For the past fortnight, academic activities in Kashmir have been badly hit in the wake of students protests. The ruling Mehbooba Mufti government’s policy on keeping the educational institutions closed as a preventive measure has only added to the problem.
It was just a few weeks back that the academic activities had commenced in J&K after a 3-month long winter break and the current comes as an early spring break. The Valley has been experiencing frequent protests since April 15, when the police raided Government Degree College in Pulwama which injured over 70 students. The BJP-PDP alliance has been banking on two-pronged strategies: 1.) The use of force on students 2.) And, keeping the educational institutions closed as a preventive measure.
There is a double-standard evident in the words and the deeds of the Mehbooba Mufti led-government in tackling the situation. On one hand, PDP says the “student outrage is natural” whereas, on the other hand, they have opted not to address the students even once. So, the question here is, are there no rooms for talks with the educated class?
While police flex muscles on students, the role of civil administration limits to issuance of orders on the closure of educational campuses. Take the case of two prominent officials running administration in the Valley. After the initial violence, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Baseer Ahmed Khan took a lead to keep educational institutions shut for five days at a stretch, but failed to initiate any dialogue with the students. And after Divisional Commissioner-sponsored “vacations”, when schools and colleges reopened on April 24, the heart of summer capital, Srinagar, was taken by a fresh storm of student protests.
The same evening District Commissioner Srinagar Farooq Ahmed Lone issued orders for closure of some educational institutions in the city. Following the footprints of his superiors, he too refrained from any dialogue. Senior PDP leader and Education Minister Syed Altaf Bukhari, on the other hand, prefers to stay back in Jammu lest he has to face students in Kashmir.
But while the state government distances itself from its own student community, the Union HRD Ministry is equally silent over the student outrage in Kashmir. This silence is the same in the HRD ministry, which in April 2016 sent a special 2-member team from New Delhi to access the situation at NIT campus in Srinagar, where some outstation students had staged protests inside the campus.
While the twin-governments may deny allegations of bias, student agitation in the valley is growing louder with slogans which sound similar from JNU to Kashmir: Hum Kya Chahte Azadi!