Sunday, December 3, 2023

‘ J&K is an occupied territory and I speak to you as an occupied.’

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Kashmir University Students Union’s drafted message for The Convention of People’s Resistance, 2nd April 2016, Mumbai

An Indian paramilitary policeman patrols


Jammu and Kashmir is an occupied territory and I speak to you as an occupied. At the very outset, I would like to thank the organizers for inviting us to the program but it was better for us to send you a message from this forgotten part of the world. I speak to you as a student of and in Kashmir Let me introduce myself before sharing some of my experiences or viewpoints. My name is Mehraj and I am pursuing my Ph.D. research in the University of Kashmir and have been involved in student activism from almost more than half a decade in Kashmir University. As you might be aware of this fact that the face of student activism or you can say the only student organization which is working in Kashmir University is known by the name of KUSU (Kashmir University the Students Union) and has been banned since 2009 after its office was razed to the ground by the university authorities.
To begin with, what you may understand from ‘student activism’, same does not apply to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, for what is accepted as a ‘state’ or country or government, ‘as’ or ‘of’, Índia’, is known as an Occupying country in the state from where I speak to you. While your struggle may by for the rights of the students, to speak to express and to question to criticize or to stand against what you call as ‘fascist regime’, the student activism in the state of Jammu and Kashmir is pitched against imperialism that has not ended for the citizens of the Paradise on earth. J&K is an occupied territory, a colony of India, which happens to be ‘Your Country” not accepted by the people of my state as theirs. The first and the last point of any struggle in the state of J&K is freedom from occupation and the right to self-determination.
A nation cannot accept the maneuvered meaning of their word ‘AZADI’ which has been recently raised in India while ‘AZADI” has been resonating in J&K since more than half a century now and it meant not the Misappropriated and as claimed ‘AZADI within India’. But not only has the word been copied but the style of raising the voice for Azadi too has been copied. Our Azadi is not only from manu wad, jaati waad etc etc but you must know the definition and context of AZADI which people always shout in this state is ‘Bharat ka Aayeen Humein Manzoor Nahi Manzoor Nahi” meaning we do not accept the constitution of India. So how could a student activist from the ‘most militarized zone on the face of the earth’ stand with you in you struggle within your system?
I hope the basic premise of us and your struggle being diametrically opposite to each other stands cleared. And what follows of student activism there is not and cannot be equated and compared with consequences of student activism in Kashmir. In Kashmir, the consequences of activism start from inhumane torture in the jail, slapping PSA (Public Safety Act) where a government can book you for two years in jail without any proof of any “anti-national” activity though Kashmiris are not anti-Indians which Indian state has not understood so far. Meaning our activism is a threat to the safety of Public and an activist should be thrown behind the bars without trail. A Kashmiri in custody means no musings on shared humanity. A Kashmiri is treated as a true adversary-an enemy; zero human connection. For a Kashmiri, detention is about incarceration without a warrant in an army camp or a secret prison; no habeas corpus, not even the First Information Report. The Armed Security Special Powers Act (AFSPA) allows detainment and includes powers to shoot “any person who has committed a cognizable offense or against whom a reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed or is about to commit a cognizable offense.” You might be carrying a gun, a stone, a bitter gourd for dinner or nothing at all.
In Kashmir University, where even people’s existence is not safe under the state of emergency that the occupation has imposed, the right to free expression, like the “activists in Indian universities” seem to advocate, has never been a possibility. Yet, people express themselves courageously, in defiance of India’s nationalist codes, and they truly defend this practice by putting their lives at risk for it. In its brutal discourse, the Indian state apparatus treats all Kashmiris in the manner of combatants. This exchange, while often fatal, is also seen as a compliment by most Kashmiris who have become bold in flaunting their emotional, cultural and territorial difference from India. Life is precious and those who live under continuous gaze of the barrel of the gun know its worth more than anyone else. What happened to Rohit Vemula and other of his ilk must not happen to any one however at the same breath we inform you not like you were by your Media houses that 126 youth, were hunted on the streets of the state in 2010 only and I know you have not yet heard of Shaista Hameed and Danish Farooq. Shaista was a recent graduate in her early 20’s, and Danish a university student in his late teens. The two were shot dead by government force in Kashmir the day before Modi regime started its attacks against JNU students.
We have sacrificed men women and children in Lacks in the most inhumane way. A child thrown in air and shot by the government mercenaries is how India plays an inclusive exclusivist politics. This is the paradise where all hell has been let loose. In its brutal discourse, the Indian state apparatus treats all Kashmiris in the manner of combatants. This exchange, while often fatal, is also seen as a compliment by most Kashmiris who have become bold in flaunting their emotional, cultural and territorial difference from India. While you copy our dialectics of demanding AZADI, next time you shout it remember this slogan came from Kashmir and AZADI for them is Right to self Determination.
To add, at the end, I will reiterate what we (Kashmir University the Students Union) said when the JNU fiasco was unfolding. WE stand in support to individuals, organizations, civil society members, intellectuals and all those who stand in support of our Right to Self-Determination promised by India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, in the heart of Srinagar, Lal Chowk, on whose name JNU was formed. In your struggle you have received immense support from people beyond territorial and cursed nation-state boundaries of India and us with our deepest condolences may be added to the same list. The same day frothing TV journalists were holding court martials against Umar Khalid and KanhaiyaKumar, the news of Shaista’s and Danish’s cold-blooded murders was quietly suppressed—part of a larger history of suppression, which makes a certain kind of “national conscience” possible in India. The two were not armed, but they were protesting the terror unleashed by troops in their villages, and they wanted to protect a fellow youth who among many now have yet again been forced to give their lives to end the occupation. They didn’t know JNU was ringing with slogans for Kashmiri rights the day they died, nor did JNU know that their protests against the silence on Kashmir had become more imperative than ever.
Photo – Getty Images
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