NIT controversy has been an eye-opener on many counts. For one, it has yet again underlined the troubling ideological direction India is taking. And that university campuses are now in the cross-hairs of the Hindu rightwing. It began with Film and Television Institute of India followed by Hyderabad Central University. Then came the turn of Jawaharlal Nehru University which hogged the limelight for more than a month. And once JNU controversy subsided, NIT followed as if on a cue to fill in the resulting vacuum.
One has every reason to doubt that these incidents are spontaneous. They have all the markings of being scripted. They happen just at the right place and the right time. The familiar story unfolds. A familiar cast of characters strut around the stage to act out their antics. Political stakes are raised, ideological ante is upped. This explains why while nothing happened for four long days after the tension broke out at NIT following India- West Indies on March 31, all hell broke loose the day after Mehbooba Mufti was sworn in as the J&K Chief Minister. Why? It’s because the Governor N N Vohra offered little opportunity for politicization. You couldn’t blame Governor – and in today’s India certainly standing out as a Hindu – for unleashing police lathicharge on the non-Kashmiri students holding tricolour in their hands and shouting Bharat Mata ki Jai.
And for the first four days after the match, the students didn’t deign it necessary to take out a march outside the campus and confront the police. It happened a day after Mehbooba, a Kashmiri leader, became CM. It effortlessly fit into the us-versus them narrative of the Sangh Parivar, with Kashmir and its dominant religious identity thrown in as a bonus. An ideal confrontation, Hindutva brigade dreams of and deliberately triggers to pursue its polarizing agenda.
But in case of NIT, the Sangh outfits and the BJP Government at the centre over-reached themselves. They forayed into politically forbidden arena. In their ideological exuberance they took on the J&K Police, hitherto a holy cow for its role in anti-militancy fight. They have been in the vanguard of the counter-insurgency operations in the state, losing 3000 lives to militancy. The police have also been responsible for gross excesses, killings, fake encounters and disproportionately brutal lathicharges. But nobody from outside the Valley raised a finger as the targets were the Kashmiris themselves. Instead, J&K Police was hailed as a hero for doing all this and more.
But one cane charge on non-Kashmiris, the heroic image soon wore off. The police became villains of a hideous variety, meriting choicest invective and condemnation. They were branded “anti-national”, “biased” and what is more “Pakistanis”. All their sacrifices in holding Kashmir for India went down the drain. The J&K police couldn’t be trusted with securing non-Kashmiris in Kashmir, so should be replaced by CRPF. A team from Human Resource Development is sent to bolster the confidence of the assaulted out-station students. This is a bizarre and Kafkaesque way of dealing with a state and a people you call your own. And sends yet again an unmistakable signal that in Indian mindset, Kashmir is not its people but a territory. And while territory is sought, people are treated as the other. This approach has now crept into Indian policy-making on Kashmir. And this is what has gone seriously wrong in Indias dealings with Kashmir.
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