In various cities and towns across India, Kashmiris are prone to face harassment and societal exclusion. These dangers became visible recently when various groups were targeted for staging peaceful protest demonstrations against the hanging of M Afzal Guru. This is a sign of Kashmiris getting increasingly alienated in India, Syed Asma reports.
It was a time for celebrations in many parts of India! The 2001 Parliament Attack convict, Afzal Guru, was hanged in Tihar jail on February 9 at 8 am without informing him and his family that his mercy petition was rejected by the President of India.
For many Kashmiris living in various parts of India, the celebrations were a reflection of the apathy of middle-class Indians towards their plight. In some cities and towns, the Kashmiri students came out on roads and staged peaceful protest to condemn Afzal’s hanging.
After the news of Afzal’s hanging became public, Adil says he had assembled at a parade ground in Dehradun along with at least 100 Kashmiri students studying in different universities and colleges of Dehradun to offer funeral in absentia for Afzal. He says they were peacefully marching towards Gantaghar.
“We just held placards reading ‘Stop killing innocent Kashmiris’ and there was no sloganeering,” he told Kashmir Life. Media and police had already arrived at the ground. After some time, the Shiv Sena and BJP workers arrived at the scene and asked the police to hand over Kashmiri boys to them, .
“They were telling police‘In Kashmiri ladkon ko hamray hawalay karo, hum innay kaat daingay’ (Hand over these Kashmir boys to us. We will kill them). Sensing threat to our lives, the police immediately cordoned us and detained many of us at a police station at Paltan, Dehradun,” Adil said.
At police station, similar demands of handing over Kashmiri students were raised by Shiv Sena workers. The police then shifted the 16 detained Kashmiri students to another jail. “The police whisked us out from one of the back doors silently and warned us not to make any noise which would otherwise provoke the Sena worker to kill us,” says Huzaifa, who was part of the detained group of protestors.
Huzaifa is studying in Dehradun from a couple of years. “I never saw such fierce communal clashes in the town. Earlier, minor arguments used to happen but this time I can’t see things getting normal. Now I am scared to even move out of my room. If we [Kashmiri students] don’t act smartly and don’t have co-operation among ourselves, we will be killed easily by these Hindu fanatic groups,” he said.
Adil says none of the Kashmiri student dares to move out of his room these days and whoever has to move out because of their exams, returns injured. “Wherever a Kashmiri is seen here these days, he is beaten brutally,” he said.
Adil and Huzaifa say that when the police did not hand them over to Shiv Sena workers, they targeted two Kashmiris watching a cricket match at a dabha. “The duo did not participate in protests but were brutally beaten up, just for being Kashmiri. They were hospitalized and discharged after a week,” she said.
Since February 9, Adil says the Hindu groups have visited their hostel many times and beaten Kashmiri students. “They drag us out of our locked rooms and beat us till we get unconscious and bleed. Even police and university authorities do not provide us security. I believe they are all one party against us.”
Seeing the worsening situation, about 50 boys from Dehradun have shifted back to Kashmir, leaving their studies midway to save their lives. Adil and Huzaifa say they have not told their parents yet because they are hopeful that the conditions will improve after sometime, “But if it continues to be like the same, we too will come back home. We will have to waste all these years that we spent studying here and move back to home. We can’t lose our lives.”
Dehradun is not the only place where Kashmiri students had come out on roads and protested against Afzal’s secret execution. Kashmiri students came out on street across many parts of India and many non-Kashmiri students joined their protest. Among them, many were detained also.
These student groups marched peacefully to express their condemnation and held placards reading “We want peace not pain”, “Stop killing Kashmiri innocents”, “Hang me. I am Afzal Guru”, “How many Afzal Guru will you hang?” At some places the peaceful protesters chanted slogans demanding freedom and returning the body of Afzal to his family. —