What did the Chief Minister mean when she described the NIT incident as a non-issue?
What has happened on the NIT campus is nothing new, not even for this campus. It has bee going on for ages. It must be in that sense that she must have spoken.
Do you think that some elements have been deliberately trying to give it a nationalist or communal colour?
I will not accuse anybody but don’t pick it up just because it has happened in Kashmir. There have been many other incidents that have happened on campuses.We have to understand that the sensitivities of these boys, sensitivities of everybody. We have just started a new government and for the last five days, it seems that J-K has ceased to exist and it is just the NIT. Basically, it is an issue between the students and the NIT administration but whatever we could do as the state government, we have done that.
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The students from outside are quite charged up and they want action against police..
And they want to go out of the State and defend this jhanda from Delhi? They should take me along because I am also flying a flag, it is on my car. It is an Indian flag. And the same officer, who they are accusing of having snatching this flag, if he is killed by militants tomorrow, he will be wrapped in the same flag. We have sent 3,000 policemen to their graves wrapped in the same jhaada, because they were seen as the defenders of this jhanda. If we still malign them, I think it is unfortunate. Somebody has to take note of it at the Centre, the media, the other political stake holders. I think J-K Police has a unique record of sacrifices. They have fought war for 25 years. So you have to give them due recognition.There could have been disproportionate use of force and for that an inquiry has been ordered which is the procedure.
Who are the political stakeholders you talk about?
J-K is not just PDP’s concern. It has to be concern of everybody that is why we are saying it has to be national concern. Do we want peace here or not? That is the question and whosoever can contribute to it, please for God’s sake contribute to peace.
This is what Mehbooba Mufti has been saying all these months, [that unless the entire country is with me, it going to be difficult. I am going to face a problem. So everybody has to realize the potential of anything that is seen as not helping the situation
What are these potential dangers?
You know that better as a journalist. [My views] be taken as partisan. That’s my problem. It is for people like you, independent voices must speak.
Kashmiri students cheering India’s defeat or supporting a non-India team is not new. Why has it become such a big issue this time?
There is element of alienation. You can’t deny it. Now the question is how to win the battle for minds and hearts of people. That is why we have gone into this alliance with BJP to try to connect at the people’s level, and have an emotional bond between the people of Kashmir and rest of country. And we are not apologetic about it. But my own worry is should we have an India in isolated pockets of Kashmir or in the hearts of people? Should the great idea of India be in bunkers, barracks, islands or the people of J-K should feel, proud to be part of it, rooting for our own team, the Indian team. How to do that? That’s the battle I am fighting, my policeman is doing that, my political worker is doing that. We are here after taking oath of loyalty to this country. So should everybody help us or not. That is the question… we seek that help.
How do you view the students demand for shifting the Institute out of the valley?
Is abandoning a national institute a victory for us? Should we abandon it, should we abandon Siachen just because the weather there is difficult? This is our national institute here which has been there for the last 56 years. They have come here to acquire knowledge and there are genuine problems. There are very genuine problems, academic problems, administrative problems that should not be associated with a national institute. We are grateful to the MHRD, the union minister herself that she has sent the team here. There is chairman of Board of Governors, they are meeting on 11th April. They are taking stock of the situation, they are taking inputs from the students and they will be assessing their needs. We also requested them to fasttrack this. You don’t have minimum facility like Wifi in the hostels and this is national institure of technology. They have sanitation problems, they have problems of the hostel timings – the girls are not allowed to go after 6 p.m. I pleaded with them, please do this, allow them to go. If they go to Lal Chwok, they go to Dal Gate, to Boulevard, that would be a social intervention in Kashmir. They will mix up with the local population, they will not feel alienated. Don’t do this moral policing at this level and that’s my request.
These problems had been there for long. What changed that it has become such a big issue with a nationalist colour?
I think, they are the underlying issues and this provided the trigger. They were pent up issues. They have some faculty issues as well, they should be addressed why not and somebody was saying they should have external examiners. I support that fully, that will be a reform. You have MBBS in medical college, the external comes from PGI Chandigarh, AIIMS , Hyderabad wherever so that will add. It would upgrade the standards of all locals and non-locals. I think, ideally the paper assessment should happen outside. Let this, if they have to become an institute of excellence. These things can help in it and it is my humble submission. I believe that the union minister Smriti Irani will intervene in this and do this.
There have been backlash incidents at Jammu…
Nothing has happened here. It was a lie and I refute that. I spoke to those children. They said nobody has beaten us. I spoke to them, they said somebody came with a stick, knocked at door, almost broke open the door but then seniors came from upstairs and they stopped them. They raised slogans but nobody has been touched.
What about the incidents at Jodhpur where Kashmiri students were beaten up?
We received complaint about Jodhpur. I talked to DGP, he talked to DGP Rajasthan, he called me back and within an hour that was resolved…
In JNU no Kashmiri complained of harassment, why don’t you give credit where it is due. Similarly, the way you deal with the children here, you are dealing with them there – only the situation is different. They have to be careful am not denying the problem. That’s the difference.
The PDP_BJP government has just taken office. Do you think this problem at NIT has been created by elements trying to create problems for your coalition?
I would not accuse anybody. I would not try to see demons but we will deal with it if there are any demons, with poise and calm – the way, we have been dealing it through talks through dialogue. I think, the meeting yesterday with the students, some of the students, a group of students, they claimed they don’t represent anybody but we have reports that they are quite influential, and I believe that they left that room very convinced.