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Debate In Indian Universities On Kashmir- A silver-lining


Indian University Campuses and Kashmir  Dispute


Z.G. Muhammad


The seventy-year-old Kashmir ‘Dispute’ or ‘Problem’   is graduating towards a resolution. To some friends, overawed by New Delhi’s denials this pithy observation may sound creating false hope. Even a ‘false hope’ as novelist Lois Greiman has said, ‘is better than no hope at all’. Nevertheless, the aim of the statement is not creating false hope. It is based on analysis of the situation as I see it shaping in India out of the ongoing ideological war between Hindutva ideologues and democratic forces on the University campuses and its incidental fallout, the growing awareness amongst people of India about Kashmir problem- perhaps far better and clearly than it was ever before. The importance of this windfall of growing awareness among people in India can better be appreciated, after one looks at the efforts made by the Kashmir leadership and academics to reach out directly to the people of India during past many decades.

Lots of intellectuals, human rights workers and civil society activists in the nineties air-dashed from New Delhi to Srinagar. Some of them had left leaning, some neither professed, the right nor the left thinking but were bubbling with anger against the bloodbath in Kashmir. Some made it to Srinagar under various covers at the behest of the establishment- obviously with nefarious intentions of defeating the movement.  Of course, after the birth of the Hurriyat Conference, some delegations visited at the behest of New Delhi to reach out to the leadership of the multi-party combine- individually and jointly. In sending, these interlocutors or official delegation to Srinagar, if there was some sincerity of purpose or it was devious tactics to fragment the multi-party combine is not subject of this column. Nevertheless, there were some people who genuinely felt concerned about the happenings in  Kashmir and wanted the Kashmir leaders to reach out to people in India and keep before them the whole truth about the Kashmir Dispute and inform them of the human rights violation committed in the name of preserving “integrity of India”.

In the second half of the nineties, some of the Hurriyat leaders took a sort of world wind awareness tour of various states in India and addressed intellectuals and opinion makers. If there were any visible results of these tours can’t be said. But a message as one could make out from the newspaper reports had gone to a section of people in various cities that the Kashmir Dispute was a legacy of the past and resolution of which would in the interest of teeming millions in India living below the poverty line.

To reach out to the intelligentsia, opinion makers and civil society in 1995, the Hurriyat Conference, set up an office in New Delhi in a rented building. The newspapers widely covered the inaugural function of the office attended by leaders like I. K. Gujral and many former diplomats in New Delhi.   In fact, the speech of the then Chairman of the Hurriyat Conference had caused many columns and editorials in New Delhi press. Many political commentators had seen it as a good beginning an opening for initiating a dialogue with the Kashmir leaders for working out a durable solution for the Kashmir problem.  I have not done, any in-depth study on working of this office, If it functioned on the pattern of Institute of Palestine Studies, Ramallah or Washington or simply operated as a PR outlet of the organization.  Nonetheless, it was a point of contact for people to known about Kashmir. In 2003, this office suffered a controversy and it was closed down by the government. After that, a faction of the Hurriyat Conference contemplated reopening of the office in New Delhi, perhaps did not get the requisite permission.

In academic seminars and workshop, some academicians even on date maintain that for mobilizing the opinion of people in India and deconstructing the dominant discourse for resolution of Kashmir Dispute reaching out general people in India is imperative.  Demystifying the ‘dominant discourse’ in a country as vast as India undoubtedly is an uphill task unless the intelligentsia of the country joins the popular narrative of Jammu and Kashmir and a strong voice from within India society emerges that recognizes the realities of the Kashmir problem.

For the first time after 2008, Intifada, which was seen a major shift from the ‘armed rebellion’ to ‘non-violent’ movement a section of the intelligentsia in New Delhi and other metropolises vociferously not only supported but also strengthened the Kashmir narrative’ and recognized the right of people to decide their future. Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar in an insightful article in the Times of India on Aug 17, 2008 had not only said,   “We promised Kashmiris a plebiscite six decades ago. Let us hold one now, and give them three choices: independence, union with Pakistan, and union with India”. But, by building some strong arguments he had not only deconstructed the ‘official narrative” but also exposed the duplicity of New Delhi towards Kashmir.  Many others had subscribed to his point of view. In 2010 and 2016, we heard similar voices calling on  New Delhi to respect its historical commitments with the people of the state by respecting their fundamental right and add a feather of honor to Indian democracy.

True, these saner voices like those of   Swaminathan and Suzanna Arundhati Roy could not become as strong a voices as those of  Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and other intellectual in support of Algeria. Or they could not form as powerful an organization as of Amercian writers against the Vietnam War. Nevertheless, these voices articulating respecting freedom of others, justice and fair play for people of Jammu and Kashmir did cause waves in a section of young in  India that during past two years that have caused ripple effects in various University campuses from Kolkatta to Hyderabad. In February 2016,  posters calling for ‘freedom’ for Kashmir, Manipur and Nagaland were found in Jadavpur University campus. Almost, after one year,   once again from Hyderabad University to Jawaharlal Nehru University to the Delhi University, the debate over the idea of Kashmir Azadi not only dominated the student politics and campuses but after echoing in television studio almost reached every home all over India.

The discourses like these on the campus are silver linings of problems like Kashmir as these work as catalysts’ for their resolutions. And like students protests movement against Vietnam War that started from American University Campuses, then came to other European Universities the Azadi discourses in Indian Universities are bound to get louder- with the widening of ideological war on campuses. It is these voices of dissent with the campus that can  work as agents of change for ending the stalemate on Kashmir as happened in the Vietnam War.





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