Targeting Kashmiri students only helps alienate Kashmir away from India
In Kashmir, the security forces cannot do much. Political players and citizens alone can lend a helping hand.
Senior journalist Barkha Dutt was flooded with abusive messages on Monday when she offered to help Kashmiris feeling threatened outside the state after the gruesome Pulwama terror attack that killed about 40 CRPF jawans.
Dutt had lent her support to a welcome move by many citizens to offer help to people from Kashmir staying in other parts of India.
The reason: there were reports of Kashmiris fearing the wrath of local residents in some parts of the country.
The social media, and rumours circulating on them, only made things worse.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on Sunday cautioned the country against the circulation of fake images of severed body parts. These, it added, were put online by miscreants to evoke anger and hatred, and requested people not to share and circulate them.
Historian S Irfan Habib cautions against directing our wrath against Kashmiris who live in other parts of India to earn their bread and butter. To hate them, he says, is to fall prey to the Hurriyat discourse that Kashmiris are anti-India -- a discourse Pakistan misuses in its propaganda against India.
He also cautions against a “hyper-nationalism” that prevents us from seeing the creative, inclusive side of nation-building.
“The whole narrative is part of the hyper-nationalist narrative of the past four years. We are being trapped in it and harming the interests of our own country. We cannot be attacking our own people and yet see ourselves as nationalists,” he tells Asiaville. “We are not caring about our people and also the families of our jawans, who have lost their lives while we express our anger online. We cannot go on alienating our people and not think of the national crisis we are getting ourselves into.”
“How can we alienate Kashmiris by attacking them all over India? Is it that we want Kashmir without Kashmiris? Does it even make sense to think so?” Prof. Habib wondered.
Indeed, the gruesome Pulwama terror attack has not just led to security concerns but also to another worry: the attack is being used by many on the social media to whip up passions. While firmness against militancy is a must – something most citizens agree on – it should be accompanied with efforts at making Kashmiris feel safe across India.
Protests erupted in Jammu after the Pulwama terror strike. Soon afterwards, there were reports of Kashmiris living outside the state being threatened. Police had to rescue 20 Kashmiri girls in Dehradun who had shut themselves up fearing violence. City Superintendent of Police Shweta Choubey gave them her mobile number and offered to take them out shopping. The city belonged to them too, she assured them.
Aligarh Muslim University proctor Mohsin Khan also instructed all hostel provosts to ask Kashmiri students not to venture out into the city. The reason: protests had erupted in Aligarh too.
The battle is one where force has to be deployed to curb violence. But it is also a battle for the hearts of Kashmiris, particularly youth born after the rise of militancy around 1990. These are citizens who have grown up seeing the presence of the armed might of the state, and need to be insulated from the propaganda of militant outfits by mainstreaming them.
Here, the security forces cannot do much. Political players and citizens alone can lend a helping hand.