An Open letter to Kashmiri Students studying outside Jammu and Kashmir

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Dear Friends,

As India and Pakistan cricket teams are scheduled to test their skills in a T20 Asia cup match on 27 February and the enthused cricket supporters, on both sides, would be clearing their throats to yell and scream, many parents in Kashmir would be awe stuck! 

The cricket T20 Asia cup is a dream for many people around the world and in Kashmir as well, but there are also people whose children are studying in colleges and institutes outside the state and who will be panicked to known about the cricket match between India and Pakistan. And we all know the cause for this worry.

While on one hand, we know that it’s just sports and to have a favorite is certainly not a crime even if someone likes a player or a team from any other country, yet the circumstances, the political connotations falsely attached to the game are very serious and threatening. That is what has happened in the past whenever some Kashmiri students cheered for Pakistan! Many a students were beaten up, not only by the colleagues’ but also by police and other administrative staff. There have been incidents when students were threatened, tortured and even expelled from their institutions for cheering for Pakistan. When can we take a game as a game?

In the past, parents have recalled their children from different colleges and universities for the fear of such eventualities and in some worst cases students also left their degrees in the unfinished for the fear of assault, torture or even arrests.

This time as well, worried parents are making frantic calls to their children advising them to stay away from any altercation ahead on the match day.

I am studying in Punjab and since last three days I have received nearly 100 phone calls from my parents, relatives and well wishers who have been suggesting to ignore the match and to stay away from any kind of commotion in this context. If this be an indicator, we can understand the anxiety and unease parents would be experiencing and all this for just a silly cricket match!

I don’t know any law book that withholds the right to cheer or support for any team or any player and yet the perception is that every person living in India must, necessarily, support only the national team. It is some sort of sardonic pleasure that people take when they refuse this right to anyone.

In March 2013, Meerut University suspended 67 students for cheering for Pakistan team evoking widespread criticism in valley when even the then chief minister, Omar Abdullah left no stone unturned in support of the expelled students. The suspension was subsequently revoked by the administration at Swami Vivekanand Subharti University. However, 10 other students were expelled and when the university as well as college authorities were asked about it the reply came from a politician who said, “if they wish to cheer for Pakistan they should complete their degrees in Pakistan only.”

Near about 30,000 students from Jammu and Kashmir are currently pursuing their degrees in different universities and colleges in India. Subharti University in Meerut, the one that had expelled students in past has around 200 students from Kashmir presently enrolled in different courses.

Knowing that the cricket match can always cause unrest and stir, most of students have preferred to extend their mid-semester vacations to avoid any confrontation on the match day. “We were supposed to join classes from February 15, but our parents insisted that we extend our vacations at least till February 28, the match day,” a student said, requesting not to be named. Those of the students who have stayed in the colleges also plan to go on vocation a day before the match.

A girl’s hostel at a Dental college in Kanpur witnessed chaos after the Asia Cup match between India and Pakistan. This time around more than 100 Kashmiri students at the college are taking extra caution, many of them deciding to skip the match altogether.

Another university to expel students for celebrating Pakistan’s victory over India in the Asia cup, in past, was the Sharda University in Greater Noida. Local students had rallied to demand the expulsion of six Kashmiri students following their ‘provocative’ posts on social media. Several other incidents have been reported from different universities in the NCR (national capital region) in the past in which Kashmiri students were harassed and even beaten up by local goons. In many cases the students have been forced to raise anti-Pakistan slogans.

However this harassment hasn’t been of any help vis-à-vis Kashmiri students supporting Pakistani cricket team as they continue to be the fans of Pakistani cricketers and Pakistani cricket team. In May 2014, more than 100 Kashmiri students had to be relocated from a Noida hostel after three of them were ruthlessly beaten and forced to shout anti-Pakistan slogans. An agitated Omar Abdullah had tweeted, “If the universities or state authorities can’t protect Kashmiri students coming there then man up & admit your inability or unwillingness.”

This time around, the Kashmiri students, enrolled in colleges and universities in NCR, are relatively relaxed as well as are cautious. “The AAP government in Delhi has generated a lot of interest among the student community and the focus is yet to shift to cricket. But on the other side the overall political scenario which seems totally disturbed after JNU row can be more dangerous for students from Kashmir particularly. We hope things do not get out of hand this time,” said a student from a Faridabad college where Kashmiri students have been manhandled in the recent past. 

On the contrary, the students in Hyderabad are unperturbed amid all the excitement around the match. A Political Science research scholar from the south Indian city said that people are more liberal than their northern counterparts. “We don’t feel threatened even if we cheer for Pakistan in the hostel TV room. The people here do not wear their patriotism on their sleeves and neither do they expect any of us to do so,” said the scholar.

This is a very sad state of affairs that a country claiming to be the biggest democracy has miserably failed to imbibe in its citizens the virtue of accommodation and the value of diversity!

 

 

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