Healing touch: providing safety to Kashmiri students

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a petition seeking directions to educational institutions to protect Kashmiris in the face of harassment and intimidation in various parts of the country after the ghastly terror attack in Pulwama on February 14. Hundreds of Kashmiri students, primarily from Dehradun in Uttarakhand, have already returned home or moved to Delhi or Jammu seeking safety. Amid these reports, the Union Home Ministry had on Saturday issued an advisory to all States and Union Territories to ensure the safety of Kashmiris. The Jammu and Kashmir police too have set up helplines. It is to be hoped that these measures will be strengthened, especially with the Supreme Court now hearing the issue. It needs to be made clear by the State and Central governments that there will be no compromise on the State’s responsibility to ensure the well-being of citizens. Equally, there needs to be stern action against the mobs that harassed and tried to frighten Kashmiris. The Uttarakhand police arrested 22 students on Tuesday for trying to have Kashmiri students expelled from their college, but there have been other similar instances. It will be a cause for lasting shame if young people studying in different parts of the country were sought to be isolated, and their ethnic identity headlined to make them targets of majoritarian mobs looking to avenge a terrorist attack. Law and order must prevail, and the students must be given enough confidence that they can return to their educational institutions and studies without fear.

However, occurrences such as these, of communally charged attacks, cannot be forgotten with the mere return to a semblance of normalcy. No group of Indians should be allowed to be isolated by blame-calling mobs, and the situation demands a strong, politically-led initiative to end the intimidation and reassure the victims. Given this, it is regrettable that members of the Narendra Modi Cabinet have either been in denial or have infused ambiguity into their statements of reassurance. Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar, for instance, on Wednesday said outright that there had been no such harassment. Equally disturbing, he prefaced his remarks with a reference to “a tremendous reaction of anger in the country about the Pulwama incident”. The fact is that many Kashmiris have already fled Dehradun, and some of them have shared their stories. Mr. Javadekar, as HRD Minister, should address their feeling of insecurity, instead of being dismissive about it, and in the process allowing the mobs a free pass. Moreover, the fact that anti-Pakistan sloganeering can so easily slip into anti-Kashmiri rhetoric must bother civil society and politicians of all hues. Even if the attacks are isolated, the counter-argument must come from across the political spectrum, and in one voice: that all Kashmiris enjoy all protections and rights available to them as Indian citizens.


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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 1:01:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/healing-touch/article26333405.ece

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