JAMMU bandh over the demand for the All India Institute for Medical Sciences has entered fifth day. The AIIMS Coordination Committee (ACC) has rejected the union health minister J P Nadda’s assurance that Kashmir and Jammu will get hospitals with “AIIMS-like facilities”. ACC now demands a notification to set up an AIIMS in the Jammu region. Now Nadda is coming again to the state to hold talks with ACC. The demand for the separate AIIMS for Jammu began the day the centre announced one for Valley. So it is out of a sense of familiar one-upmanship with Valley that drives the protests in Jammu.
On the contrary, Valley has by and large been unmoved by Jammu bandh. Except for an odd protest earlier over the demand for an IIT and IIM for Valley which have already been handed over to Jammu to the exclusion of Valley, the people here have been largely unbothered about the issue. One cant ask but why is this the case. Why should the protests which deal with the demands for some community goods within the system be an anathema to us. In 2010, it was because of this cant-care-less approach that we let go off the planned management institute in Valley on the lines of Indias premier IIMs. The institute was handed over to Jammu where people sought it. We gave up the opportunity without so much as a squeak of protest and settled for a central university. People of Jammu deserve kudos for also securing one such university for their province by a sustained agitation. The province got the university despite not being the chosen place for the national dole of the 15 such institutions of higher learning with only one for each state.
Valley was content with a central university. There was no debate in Srinagar on what the loss of an IIM meant and what the addition of a run-of-the-mill central university would do. We little realized that we had messed up a choice between India’s globally recognized and respected educational brand, an IIM, and a just another institution of higher learning.
Why is it so? The answer to the question is complex. The issue is that the protests in Kashmir are not a simple phenomenon. They may come easy but they are also not up for grabs. Incidents and events in Kashmir must pass a clear-cut eligibility test before they become protest worthy. They must be directly related to or somehow seen to advance the larger separatist cause. Any protest that appears to operate within the system is thus out of bounds. Hence, we can have protests over the deaths and other visible human rights violations but we cannot have them over a demand for a university or an IIT. Our street is also not for a protest for otherwise widely felt grievance of being handed a raw deal in the government employment. Or for that matter the administrative units. Isn’t it time to introspect and challenge this mindset? Why should a long term political goal so decisively put us off the present? Do we realize the sheer scale of self-inflicted deprivation that we are subjecting ourselves to? Not at all. The truth is that far more than the unthinking everyday protests we need an educated, thinking class who would always be in a position to better articulate and better direct any good cause, including that of Azadi. So if for nothing else, we should certainly seek and fight for the institutions of the higher learning for the Valley central university, IIT and IIMs.
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