The recent incidents at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Srinagar have once again underlined not only the intensity of anti-India feelings in the Valley but also the untenability of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s position in the trouble-torn state.
The trigger of the controversy was not something unprecedented—celebration of India’s defeat in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup against West Indies. The celebration by many Kashmiris angered non-local students; they expressed their objection. This resulted in a clash between non-Kashmiri and Kashmiri students. The next day, while non-local students chanted slogans like ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, ‘Hindustan Zindabad’ and ‘Pakistan Murdabad’ and burnt the Pakistani flag, Kashmiri students retaliated with the slogan ‘Hum kya chahte? Azadi.’ The police had to intervene with tear gas and baton charge; the authorities closed down the institution.
The NIT opened on Monday but non-Kashmiri students did not attend. On Tuesday evening, some of them went to the Director’s office and, after the meeting, they organized a march. The cops stopped them at the main gate, and some of the students were mercilessly thrashed. The Central Reserve Police Force (CPRF) was deployed soon after.
Students blamed the police, saying they were only trying to move out of the campus when they were baton charged and teargas shells were fired. The police maintain they “chased the mob of students” after some officers were assaulted.
Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Nirmal Singh called the police action as “a mild lathi charge.” He was roundly condemned for his erroneous and disgraceful remark. The next day, he clarified his stand in while talking to NDTV: “Police officers who were involved in lathi charge will be punished. I was told it was a ‘mild’ lathi charge which is why I used that term earlier.”
That the second most powerful man in the state was ‘misinformed’ is intriguing and a testimony to his own incompetence. Of course, it is not as intriguing as the super-nationalist party’s alliance with the PDP which surely does not pass the BJP’s nationalism test.
Unsurprisingly, the BJP’s reaction has been pro-forma—the erring cops to be penalized, Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani’s statement that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has assured her of the student’s well being. The events are unfolding in a predictable manner—a HRD Ministry team visiting NIT, Anupam Kher congratulating students, separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani hypocritically vouching for the safety of non-Kashmiri students, the social media abuzz over the issue.
In the process, the BJP’s credibility on the Kashmir subject gets further eroded.