Are we on the brink of losing Kashmir?

The recent by-elections in Srinagar Lok Sabha seat on 9th April witnessed a poor voter turnout with only 7.14% of the total electorates coming out to vote as it saw violent clashes between protestors and security forces claiming lives of 8 civilians, and even poorer voter turnout of only 2% on the day of re-polling conducted in 38 booths. This poor voter turnout is a testimony to the government of India that it has failed Kashmiris’ confidence in democratic elections. The repeated state oppression through military has caused trouble to the Kashmiris so much so that they have gone absolutely fearless and are ready to take up stones as their weapons to fight the armed security men of the Indian state. According to Jammu & Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, there have been over 70,000 extrajudicial killings, 8000 plus forced disappearances, mass torture and sexual violence since 1990.

The anger among the Kashmiris reached its threshold after the encounter of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in July last year, with thousands of them turning up in his funeral to commemorate his martyrdom, ready to make a hero out of a militant. The aftermath of his encounter saw two-month long curfew in the valley and the violent clashes between the protestors and the security persons, claiming over 75 lives, injuring more than 12,000 civilians, partially damaging the vision of over 1000 civilians and permanently blinding five of them due to pellets.

The situation in Kashmir is utterly grim, and the government overlooking the basic concerns of Kashmiris and employing muscular policies to retrieve the situation through brute military measures is adding more fuel to the fire. Kashmir remains one of the heavily deployed military bases in the world with numbers reaching more than 7 lakhs army men, as stated by J&K Coalition of Civil Society’s report named ‘Structures of Violence’. According to the government sources, there are around 150 militants currently active in the Valley. Do we really need 7 lakh soldiers to contain 150 militants?

By reducing the presence of the army and paramilitary forces and handing over the responsibility of maintaining law and order in the hands of J&K Police would do a great help in reducing hatred among Kashmiris against the Indian state and prove to be a first step towards embracing them as our own citizen. In order to build confidence among Kashmiris, the government needs to begin talks with all the stakeholders of Kashmir, such as the civil society groups, student leaders and the separatists. All this done, the government needs to make it clear that if it considers Kashmir as an integral part of India, it needs to start accepting Kashmiris as their own citizens and stop treating them as the enemy.


Flirting With Psephology

Psephologists failed to predict the massive win of BJP in the 2017 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, even as they did forecast an edge for the saffron party. Times Now VMR and News 24 Chanakya had predicted a clean sweep for BJP and gave 200 and 285 seats respectively and 120 and 88 seats to SP-Congress alliance respectively. The other exit polls showed BJP leading but falling short of the majority.

After the elections were conducted successfully in all 403 constituencies in seven phases, political pundits started analysing and speculating the results, with many of them predicting a hung assembly. Manisha Priyam, a political analyst had predicted that BJP would be getting around 170-180 seats, SP-Congress settling at 100-110, and BSP securing only 90-100 seats. Ajit Jha, editor of India Today also predicted a hung assembly with BJP getting around 170 seats, SP-Congress at 130, and BSP at 90. Similarly, Sunita Aaron and Sharat Pradhan, both senior journalists had predicted more or less similar results. But to their dismay, BJP clean swept the election with securing a massive 312 out of 403 seats.

One of the major challenges before the analysts was to measure the impact of the demonetization drive on the mindset of people at the grassroots level. The elitist section was busy finding loopholes in the drive with almost forgetting to calculate the impression it had left on the common masses on the ground.

While we may criticise the psephologists for being unable to predict the results accurately, there are certain limitations which one comes across during the process of speculating the results. UP’s demography is made up of diverse overlapping identities of voters based on caste, language and religion which makes it difficult to grasp their voting patterns. It becomes a challenge to predict the impact of party hoppers such as Swami Prasad Maurya who left BSP to join BJP and Rita Bahuguna who joined BJP after leaving the Congress. Moreover, the formation of political alliances before the elections further dilutes the accuracy.


The Recent Episodes Of Violence At Ramjas College Have Only One Thing To Say, ‘Fascism Is Here’.

A two-day seminar on Cultures of Protest was organised by Wordcraft, the Ramjas literary society and the English department of Ramjas College, which was aborted as soon as it began, when members of the ABVP protested against Umar Khalid speaking at the conference. Khalid is a PhD scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University and a student activist who was slapped with sedition charges last year. Umar Khalid was invited to speak on the theme ‘The war in Adivasi areas’. Here is a first-hand narration of the second day of the violence.


Ramjas College entrance was blocked by ABVP students; the common students of Ramjas, AISA, SFI, Pinjra tod and other sympathisers were standing opposite to the gate at a side of the footpath holding placards in their hands and shouting slogans, “go back – go back, ABVP – go back”. It was all going good till now, the protestors decided to advance towards the gate roaring the slogans at the peak of their voice. Police gathered around to stop them, ABVP became hyperactive. A Police bus was made to move in order to push the protestors back. The protestors stood there, adamant not to retreat. It was only when some ABVP members started instigating from the other sides by hitting some of the protestors at the back of their head, the violence crept into thescene. Then a unit of ABVP members went at the back of the protesters’ lot and started provoking them from behind. This interrupted the unity of protestors; half of them engaged themselves in reciprocating ABVP guys while others were busy dealing with Delhi Police.

