identity – of being a Kashmiri and a Muslim in a “Hindu majority” country, where humiliation is the norm, whether as students or as professionals. Undeniably, politics in India has been an imitation of an imitation. India has been imitating its colonial rulers – the British – in dealing with Kashmir, which has witnessed brutality in the most perverse form of hyper-masculine militarization.
As the killing of Iqbal and Nayeem takes place, the discourse on India’s sabre-rattling once again floats on the streets of the Valley and few empathetic progressive spaces in India. A few days ago the non-local NIT students had pressed the panic button – ‘safety’ – leading to the much-required discourse on nation, nationalism and dissent, in the public domain, with the hyper-nationalist majoritarian forces pontificating in colleges and work places. Continuing with their tradition of name-calling, which continued in the public domain during the current row, the college administration of India’s Mewar University, in an adrenalin rush, suspended 16 students accused of “picking up fights” with the nationalist students over the same match that has brought the Srinagar entanglement to the point of the dangerous ‘other.’ The students of Mewar remain suspended till April 25, 2016.
“After April 25, the students will be required to report to the university along with their parents/guardians and put across their side. After due consideration of the same, the university administration will take a final decision on their re-instatement,” Harish Gurnani, the university’s media liaision officer said in a statement to the media.
As the fate of these 16 Kashmiri students remain in a limbo, so does the fate of Kashmir. Knowing and passively believing that Kashmiri lives are expendable, India’s national media has not given a full objective coverage to the killing of the two youngsters. And, despite the uncertainties that abound for Kashmir and for Kashmiris, the Muslim ‘Other’ in the Valley will continue to celebrate India’s losses, whether on a cricket pitch or a battleground. The answer lies in history – history of violence, state-sponsored brutalities, dispensing off human rights, jingoistic politics, and the caricaturing of the Kashmiri Muslim.
Pic-credit: The Indian Experss
Adil Bhat is studying English at Delhi University. He tweets at: @subzadil
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