Saiyyed Abdullah Gilani
HINDU nationalist groups have put up billboards in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh threatening Kashmiris to leave or face dire consequences. In the neighboring state of Haryana, half a dozen Kashmiri boys have been physically attacked and some girls have been subjected to sexual harassment.
While in Mewar University in the state of Rajasthan, eight Kashmiri students have been brutally beaten up. What is common between the three states is they are all ruled by the BJP. But this is not the first time when Kashmiri students perusing their education in Indian universities have come under attack. In 2013, a Kashmiri research scholar who had led the funeral prayer in absentia for Mohammad Afzal Guru at a university in the southern city of Hyderabad, was tortured to death.
In 2014, more than 60 Kashmiri students in a university in Uttar Pradesh were first beaten up by their fellow students and later arrested by the police under sedition charges.
Their “crime” was to cheer for Pakistani players during a cricket match. Last year, when a confrontation over nationalism broke out between Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri students at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Srinagar, Kashmiri students in several Indian universities became the target of hate crimes. Assaults on Kashmiri students were also reported following the militant attack on Indian army camp in Uri in September last year.
All these attacks show a clear and obvious pattern and a concerted attempt to wrest control of the
narrative by frightening those with a dissenting opinion into submission. In the battle of ideas and worldviews, the side that does not have convincing arguments and resorts to threats and violence, manifests clear signs of intellectual and moral bankruptcy besides a fascist mindset. And the BJP and its affiliates have a long and infamous history of indulging in such behavior. So it is not surprising that violent attacks on Kashmiris in India have dramatically increased since the BJP came to power in New Delhi in 2014.
The recent spate of attacks, however, has more to it than meets the eye. Their genesis lies in a video
that surfaced earlier this month in Kashmir. The video shows a group of Indian soldiers being heckled by Kashmiri protesters. The protesters far outnumber the soldiers and given the brutality and savagery with which the Indian forces treat the protesters in Kashmiri the fate of the soldiers would have been anyone’s guess.
But the protesters exercise remarkable self-control and barring a couple of stray kicks and punches, the soldiers walk away unharmed. But when the Indian media got its hands on the video the spin doctors turned it into a double edged weapon aimed, on the one hand, at an image makeover for the Indian forces and on the other, at demonizing Kashmiris. Within a few hours almost all Indian Television channels were hailing their soldiers as the epitome of professionalism and restraint while in the same breath, baying for the blood of Kashmiri protesters.
The Indian media’s constant barrage of propaganda set social media platforms on fire and a storm of reactions full of unspeakable filthy invectives started pouring in. Many of the reactions, including from some notable Indians, stood out for their conspicuous insanity and absurdity.
For instance, international cricketer Gautam Gambhir called for mass killing of Kashmiris in revenge. Subsequently, a series of other videos have come to the fore. One shows a group of Kashmiri teenage boys with blood-stained faces being thrashed and forced to shout pro-India slogans. Some Indian T V channels played the video with a caption saying “Soldiers’ humiliation avenged”.
Another video that went viral across the world showed a Kashmiri man strapped to the front of an Indian army vehicle being paraded through the streets as a human shield. The video sparked widespread outrage.
Some people in India too voiced their shock and concern assuming that this was the first time the Indian army had stooped so low. But the fact is Indian forces have been routinely using civilians as human cover since early 1990s. What is however different about the video is perhaps for the first time it depicts Indian soldiers replicating an Israeli tactic in letter and spirit.
This video was celebrated across India as a major victory against Kashmiris and the officer responsible for this was hailed for his “out of the box thinking.” So overwhelming was the sense of triumphalism that even some senior government officials and politicians could not resist the urge to jump on the bandwagon. India’s Attorney General, Mukul Rahtogi says he fully supports the army’s decision. He even encourages them to do it again if the need arises. The BJP’s General Secretary and the architect of the BJP-PDP coalition in Kashmir gave the army his stamp of approval by saying that everything is fair in love and war.
After all this madness what is one to make of the army’s order to probe the incident and the Home
Minister’s instructions to Chief Ministers to ensure the safety of Kashmiri students in their respective states? Clearly, an attempt more aimed at throwing dust in the eyes of the International community than effecting any behavioral change.
In fact what is going on behind the scenes is a new pan India mobilization taking shape for a more ruthless and brutal crackdown on Kashmiris with Calls for granting Indian forces more freedom and powers growing louder and more acceptable. While it won’t affect Kashmiris as they have already experienced the worst India can do, it should worry Indian public a lot because it is ultimately their forces and polity that are increasingly becoming dehumanized and morally bankrupt. The monster they are feeding may eventually turn on them.