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You ensured our voices were heard in JNU: A Kashmiri writes to Umar Khalid

Arshi Javaid | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:42 IST

Dear Umar,

I decided to write to you just after watching video clips of how the JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar was being chased by a furious mob outside the Patiala House court premises.

Over the last many years we have crossed paths around the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus, sometimes at dhabas and at other times during marches. Though we never discussed our politics, there was always a reassurance that we were more or less on the same page on most issues.

With the media declaring you a fierce terrorist, I have lost the assurance that someone will ever espouse my politics in public meetings or public events on campus. In all these years whenever Kashmir was being discussed at any public forum, I have never felt short of admiration and gratitude towards you . Even in a microscopic exchange, you would understand what someone is saying because you have experienced or observed the same thing. This had a healing effect on many like me, whose politics were critical of the Indian state's policies. At least you ensured that our voices were heard on campus.

Also read: Umar Khalid is no jihadi. BJP is pushing him the Rohith way

Let me assure you that you are not only an eyesore to the right wing brigade but also the progressive forces. They are scared of how you understand Left politics and how you can see the chasms and contradictions within it. You had seen how the Left started imitating the behaviour of its opponents did politics in the same fashion -- using interpersonal connections and even deceit

Many of us have witnessed the decline of the political culture on campus. Campus politics seemed to be moving towards its gradual demise. Some blamed it on the recommendations of the JM Lyngdoh report, others attributed it to the rise of right wing politics.

Are we supposed to endorse statements like "For those who haven't figured it out yet - supporting and standing in solidarity with the JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar isn't the same as supporting or condoning the act of anti-India sloganeering"?

Or should we say that the slogan "Hum kya chahtey Azaadi" came up during the protests that followed the 2012 Delhi gang-rape? At least this is what a leading light of Left politics has done. This clearly means that something has gone horribly wrong within the progressive politics.

Also read: #JNURow: Arnab and the art of manufacturing nationalist outrage

Many on campus are saying, "those who chanted the slogans should be punished. They were not from campus." Is this how the democratic space in JNU will be defended? It seems the progressive forces are suffering from some kind of a Stockholm syndrome. Are progressive forces too scared to even discuss the vantage point of "those sloganeering few" (assuming that the slogans were chanted by Kashmiris, as certain channels have claimed and not ABVP cadres as is being alleged in a video that is doing the rounds).

You understood the vantage point of such people. But now you are accused of being a link between the Jaish-e-Muhammad and Kashmiri students.

The inevitable consequence of this would be a denial of academic and political space to Kashmiri students in universities. Narratives emerging from peripheries or from conflict regions, will be muted.

The fight has been reduced to competing reductive nationalist binaries - my nationalism versus yours, Godse's nationalism versus Nehru's and so on.

Both the sides are afraid of you, Umar.

I wish you all the strength. It's going to be a long battle.

I can't stop myself from quoting Agha Shahid Ali, "They ask me to tell them what Shahid means-Listen: It means 'the beloved' in Persian, 'witness' in Arabic". Umar, you are both.

Edited by Aditya Menon

Also read: Everything you know about JNU politics is wrong

First published: 17 February 2016, 23:46 IST
Arshi Javaid

The writer is a doctoral candidate at Jawaharlal Nehru University.