The arrest of seven Kashmiri students for raising pro-Pakistan slogans after Australia defeated India in the world cup cricket final match on November 19 has brought into focus how the whole thing is viewed as anti-India, and of course the anti-national intent that manifested in cheering for Australia over India. The problem is not cheering Australia and celebrating its win over India at a time when the countrymen were heart-broken, the real question is why did the students do so, and raise pro-Pakistan slogans. A blunt assessment is that it was less to do with lauding the winners than cheering the defeat of Team India in the finals. The J&K police itself has analysed this sloganeering in quite realistic terms that it is an attempt to “normalizing an abnormal that everyone hates India.”
The Ganderbal police , in its statement on social media site X, formerly Twitter, wrote that the arrest and subsequent booking of students under UAPA was not merely about raising pro- Pakistan slogans. It is about the full context in which the sloganeering took place. These slogans, as has usually been the case with a select few bullies, were aired to intimidate those who disagreed and also to identify and vilify those who choose to keep a distance. It is also about normalising an abnormal: that everyone hates India (as different from the government of the day and party in power) ‘openly’. “”
This particular episode is not new in Kashmir – there have been several occasions in the past ,especially in the aftermath of the cricket matches where India lost to the rival teams , and sections of Kashmiris burst fire crackers and resorted to pro-Pakistan sloganeering . Both the elements of bursting of crackers and cheering for the teams winning against India reflected a particular sentiment Pro-Pakistan sloganeering is to tease the Indians rather than exhibition of any love for the neighbouring country. But it does have a context, and as the things have emerged that idea of India in Kashmir is not the same what the rest of the country believes. The cheering for Australian win over India may be dismissed as one odd incident, which may have nothing to do with the majority opinion and feelings. That is to so suggest that this is an act of fringe elements, but the problem is far wider.
This particular incident spotlighted fringe-elements sentiment, as they raised pro-Pakistan slogans, while Pakistan was nowhere in the reckoning in the match. This was an act of bullies who wanted to broadcast what they stand for-- anti-India activities .It should not surprise anyone, as Kashmir had been witnessing such incidents in the past too.. The newer aspect was that it happened in the aftermath of abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, because all anti-India acts had consequences. They too have been booked under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, but there are political voices that have questioned invocation of the “stringent laws” against the students. The police have come out with its own response, claiming that it had invoked softer version of these laws – the provisions that are used for terrorists and terror activities have not been applied in this case.
Though there may be a majority view that the students have self-invited legal trouble for themselves, yet it calls for pressing a pause button, and analysing why did these bully students did what they did, and how their acts and further police action against them has intruded into the whole narrative in Kashmir. One view articulated by Apni Party Chief Altaf Bukhari is that “disloyalty to the nation is unacceptable.” But he also wants that these acts should be looked at in the overall backdrop. His argument is that government of India should treat and respect Kashmiris as citizens of India as it does in regard to Indians in the rest of the country. That is a statement which reflects gaps that exist between Srinagar and Delhi and their respective perceptions who is Indian and what makes them Indians.
The whole idea of conflict is stopping Kashmiris from being pure Indians like the ones who would celebrate Indian victory or miss heartbeats at the loss of cricket matches. That is just one symbolism, and when they lift national tricolor more as a duty or to demonstrate that they are different from those who picked up guns or pelted stones, that means that something is missing; their emotional connect with the idea of India. Optics is good, but optics without internal enthusiasm is short-lived.
For decades, Kashmiris have been fed on the slogans that the Kashmir issue is unsettled, hence they must do something to highlight the problem so that international attention is invoked. These strands don’t disappear with the administrative decisions. A sense of belonging needs to be given , and that process was started with extraordinary development , windfall of tourism, and emergence of peace , yet the emotional connect is not 100 per cent, and the fringe elements cannot be allowed to drive their counter-narrative . A direct dialogue is the only way out. The idea of India cannot be left hanging in balance in a strategically critical territory of Jammu and Kashmir, having borders with Pakistan, China and dealing with the Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.
(Arun Joshi is author of “Eyewitness Kashmir; Teetering on Nuclear War and senior journalist based in Jammu and Kashmir, writes on South Asian affairs)
Disclaimer: This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with www.prameyanews.com.