This continued for long, ABVP trying to provoke violencefrom one side and Delhi Police continuing to obstruct the protestors from the other. The nexus between ABVP and Delhi Police became obvious. The protestors understood what was happening there. In the name of maintaining law and order, police stood as a mute spectator allowing ABVP all the freedom to carry out violence. Then a shrill cry of “Delhi Police – sharm karo,” pierced in amidst the commotion somewhere from the protestors’ lot, and then everybody followed, “sharm karo – sharm karo.” Counter slogans of “Desh ke gaddaron ko, joote maaro saalon ko” were hurled at the protesters, accompanied by chants of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “Vande Matram.” This exhibition of strength went on until the protestors decided to start their march.


As the protestors began marching towardsMaurice Nagar Police station, a stone came flying in and hit the back of the head of one of the protestors. And when I say stone, I mean big stones, not pebbles. Streams of blood dripped down his head, his handkerchief got stained with red. How fear struck he seemed, eyes red with anguish. The atmosphere turned more dreadful, as more stones were pelted, protestors were seen dodging and shielding their heads with bags. Nevertheless, protestors continued their march; stones were not enough to break their unity. ABVP too marched with them side by side to ensure the march gets disordered and it does not reach its destination. Police formed a human chain to separate the two student bodies, even then some ABVP members were able to barge in and attempt to thrash the protestors. This continued as we turned left to reach the police station, one person shot a bottle of banta soda at a tree adjacent to the road, the pieces of glass fell down with full intensity, fortunately without harming anyone.


The destination arrived finally, but before the protestors could reach the gates, ABVP members were able to capture the space and block it. Again a show of strength began with students sloganeering against each other. The demand of protesters was simple, to file a First Information Report against the perpetrators of violence. Protestors sat there on the road rigid with their demand. Time flew fast and it was about 06:00 pm, when Police started lathi charging at them mercilessly, creating the atmosphere more grim and ugly. The maintainers of law and order thrashed and dragged each and every protestor into buses, with ABVP members being the exception. Even female protestors were manhandled brutally. The horror-stricken students tried resisting but were overpowered by tall and strong police personnel armed with lathis. The curfew like situation came to an end, with busses filled with injured students being deported away from the location.

The recent episodes of violence at Ramjas College have only one thing to say, ‘fascism is here’.

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Can BJP Be Trusted To Deliver What It Promises By Launching Anti-Romeo Squads? I Doubt.

I attended an event called “Love Without Fear” organised by AISA – All India Students’ Association outside the premises of Arts Faculty, Delhi University on the 13th of February. Posters shouting azadi and slogans of solidarity scribbled on placards were hanging all around, with a layer of barricades and police surrounding the venue. I with my other comrades were standing at the entrance, and amidst the voices of songs and slogans going at the background, a professor seeming lady, probably in her late fifties, emerged unexpectedly to enquire about the event. One question she asked was quite interesting. Since when ‘love’ has become political? To which none amongst us could reply properly. 

I was thinking about it today, and realised eventually, that politics on hatred is quite mainstream, so politics on love could prove to be a counter force against it. Since there are several political outfits who rely on spreading hatred to gain some mileage, there should and must be voices of love which soughts to dominate the narratives of hatred. In the ongoing polls in Uttar Pradesh, BJP national president Amit Shah promised to establish Anti-Romeo squads to prevent young women from harassment, if the party is voted to power. Well, this didn’t translate down fairly when a National Co-Convener of BJP Sunil Bharala interpreted it as protection of young hindu girls from harassment. “Love jihad targets innocent girls and lure them. The Muzaffarnagar riots took place because of this love jihad,” says Mr. Bharala.

Politicians like him are habitual perpetrators of hatred, let’s not talk about them. But wait, does BJP even understand who Romeo is? As far as I have read, Romeo is one of the finest literary characters from one of the Shakespeare’s famous play, whose love life didn’t end well with Juliet. He is a tragic lover, and associating him with the rowdy corner boys would be doing injustice with his character. Romeo is a symbol of love, and BJP promising to create an Anti-Romeo squad speaks well of the party’s stance on love.

Enough of word twisting, now talking about the BJP’s manifesto for Uttar Pradesh, the party whose manifesto once again raked up the issue of Ram Temple, promised to end the custom of triple talaq, and talks about the issue of ‘exodus’ in Kairana, can it be trusted to deliver what it promises by launching Anti-Romeo squads? I doubt.


Jallikattu Agitation: Youth Energy Being Wasted?

Playing politics on identity has been the easiest tool for politicians to climb their political ladder. Identity politics makes individuals seem primarily as members of a larger group, it puts ‘us’ in groups of us and ‘them’ in groups of them, thereby, making an individual’s identity inconsequential. Fear mongering is another tool to instil energies in people by making them believe their identity is under threat.

