Security of/for Kashmiri students domiciled outside the state

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Security, as the aphorism goes, is like oxygen: you feel its absence or need when you are deprived of it.  Consider the example of Kashmiris in Kashmir. Because of ethnic and even religious homogeneity of the Kashmir division of Jammu and Kashmir, most Kashmiris feel secure here- despite the militarization of spaces in the vale and sporadic violence that seizes Kashmir. But, once a Kashmiri ventures out of the state, the feeling of insecurity and even fear seeps in. (This feeling may be more poignant and salient since the far right party, the BJP, assumed power and some ugly incidents- the murder of the Kashmiri trucker at Udhampur, the lynching of an innocent , middle aged man, in Dadhri and other related incidents that have occurred in the  past months).

There are scores of Kashmiris that venture outside the state for many reasons-business, leisure, pleasure and higher education. The most vulnerable of these sections are the business persons who are stationed in other states and, of course, students. While security is a need for every section, group or individual, it is the security and well being of Kashmiri students that we will dwell upon- for obvious reasons.

The security of Kashmiri students domiciled in other states has been brought to the fore by, first, the JNU saga and now the ugly fracas- which has morphed into a political issue and controversy- at NIT Srinagar. It may need to be stated here that despite the “media frenzy and furore” generated by the visual media, non-local or non Kashmiri students are safe and secure in Kashmir. There is neither an atmosphere of fear nor insecurity or ire directed against them by Kashmiris-students or residents. This is both glossed over by the media and totally ignored.

The very fact that Kashmiris-locals and residents- have not been hostile is a telling indicator about the Kashmiri ethos, sense and sensibility. But, alas, to repeat, this finds no mention in the media narratives. What, however, is emphasized and focussed upon are the odd but unsubstantiated “threats” or other ungainly behaviour- again culled out from obscurity. This , unfortunately, fans the flames of ignorance , and prejudice- eloquently encapsulated by the actor turned wannabe politician, Anupam Kher’s, antics, statements and behaviour.

The fires of prejudice and hatred have, in today’s networked world, a ripple effect elsewhere-manifesting in violence-mostly vigilante- directed against Kashmiri students. Ever since the denouement of the NIT saga, there have been reports of Kashmiri students beaten up and/or harassed in other states. This is a classic example of the ripple off effect of the media’s slanted and motivated coverage of the NIT saga. The irony is that this is not even a case of tit for tat violence: no non local NIT student has been reported to have been harassed, bullied or beaten.

There will, however, be consequences. And , alas, these consequences will be larger than the NIT saga and the incidents of violence it has generated elsewhere. The first casualty will be the level of trust between Kashmiris and others.(It has already plumbed to depths). The second will be the trickling or whittling down of student numbers to other states from Kashmir.  This is a bit of a travesty given that many Kashmiris will be deprived of an education. The question is: can anything substantive be done to ensure security of Kashmiri students?

Technically, yes. Policing can be tightened up, campuses can be ‘sanitized’ and other such measures can be instituted but alas, even these measures cannot be foolproof under vitiated and poisoned conditions. In the final analysis, it is only prudence, sagacity and wisdom of people rather than solely measures instituted by the state that can ensure security for Kashmiri students and other sections and groups domiciled in other states. People should introspect and not allow themselves to be carried away by venomous prejudice and gratuitous hatred and make it clear to Kashmiris- both in word and deed- that they are safe in their respective domiciles.

If, however, the drift of events lend themselves to insecurity and violence, then, it could be said that this insecurity could , in itself, constitute an opportunity. It could or it should focus and concentrate minds of  the business elite of Kashmir. They should pool together resources and minds and dedicate consolidated efforts to create world class institutes of higher education in Kashmir- the kind that have global linkages. In this day and age, where time and space have compressed and there is greater mobility of ideas, people and even institutions, this is eminently possible. The question is of will and determination. Let the Kashmiri business elite muster both and create institutions and legacies that will be worth the effort.

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