The Expulsion Of Kashmiri Students In Meerut: A Disgrace To Humanism

IN Media Freedom | 07/03/2014
An overflow of misplaced nationalism marked reactions to the reports of celebrations by some students,
says SUBIT CHAKRABARTI

Re-printed from Countercurrents.org, 06 March, 2014

“If one harbors anywhere in one’s mind a nationalistic loyalty or hatred, certain facts, though in a sense known to be true, are inadmissible. The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” – George Orwell

A private university in Meerut suspended all Kashmiri students when a sub-section of them celebrated Pakistan winning a recent Cricket match. According to reports in leading Indian newspapers [1], the authorities initially decided to suspend only the people who had shouted slogans, but later decided to suspend all Kashmiri students according to the recommendations made by a three-tier inquiry. The vice-chancellor told reporters that the students' gesture was completely unacceptable.

Comments about this incident on social media ranged from aggressive and farcical (some variant of mailing the suspended students to Pakistan), to tacit acceptance of the policy but disapproval of its universal application to all Kashmiri students. A few people called for the arrest of the students, and a ban on ever being employed by the government. A few others called for their execution as terrorists.

The unifying emotion to all the responses was, unsurprisingly, an overflow of misplaced nationalism. A few students celebrating in a corner of the country, somehow, dealt a blow to the national identity of a billion people. Never mind the absurdity of the notion that pride in one's nationality is of paramount social and cultural importance, since the nation one belongs to is determined purely by luck, as a consequence of the accident of birth. Never mind the constitutional assurance provided to every citizen that their freedom of speech will be unimpeded.

One tweet regarding this incident remarked, “This is why the right to free speech has restrictions.”. Ironically, this is exactly the scenario where an absolute right to free expression, without restrictions, is direly needed as, popular speech, by definition does not need to be protected. It is unpopular speech, which might be offensive to some section of society, that needs protection. These ideas, are by no means either original or profound, and has been expressed at different points of time by many notable people including Søren Kierkegaard, Salman Rushdie, Kurt Vonnegut, George Carlin and Stephen Fry among others. There can be no ethical justification for arbitrary boundaries on a map determining whether an expression of joy is worthy or unworthy.

In the rest of the article, I will try to place this incident in historical context. In 1846, the Muslim majority region of Kashmir, with a distinct language and culture was 'sold' to King Gulab Singh for Rs. 7,500,000 in return for acceptance of absolute British sovereignty. Throughout the next hundred years, the Hindu ruler kept the Muslim population poor, illiterate and oppressively taxed [2], and faced mass agitations that he brutally suppressed using State forces.

In the spring of 1947 King Hari Singh orders the police to fire on demonstrations in favor of joining Pakistan, burns whole villages and massacres innocent people [3]. In retaliation, Pashtuns from North West Frontier Province in Pakistan with Poonch rebels invade Kashmir . The King decides to ask for help from India, who agree to send the Indian army only on Kashmir's accession to India. King Hari Singh agrees to this, contravening all previous accession regulations which called for a plebiscite to determine whether princely states would join India, Pakistan or be Independent.

It is important to note that at that point of time, and since then, all opinion polls suggest that a majority of the people in the region want Kashmir to be independent, a lesser number want Kashmir to accede to Pakistan and a minuscule number want to maintain status-quo. At that time, Pandit Nehru, the Indian Prime Minister, and Sheikh Abdullah, the first Prime Minister of the state of Kashmir gave assurances that the accesion of Kashmir was ad-hoc to be resolved by a later plebiscite. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 47 called for a similar plebiscite. India, for a while, maintained that a plebiscite was imminent and then in an Israel-esque U-turn decided that the requirements for a plebiscite were obsolete as the “geography and demographics of the region are permanently altered”, since 1947.

Meanwhile, most investigations carried out by international agencies show that forced disappearances, extra-judicial killings torture, rape and sexual abuse, by the Indian army to sustain dominance in the region fueled by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), are widespread [4]. For some time, the number of civilian deaths attributed to the Indian Army in the region are higher than those attributed to Islamic militants [5].

Indian authorities routinely deport internationally reputed journalists, like David Barsamian and threaten the others for trying to pry into Kashmir [6]. The few investigative journalists who manage to escape the net have uncovered horror stories, completely unreported in the Indian media, of the army's atrocities. A few of them are particularly scarring like that of the 60-year-old man (6), kept in solitary confinement by the army for one month. During that time, he wasn’t given anything to eat, but his own flesh. They cut the flesh from his body and served it to him. This was all he was given to eat for a month. In July 2011, the State Human Rights Commission of Jammu and Kashmir (SHRC) released a report documenting 2,156 unidentified bodies in 38 unmarked graveyards, a relic and testament to the last 50 years of forced disappearances.

Kashmiri children have grown up watching unexplained graveyards populate their villages and with macabre stories like the above. And when these children become young adults and celebrate Pakistan's victory, the rest of the Indian population calls them thankless and undeserving of this country. They are right. Kashmiris do not deserve constant torture, confinement, unexplained deaths that India has provided them with for the last two hundred years. They deserve to exercise the right of self-determination which is the cornerstone of modern democratic society and be independent. At the very least, they deserve the minuscule amount of freedom to cheer for the opposing team at a sporting event.

“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.” - Howard Zinn

Subit Chakrabarti is a doctoral student in Electrical Engineering at the University of Florida, Gainesville. In addition to writing technical papers for scientific conferences and journals, he writes socio-political commentaries too. He can be reached at chakrabarti.subit@gmail.com

[1]http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/Furore-over-JK-students-expulsion/articleshow/31435489.cms

[2]Prem Nath Bazaz, Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir , New Delhi 1954, pp.140-166

[3]Official Records of the United Nations Security Council, Meeting No:234, 1948, pp.250-1

[4]Hindwan, Sudhir (1998). "Policing the police". In Verma, Bharat. Indian Defence Review (Lancer) 13 (2): 95.ISSN 0970-2512

[5] "For the first time, security men kill more civilians than terrorists in J&K". Times of India. 7 September 2010.

[6] http://www.projectcensored.org/kashmir-the-untold-story-of-indian-occupation/

 

 

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