Kashmiri students in Delhi: ‘We’re going through a psychological war’
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Kashmiri students in Delhi: ‘We’re going through a psychological war’

By NewsLaundry calender  08-Aug-2019

Kashmiri students in Delhi: ‘We’re going through a psychological war’

On Monday, the government partially scrapped Article 370 through a President’s order, setting a new path for what will now be the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir. The turn of events was accompanied by a communication black hole in the state: mobile and Internet connections have been snapped, and curfew is imposed. 
While the Centre is pushing the narrative that the abrogation of Article 370 will integrate Jammu & Kashmir with the rest of India, Kashmiris studying in Delhi aren’t buying it. 
Waseem is a resident of Kulgam district of Jammu & Kashmir and is currently doing his PhD in physics from Jamia Millia Islamia. He tells Newslaundry: “We do not want the abrogation of Article 370 because we have a unique culture and we want to keep it intact. If it was imperative for the government to take a decision on 370, it could have been done in a democratic way. The people of Kashmir have been completely left out of this decision and something has happened that we are not comfortable with. The government knows that completely, hence the curfew. And this is being done in the name of democracy which is an irony itself because people are locked up and we are making a decision for them without their consent.”
He asks: “If the government thinks revoking 370 from the Valley will not disturb the situation, then why the curfew? Lift the curfew and then you will get to know what Kashmiris think.” He says it isn’t the “right time” to impose curfew in the state either: “Eid is around the corner and we don’t even know whether we can go home or not.”
In 2003, The Washington Post wrote about a report by the People’s Union for Democratic Rights on Kashmiri Muslims in New Delhi, noting they suffer from “‘a deep sense of insecurity and vulnerability’ and are victims of police harassment, humiliating searches, intimidation, arbitrary detentions and demands for bribes by local policemen under the pretext of fighting terrorism”. Sixteen years after the report came out, Waseem agrees with its broad conclusions.
“We are discriminated [against] from the moment we say we are from Kashmir. While students from other parts of India can openly say which state they are from, we can’t. If we do, we’re asked: why not India, why Kashmir?”
Abida is from Kashmir’s Kulgam district and is doing her PhD in bioscience from Jamia Milia Islamia. Her father is retired and is, she says, quite old. Abida is initially nervous as she speaks to this reporter—she constantly looks at her friend Waseem for validation and to check if she’s being politically incorrect.
She says, “The Indian media portrays a very different picture of Kashmir which is not true. We are just students, we should not be scared of anything. We should be able to express ourselves freely if this is a democratic country. But unfortunately it is not so, and the Indian media has played a crucial role in creating this image. The Indian media never shows the real ground reality and students like us who come out of Kashmir know it best. We know both facets of the coin.”  
Abida refers to the advisory issued by the government on August 3 asking Amarnath Yatra pilgrims and tourists to leave the Valley due to “security concerns”. She asks, “If the government can issue an advisory to call back the pilgrims and tourists, why can't they issue another for us? At least we could have remained connected to our parents. By abrogating the article, they’ve created more resentment among Kashmiris and disturbed the peace in the Valley.” 
On August 2, 25,000 additional central armed police forces were deployed in the Valley. August 2 was also the last time Abida spoke to her parents; she hasn’t been able to establish contact since. In their last conversation, her parents told her: “Forces have been increased in the Valley and we don’t know what is going to happen.”
Abida says, “We have already lost our identity and now we can’t even contact our parents. It is like we are going through a psychological war.”
Bilal Ahmad Tamtray is a second-year student of MA International Affairs at Jamia Millia Islamia. Initially hesitant, his voice gains confidence as he speaks to Newslaundry. Bilal is from Srinagar and his father is associated with the media. He says he was expecting “something” to happen in Kashmir—but not this. An active member of the All India Student Association, Bilal will be participating in a protest against the abrogation of Article 370. 
“Since the last couple of days, we were expecting something to happen. A lot of things were happening which were completely disjointed: pilgrims were ferried back, troops were increased and then there was an undeclared curfew. This was the worst-case scenario. But honestly, I did not expect this to happen.”
Waseem, Bilal and Abida are anxious to go to Kashmir once the government lifts the curfew and meet their parents. All three of them were reluctant to speak to Newslaundry, citing their lack of faith in the media. Towards the end of the conversation, Bilal says, “When I was asked to speak to you, I was quite reluctant. My parents have also asked me not to participate in any kind of debate and discussions.”
But Bilal says he still has faith in the Indian Constitution and expects people to come out and raise their voice. “The issue is no longer only about Kashmir anymore because a  precedent has been set that a group of people is going to make a decision—whatever they think is right—and is not answerable to anyone.”

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