Sinister hounding of Kashmiri youth

Just a few days after six Kashmiri students of Mewar University in Chittorgarh district were thrashed in the BJP-ruled Rajasthan and branded as “stone palters” on April 19, a research scholar at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani in the same state has been forced to flee for fear of life. Hashim Sofi, 27, fled to his home in Bandipore, Kashmir, after he woke up to see threats written on his shirt he had left to dry in the open and the door of his hotel room. While the university students were roughed up in a busy market place, this time the threat had come nearer home in one of India’s top engineering colleges. These are not stray incidents confined to time and space. Posters asking Kashmiris to go back have appeared in Uttar Pradesh. In the Jammu University, a frenzied mob stormed into a playground to stop Kashmiri students from playing a football match.

There is a sinister pattern to hound out the Kashmiri youth from the rest of India by organised gangs of self-appointed hyper patriots who are driven by a murderous zeal to showcase their brand of militant nationalism. This can prove counterproductive in Kashmir Valley, where growing alienation of the youth has created a dangerous situation, which Pakistan and the separatists propped up by it are exploiting. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has issued an advisory to the states to ensure their safety. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called upon the chief ministers to reach out to them. However, mere condemnations, advisories and exhortations are not enough. The Centre and the state governments, particularly the BJP-ruled ones, must act effectively and convincingly to stem the tide.

If the Indian state wants the world to believe that Kashmir is an integral part of India, it must ensure that the people of Kashmir enjoy equal rights as India’s citizen untrammelled anywhere in India. To achieve this, it must put the mushrooming breed of self-styled militant nationalist fringe groups of ultra-right on the leash.

Indian nationalism has a glorious history. It spurred the country’s freedom struggle against the British and helped endow the people of the subcontinent with a sense of common national identity. Unfortunately, the lumpen groups who subscribe to this toxic brand of nationalism think that they can get away with murder now that a friendly dispensation is in power at the Centre and in many states. They believe that anyone who does not conform to their definition of the majoritarian nationalism is to be reviled and hounded out. The earlier they are disabused of this notion, the better it would be for India.

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