Wednesday, March 12, 2014

On Those Kashmiri Students

Two weeks back, a row broke out at a private university hostel in Meerut, UP over some Kashmiri students who cheered on the Pakistani cricket team as it defeated the Indian team in the Asia Cup. The incident created a tense situation among students and the Kashmiri students were asked to pack up and go home. In addition, the police slapped charges of sedition on them, which were later dropped (which is not really a big deal because any court would have tossed those charges out anyway).

There are two issues involved here. First, the legal perspective. Slapping charges of sedition on these students was absolutely stupid - there was no attempt to somehow show disrespect to the government here, which is what sedition is. Furthermore, the very concept of sedition is an anathema to democracy. Everyone is free to say what they like: the moment we start creating legal exceptions to this, we open a Pandora's box. And lets not forget that it was just a cricket match, a game at the end of the day. It is not supposed to be taken so seriously and it is quite natural to support the winning team. To make sports affiliations a legal issue is mindless. Legally, if there was a mob that wanted to kill those Kashmiri students, the state is mandated to protect them.

However, everything cannot be defined in laws. There are affairs that are above and beyond laws. In this respect, what these students did deserves condemnation. To study on Indian soil and to insult that very soil is disgraceful. Let's not play around with words: the students were making a clearly political statement. They were bringing their separatist ideas to the Hindi heartland. What sort of reaction did they expect? Did they expect people to keep quiet? They talk about political alienation in India and yet they are welcomed to universities in every corner of India, welcomed to build a better life for themselves (and other Indian citizens cannot do the same in Kashmir, I might add). The only political alienation in Kashmir is a result of the Kashmiri people's own actions and their own thinking. After all, what is politics? It is the art of distributing resources. Are Kashmiris being denied education? It's not like India has a large number of seats: for every Kashmiri in an Indian university, there was a non-Kashmiri who could not get in. And they call this political alienation?

It might sound antithetical to the idea of free speech, but Kashmiri students are not welcome to show their ingratitude in the rest of India. Given the history, they are at least expected not to stoke more tensions. In their valley, they are very welcome to. But in the rest of India, if they espouse their separatism, they should not expect a warm welcome. 

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