The “fidayeen” attack on an Indian Central Reserve Police Force convoy by a boy from Kashmir, Adil Ahmad Dar, in Pulwama district on February 14 killing 40 shocked the nation.
The spontaneous anger in the country was understandable.
The reaction, however, by sections of Indian society and misguided youth was despicable. That the attacker was a Kashmiri made members of the mob lose their minds and forget that if Kashmir is an integral part of India, so Kashmiris are our own citizens.
If some among them have turned anti-Indian, that does not make the entire community our enemy.
The students from Kashmir studying in universities and colleges across the country were targeted after the attack and made to leave the places they were studying.
Many of them were suspended, expelled, rusticated and asked by authorities to head for home.
That the heads of these institutions succumbed to this mobocracy unleashed by misguided youth is quite shameful.
It was expected by these guardians of education to guide them and make them understand that a crime committed by Adil Ahmad Dar does not make all Kashmiri young men and women criminals.
Why harass them?
The incidents of harassment, humiliation and assault as they unfolded all over the country – from Panipat in Haryana to Dehradun and Roorkee in Uttarakhand to Yavatmal and Pune in Maharashtra, Jalandhar in Punjab, Muzaffarnagar in UP and elsewhere – are worrisome.
Harming the country
What was the fault of these students who were only pursuing their education for a better future in this country? What was, for example, the fault of three shawl traders who were travelling in a train to sell shawls to make a living?
They were beaten up so badly that they got down from the train leaving their wares behind.
It was only in the wake of these incidents that one learned about the huge number of Kashmiri students studying in the country following their dream of becoming engineers, architects, doctors, nurses, ec cetera.
Six thousand of them were pursuing such courses under the Prime Minister Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) under which all their expenses are paid.
This indeed is a praiseworthy attempt to help thousands of boys and girls annually to get them in the mainstream by helping them with their education. Apart from this number, thousands are studying with the support of their families.
In a small place like Kharar in Punjab itself, there are 9,000 Kashmiri students who have made the place their second home picking up the food habits and even language of the place.
What better way to integrate Kashmir with the country. The miscreants who turned against these students in the wake of Pulwama killing are serving no cause.
They are harming the country by alienating these people.
As it is and after militancy hit Kashmir, we committed many mistakes in the name of curbing militancy.
Under stress or misplaced bravado, we have hurt many ordinary citizens by humiliating them, raiding their homes, taking away many young men who till date are missing.
This combined with radicalisation of the masses has extinguished goodwill and the feeling of being a part of India.
Have we ever thought why today there is so much alienation and hatred for the country?
Pakistan of course is continuously playing its role.
But have we ever thought what led to virtual Islamisation of the state? What made “Kashmiriyat” cultural values die leading to exodus of Pandits who were one with Muslims?
Sufiyat not radical Islam was the religion of this state.
During the course of militancy so many mosques with Wahhabi connections came up in Srinagar and elsewhere with money from Saudi Arabia right under the noses of state governments.
What were our Intelligence agencies doing? Why was that not checked? Kashmiri women were generally naquab and burka free.
Today we have the likes of Asifa Andrabi who preach radical Islam and are following “brother” Hafiz Sayed to create trouble in the state.
It is time for introspection and a change to our strategies regarding Kashmir.
What caused young Dar to join the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad, to leave his home, go across the border, get motivated and to kill and be killed?
According to his father, once when coming home from school he was stopped by security men and made to rub his nose on the ground in a gesture of asking for forgiveness.
There is a story behind every Kashmiri boy who became a militant. Of course, money also played its role. Many of the stone-pelters are said to be unemployed youth who, it is said, get paid from across the border through their agents in the Hurriyat whom we were providing with security and other government facilities until recently.
What happened with Kashmiris in the aftermath of the tragedy at Pulwama is therefore regrettable.
The saddest part is that our leaders kept silent while all this was happening.
If only the prime minister had addressed the nation sharing the grief on the murder of so many of our soldiers and telling our misguided youth not to vent their anger on young Kashmiri students, many would not left for home angry and alienated.
He has spoken now in Rajasthan but only after the Supreme Court directed all the affected states to take suitable action to protect Kashmiri students and workers in the country.
Hollowness of character
Thank God our institutions are still vibrant and can be relied upon.
First the National Human Rights Commission issued notice to the central government to act quickly to stop this violation of Article 14 – the right to equality – and then the Apex Court.
With general elections round the corner, politicians perhaps do not want to annoy the jingoists by stopping them from their wrongdoing.
Leaders like Omar Abdullah are right in questioning the “silence” of the centre and the opposition. Vote bank politics has eaten into the moral fabric of our society.
Persons holding high positions, and that too constitutional ones, display hollowness of character every day, as did the governor of Meghalaya who exhorted us to boycott all things Kashmiris.
It would have served the cause of Kashmir if he had been sacked after this outburst.
It is therefore time for every Indian not to alienate Kashmiris further but to do everything to win their hearts.
Our grief should be directed at helping the shattered families of soldiers and not by adding to the problems this country faces from its rogue neighbour.
Let us trust our government to handle the security concerns of the country or whatever retribution they deem fit and not create an atmosphere where our growing economy gets derailed adding to the suffering of our people who are still away from a decent living. the statesman (india)/asia news network
Aarti Khosla is a former Indian government Additional Secretary.