These two tools are what seem to be playing at the forefront in the demand to reverse the ban on Jallikattu. Political parties are being opportunistic in wooing the Tamil populace, and the protestors are being the soldiers of the north-south rift which started to appear right from the beginning of the anti-Hindi agitations.jallikattu_head_art

Tamilians are showing a kind of an energy like never seen before, with thousands coming out at Marina beach to demand the upliftment of the ban imposed on Jallikattu. The event has been magnified beyond imagination, and all this just for a rural sport? We never witnessed such huge agitations when the unfortunate mass molestation happened in Bangalore; we never witnessed such protests when farmers had to bear the brunt of the Cauvery water dispute. Identity politics makes these real issues seem unimportant before these fancy issues.

A large number of youths are taking part in this agitation, and it needs to be appreciated that youths are taking active participations in a non-violent way, upholding the essence of a democratic nation. But here the concern arises that a lot of youth energy is being wasted. The energy of the young is a powerful asset which needs to be channelized in a proper direction.


Arvind Kejriwal and the demise of BJP

Delhi, yesterday saw a historic win of ‘determination’, ‘hard work’, ‘integrity’ and ‘truthfulness’ over ‘slyness’, ‘shrewdness’ and ‘malevolence’. 10th February, 2015 came as a calamitous day for BJP.

Being a BJP supporter at first, it took me a day to actually enjoy the triumph of AAP over BJP this Assembly Election (and enjoy the ‘5 saal Kejriwal’ song too). It took me one long day to introspect and understand who Arvind Kejriwal is in real sense. For one whole day I just sat still and searched extensively all about AAP and Arvind Kejriwal and I got to learn what actually his vision is, why did he joined this muck like politics, when he could have very easily enjoyed his wonderfully beautiful life with his wife and two lovely kids. They lived in real comfort and security, he could have simply led his life like just any other Indian with a govt job, a peaceful life, grown old, retired with heavy pension, and died in tranquility. But NO, he chose the less trodden path, he chose to dive into this mire and clean all the shit within it.
Quoting Robert Frost here:
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Yeah, really that has made all the difference. He made it possible to believe that politics can be played clean and fair too, he made people believe that hard work and determination never goes in vain, he made people believe that even an aam aadmi can change the whole scenario, as we are seeing it today.

I have been following the recent developments which took place before the Delhi Elections and I have been very keen on it throughout the process. I now would talk about what led to the demise of BJP.

BJP, the party which took over authority with a clear majority in the Lok Sabha Elections, a few months back, is now laying down on its knees astounded, with just 3 seats out of 70 in the Delhi Vidhan Sabha Elections. What could have led to the downfall of BJP? Was it the declining NaMo wave or the subsequent elevating AAP wave? Well, the answer to this ‘in my opinion’ is that, actually there was nothing like a NaMo wave here in Delhi. Since the inception of AAP, there was a wave of AAP and its leader Arvind Kejriwal, that got even stronger, the moment Kejriwal resigned from the post of CM of Delhi. Yes, it dwindled for some time when he resigned but regained its strength after continuous campaigns and as approaching the elections near this year, the negative campaigns and several allegations (including some personal on AK) on AAP by BJP also worked in favour of the wave, fortunately.

Personally, what I think to be the cause of downfall of BJP was a series of events including the controversial statement by Sakshi Maharaj that ‘Hindu women should have at least 4 children’, and then Sadvi Niran Jyoti’s remark of ‘Ramzaadon and Haramzaadon’. Then they started playing their Sangh politics and tried to polarise the votes, then the vandalization of Churches in Delhi and the drama of ‘ghar wapasi’. And for all these events Modi being ‘Manmohan’ on it. These events instilled anxiety and fear in the minorities. If BJP thought that intimidating minorities would actually polarise the vote, then it was their huge mistake. A country without peace and communal harmony can not progress, just can not progress. Again the failure to fulfill the promise of bringing black money back and calling it as mere a chunavi jumla by Amit Shah just a few days ahead of the judgement day, added fuel to the fire and I can very confidently bet on it that this jumla thing just transferred a minimum of 5% vote share from BJP to the Aam Aadmi Party.

After BJP getting the clear mandate in the Lok Sabha election last year, I thought that BJP is the party which can handle India’s ship to glory better, but after those series of events which I pionted earlier, it came out to be just another party striving for power and want to mould the social scenario their own way without even caring about the ‘aam janta‘. If this was to be their sole intention, then I shame on myself for supporting such party. But I supported BJP for the promises they made of development and progress for all (unbiased towards any particular community or caste), and I thought NaMo is now the man who would be a better captain. But my prediction somewhat is proving to be false. I don’t see any major difference from the time the earlier government was in power.

Well I wish AAP for their thumping victory and for their journey to make the city corruption free and look forward for a better Delhi. I hope they be successful in fulfilling their promises, without uttering any excuse just like the last time.
And yes, I do really enjoy now the ‘5 saal Kejriwal’ song. 😉

Thank you. _/\_