The protests in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have, by far, been the most misunderstood. Of late, it has captured the limelight on several social media platforms. There are a few elements one has to necessarily examine before any conclusive judgment is given or stand taken on this controversy which has so greatly agitated people.
The primary aspect that needs to be examined is our fascination with ideals like ‘nationalism’ which have, of late, been misused and misrepresented by several governments to impose their will on the citizens. Nationalism is a virtue that, ironically, remains forgotten and props up only when there is scope for political opportunism. By far, sedition clauses have been the most misused sections by any government so far.
No one denies that nationalism is the force that binds us Indians, including most Kashmiris who still haven’t lost their faith in the Indian state. Not every Kashmiri is a separatist. But the level of faith and goodwill shown by Kashmiris depends on how successful the Indian state is in integrating the various factions in the valley and in working for the welfare of the masses. It’s not important to merely govern Kashmir. Rather, it is more important to do justice to Kashmiris who are now being viewed with suspicion across the country.
No Indian state so far has been able to justify the atrocities committed in Kashmir under the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act). Which is why Kashmiris trust the Indian state despite the hostile circumstances they live under. We must be proud of that. This, however, doesn’t mean that we should be intolerant to any faction that is fighting for greater autonomy. It is, at times, quite natural for people who have been subjected to injustice to stand up for freedom. Several intellectuals who believe that Jammu and Kashmir has been passing through difficult times and deserves autonomy should also be tolerated. It is quite common for people to have different perspectives.
The state can’t prevent the various factions from asserting themselves. Not unless it is convinced that it has meticulously catered to the needs of all the factions in the border state. Thus, the uproar over the JNU protests and its relation to Afzal Guru’s hanging is quite surprising. It can by no means amount to sedition for a number of reasons apart from the one discussed above. Firstly, it has not led to any violence. Secondly, there are sources which claim that the slogans were raised by a group of separatists who had come to witness the cultural event and weren’t proven to be JNU students. Besides, there are parts in the Afzal Guru judgement that point to the fact that there was “no direct evidence…amounting to criminal conspiracy.”
There has, of late, been heavy police presence in the JNU campus. The identities of students are frequently being verified which is causing inconvenience for many. Furthermore, the government being harsh on protesters is going to have a negative political impact because the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) government in Kashmir, with whom it is in coalition in the state, had also expressed its concerns over Afzal Guru’s hanging.
Thus, there is an air of political opportunism that surrounds this entire controversy. The government should be cautious enough not to get itself entangled in the situation given the lack of conclusive evidence, the inconvenience caused to the JNU students and faculty due to excess scrutiny. Also, the geopolitical realities in the Kashmir valley and lack of adequate confidence in the government should make the government even more cautious.
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