On the morning of April 21, Kashmiri scholar Hashim Sofi discovered hateful messages scrawled on the door of his hostel room at BITS Pilani. Even the clothes he had left outside to dry were covered in similar messages like “ur such a shame kashmire dog” (sic) and “antinational Kashmire pervert no place fr eu” (sic).
“Atithi Devi Bava”
— projectKASHMIR (@_projectkashmir) April 23, 2017
When Hashim complained to the college authorities, they changed his accommodation. However, fearing that the harassment would only get worse from here on, Hashim’s family insisted that he return home to Bandipora. In parting, Hashim made this painful statement: “My life is more important. I’ve decided that I won’t go back at least to this college ever.”
Sad. Would CM Rajasthan or PM intervene so that Hashim Sofi can be given protection so that he can continue his studies?
— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) April 24, 2017
That a student has to choose between his personal safety, and the chance to continue his education really speaks volumes. His fears, and the harassment he faced, are both founded in a recent trend where Kashmiri students are being deliberately targeted. In fact, Hashim’s story has come to light only days after two other similar incidents.
The first was in Rajasthan, where locals attacked a group of Kashmiri students from Mewar University, Chittoragarh. One of the students, Bahar Ahmed Giri, said: “Six of us were assaulted in three separate attacks that took place at the same time in the market. The attacks seemed coordinated.”
The second incident was in Meerut, where a hoarding threatened: “Kashmiriyon, Uttar Pradesh cchodo, varna… (Kashmiris, leave Uttar Pradesh, or else…)” accompanied by images of violence. This incident in particular prompted Union Home Minsiter Rajnath Singh to ask chief ministers to prevent further harassment of Kashmiris residing in any state. But the treatment meted out to Hashim Sofi shows what a huge challenge this is going to be.
Following the altercation that broke out in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), on February 9, 2016, the word “anti-national” has been flung around indiscriminately to silence or intimidate anyone who questions the way the Indian State functions. The word has been used with particular viciousness for anyone who hails from Kashmir, but has also been used for Bollywood actor Sonam Kapoor, director Karan Johar, and many others.
“Anti-national” has ceased to be a word today. It has snowballed into a political attack of its own. What happened to the Kashmiri students in Meerut, Chittoragarh, and now to Hashim in BITS Pilani is proof enough of just how toxic things are.