Kashmir: Building Bridges in Open-air
By Ikram Ullah *
Like many other young Kashmiris I was ardently awaiting the developments in Kashmir pertaining to the announcement of a visit of Rahul Gandhi to Kashmir. The visit of this young Leader of Congress was kind of euphoria for many of us in our minds. After all, here was a young man from India promulgating that his visit would be a different one. Different in the sense that he would be inclined to talk to the people of Kashmir, listen to what was the cause of them being heavyhearted and try to ameliorate the disgruntled voices of young Kashmiris. And like thousands of others I believed that surely the gaps were going to be bridged.
Kashmir University where Rahul Ghandi was to hold an interactive talk to the young minds of Kashmir remained abuzz with the word that this time it is going to mean business. Many were incontrovertibly sure that this time it was not going to be merely a talk of jobs, economic packages and those well versed and passionately delivered lectures but an emphatic interactive session to address our feeling of alienation.
Many of my friends, deeming the opportunity, thought of asking this dynamic secretary of congress the questions that we have been asking among ourselves for the past 20 years, with no answers whatsoever. Why AFSPA, PSA, DAA, unmarked graves,700000 troops etc.
On the day almost 1500 students of Kashmir University defied the protest organized by the banned Kashmir University Students Union (KUSU) against Rahul Gandhi's visit and went inside the convocation complex to seek answers to these long standing questions.
"But what happened before getting inside was vitiating as the students where malevolently advised by the authorities not to ask questions and that only a few selected students with pre-scripted questionnaires were allowed" says my friend claiming anonymity.
All the expectations of this visit to be a historic one came crumbling down when a bunch of Indian business tycoons where seen sharing the stage with Rahul Gandhi. It again turned out to be the same old wine in a new bottle. Rahul talked about bridging the trust deficit that exists between Kashmir and Delhi but can we build confidence without addressing the issues that cause this deviance. He asked people of Kashmir to move-on, claiming that opportunities have come to our doorsteps in the form of these industrialists like Ratan Tata, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Rajiv Bajaj, Deepak Parekh and Ashok Reddy whom he had brought along.
Kashmiri students in the hall started feeling skeptical and among themselves asked questions. Are the economic packages going to be the answer to our problems? Is Kashmir issue going to be resolved if Kashmiri youth get jobs in industries in India? Well no, Kashmir problem is a political one and not the economic problem.
Rahul Gandhi tried to sideline the political grievances of Kashmir. He tried to "Build Bridges" in the open air without support underneath. The consequences were going to be obvious, The bridge failed miserably.
A number of students were seen leaving the convocation complex of Kashmir University in between and join the protests down in the lawns of the University.