You could be right or left. You could be pro or anti. You could be bias or neutral. Your stand is subject to change also. A right today can be a left tomorrow. A pro can be anti and a bias; neutral. But one remains a student with changing beliefs and ideologies.
A pro, anti, left, right, neutral or biased student is a student first. Thus, an attack on students is an attack on everyone and the silence over it is iniquitous, if not criminal. Just because we are not students of JNU and Jamia doesn’t mean we don’t bear the brunt of what conspired in JNU and Jamia.
I came from Kashmir to Delhi to try and apply in either JNU or Jamia Millia Islamia for my PhD as I couldn’t do it from the valley because of internet suspension. My flight was rescheduled from December 10 to December 15 because of the fog. My friends had already moved to Delhi and had put up at Okhla Vihar, which is very close to Jamia Millia Islamia.
I landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi with relief and hope. Relief from internet suspension and hope for the good future. As I switched on my cell phone after landing, update notifications from almost every app started making noise. My phone reacted to internet savagely like a ravenous beast devouring the feast.
I booked a cab and called my mom informing her about my safe flight. When I finished talking to my mom, the driver of the cab Sanjiv asked me, “Are you from Kashmir?”
My obvious answer was the question, “How do you know?”
“I guess you were speaking Kashmiri on the phone.” Sanjiv replied.
The answer made me curious and I asked Sanjiv again, “Do you know Kashmiri?”
“No, but I can understand what you were saying was Kashmiri because I have been to Kashmir a couple of times with my friends,” Sanjiv answered.
Sanjiv is a liberal Hindu from Uttar Pradesh and is living in India’s capital Delhi for the last 7 years. He was all praises for Kashmiris and was thankful for our hospitality. He wanted to visit again, this time with his family but is afraid. We talked about almost everything from Kashmir to Pakistan to CAA.
We were discussing the situation in Kashmir when our cab was stopped by the police at Sukhdev Vihar which is only two metro stations away from Okhla. After inquiring the locals, we learnt that there was a protest going on.
I saw a few policemen with sticks and tear gas in their hands. Sanjiv had no idea what these guns do. But I was a Kashmiri. Sanjiv was coughing because of the tear gas shells, but I was a Kashmiri. He was scared, but I was a Kashmiri.
Sanjiv asked me, “What will you do now brother?”
A sarcastic smile relaxed the muscles of my lips and I replied, “I will do what we have been doing since birth. I will survive.”
I took the metro from Sukhdev Vihar to Okhla and reached my friend’s place around 6 in the evening but not before the news of Jamia Millia Islamia had reached Kashmir.
My family had called me 13 times but I had put my phone on silent mode while taking to Sanjiv. I was alarmed seeing so many missed calls. I called back and received some lectures on how to be a responsible man.
My family was worried because they knew I was going towards Jamia Millia Islamia. I reassured my family that I was okay because the intensity of the protests was nothing compared to what we have seen in Kashmir. But there was a genuine concern in their voices.
The concern was familiar. It was about my security, Security from security forces. Security personnel entering university campuses was not a new thing in Kashmir, but in Delhi, it was a heinous crime.
The whole purpose of my visit was in quandary. I was welcomed in Delhi like I was in Kashmir. I still wonder, should I thank Delhi Police for it?
My family wanted me to do my PhD in any of the three universities in Kashmir or to stop thinking about it. For me, to stop thinking about my PhD was not an option and doing it in Kashmir was difficult, if not impossible for many reasons.
Scholars in Kashmir are at the mercy of the government for the internet. A few of my friends who are doing their PhD in Kashmir have moved to Delhi or other states because research needs the internet.
I don’t want to do my PhD at the mercy of the government. I made my family realise that pursuing a PhD in Kashmir could take more than just three years and it will be better if I try for Jamia in Delhi. I didn’t tell them that I had JNU in mind also.
I knew that my dad will never allow me to go to JNU and we all know the reasons. But like any aspiring PhD student, these universities were the best options and my dream too. Anyhow, I managed to convince them and I moved to Delhi.
But after December 15, Jamia dropped from the list. Now my family was forcing me to come back to either do my PhD in any of the three universities in Kashmir or stop thinking about doing a PhD. I don’t want to do either.
My dad made me feel like I had made the wrong decision by going to Delhi. I made a plan and told my parents that I will first explore Delhi a bit, and then will come back. They agreed.
After a couple of weeks, when the Jamia news lost its spark, I started convincing my mom again. That is what we do when we have to reach fathers – we travel through mothers. I convinced her that the Jamia incident has made people in the university safer. Now, authorities will be ready in future and will never let the same kind of incident happen again.
I told them that universities will take extra care now for the safety of their students. I made it sound believable and they somehow believed me. My stay in Delhi was extended.
Now, I was planning to think of a lie that could act like a reason that convinces my family that JNU is a safe place for a Kashmiri student. I was making a list of JNU alumni whose names everyone knows. The list also includes the achievements of the university.
I was focusing less on the selection process and more on parental agreement nod. After a week of research, my list was ready. A list that would help me to fulfil my dream.
Around 10 PM on January 5, my phone started ringing. Without looking at the phone, I knew who was calling. I didn’t want to receive the call.
I was thinking of a lie that could act as an excuse to lessen the impact of the violence that happened that night in JNU. I answered the phone half-heartedly and dad on the other side of the phone said with austerity, “When are you coming back?”
I failed to think of a lie. I failed to convince him. I failed to fulfil my dream.
Just because we are not students of JNU and Jamia, doesn’t mean we don’t bear the brunt of what conspired in those two universities.