Vol. XLI No. 18 April 30, 2017

Jammu and Kashmir: Of Oppressing Students

Basharat Shameem

IN the midst of the current tumultuous situation in valley which is wrecking innocent lives with terrible alacrity, it seems words like peace and security have completely disappeared from our  living idiom as some of us may have held on to the faintest hopes that these words carry in the situation that has beset us for so long. As incidents like Budgam, Ganderbal and Batamaloo have revealed recently and with 2016 still in our memories, our blood-scrawled history is getting even bloodier as the recent tragic events show us; innocent blood is being splattered on the streets with almost inhuman nonchalance. We have now lost the count, and even we have now lost our ability to feel numb. The story of our daily existence continues to be the one in which pain, tragedy, and horror is being inflicted in an institutionalised way with no near abatement. We are compelled to ask ourselves like Shakespeare: “The worst is not so long/As we can say, This is the worst”. However, the primeval question continues to haunt; after all, how long? In its continuing bloody history, it appears that this season is neither the first of its kind and perhaps nor the last in Kashmir. However, what is unique about the current gridlock is the magnitude of public anger and the enormously disproportionate response of State in the form of unprecedented atrocities, siege and oppression. The unprecedented anger on the streets has been matched with unrelenting State oppression which is completely bereft of sense and reason. The State is to blame itself rather than anyone else as it finds itself totally discredited and hugely repulsive in the eyes of the masses and has thus paved the way for the situation to aggravate to dangerous levels. The State institutions are getting totally exposed through their characteristic ineptness. The police and other security agencies are continuing to act with impunity and utter lack of regard for law and life. Instead of ensuring security of the common people, the police, at times, give an impression of an organised brigand force invoking awe and fear among the people. Ironically, the police with its close affinity to the local psyche and sensitivities should have been more adept in handling this kind of a situation but it has been appalling. Leave aside the brouhaha over ‘Law and Order’, there have been many instances, a few of which this writer has been a witness, where the police and paramilitary forces have actually themselves provoked and instigated the people to break the law by unwarranted raids, tear-gas shelling, vandalisation and ransom in peaceful localities.

 The monster of oppression is now spreading its wings with much more ferocity as we see a State-sanctioned lockdown of our educational institutions. Ironically, few months back, but much in tune with our operational realpolitik, there was much propagandist harp with an “emphasis on education” to play out as an effective binary narrative against the mass uprising. But now our degree colleges and higher secondaries, beginning with Pulwama Collge on the 15th of this month, have been the new ‘identified’ spaces where the State has now decided to enact its brazen cruelty on the ‘brutish’ natives. Those very brutish natives who were few months back turned into calm-inducing agents as the State operationalised one of its “Calm Down” enterprises. However, these days, in place of books and pens unjustified atrocities, siege, fear and lockdown has been induced among our educational institutions for which there cannot be any validation whatsoever. After all, what is the State machination upto? Nobody can fathom the gratuitous State aggression on the teenage student boys and girls. What shall explain the unashamed way in which school grounds were turned into carnage shows the way forces were beating and shelling the students just for raising their voices in a peaceful manner? In oppressive contexts like ours, everything changes both its denotation and connotation in a play of intricacies. Raising peaceful voices inside educational institutions becomes a provocation, but invading them with indiscriminate tear gas shelling, PAVA smoke shells, sound shells and baton charging female students becomes a righteous response. As the apathetic State appears to have gone out on an all-out war against the common masses and not even now sparing the teenage female students, the balloons of the rhetorical signatures like Jamhooriyat, InsaaniyatBeti Bachao and Beti Padao are also bursting fast. And often after instances like these, there is a ritualistic brouhaha about the so-called procedural violations on part of the State forces to put up evasions. However, as the reports suggest, this is not a simple case of procedural errors as they lead us to believe in. For instance, at certain places, SSP level officers were themselves leading the vicious charge on the students. Students, like other Kashmiris, currently are moved to ask some simple questions to the power corridors for which they are receiving atrocities. For instance, in these grim circumstances, how does one expect the State to engage with the youth when the state is caught in the arrogant rage of oppressing its subjects? How do you create an atmosphere of reconciliation when your ministers threaten and justify an all-out extermination of the Kashmiri youth? In an atmosphere now characterised by lockdown, confrontation and fear, how do you expect people to live their lives and students focus on their studies? Imagine their lives when their breaths have been caged, but, till how long? The recent oppression on school children is emblematic of the larger Indian treatment of the state while legitimate raising of voice is meted with disproportionate force. Between tourism and terrorism, the state has itself chosen latter; and as for Kashmir, like its students and youth, a terrible dialectic has been imposed from top-down in which they have to choose between silence and death.