Updated: January 7, 2017 9:19:13 am
THE MUSLIM Rashtriya Manch (MRM), an RSS affiliate, is organising a conference of Kashmiri students in the national capital Saturday to connect them “with the national mainstream, involve them in nation building and bring them on the right path”.
The MRM claimed that they are expecting a turnout of 2,000 students from Delhi and its neighbouring states for the event to which they have invited several BJP ministers at the Centre, including Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and from J&K, such as Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh. But the conference has triggered unease in the Valley with the BJP’s alliance partner PDP saying they were not aware of “any such activity” and the separatists describing it as a “campaign to fragment our society”.
For the moment, though, with many of the guests, including Rajnath Singh and Nirmal Singh, unlikely to be present, the PDP is hesitant to come out publicly against the event. But PDP leaders privately acknowledged that they viewed the conference as “part of a pattern” where Sangh groups “unilaterally organise events or file petitions in various courts challenging the special status accorded to the state”.
When contacted, PDP leader and J&K Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar told The Indian Express: “I am not aware of it. I am hearing about this conference for the first time. Nobody has contacted us.”
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Other PDP leaders said their party is also worried that the “fragile calm” in place after five months of protests “can easily be broken by another controversy”. More so, they said, given the ban on political activity by students in the Valley’s universities and colleges.
“We don’t know how and why this organisation is collecting Kashmiri students. Recently, the MRM organised a campaign in Jammu for the abrogation of Article 370. This activity by affiliates of our coalition partner is against our agenda of alliance,” said a senior PDP leader.
The MRM conference will be held at the Constitution Club and among those invited by organisers are Union ministers Jitendra Singh, Gen V K Singh, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Krishan Pal Gurjar; J&K BJP leader and Administrator (Lakshadweep) Farooq Khan; and, Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia Prof Talat Ahmad.
While Khan and Ahmad confirmed their attendance, a Home Ministry official said that Rajnath Singh “may not be able to attend because of other engagements”.
Union Minister Jitendra Singh said, “My name is there in the programme and I will go if I find time.” Nirmal Singh said he was in Bengaluru and may not be able to attend. Incidentally, the two-day BJP national executive meeting concludes in Delhi Saturday.
“I have got an intimation from the Home Ministry and I will attend. I have been the V-C of Kashmir University and that’s why they wanted me to attend,” said Prof Ahmad.
One of the organisers said that MRM and BJP activists have been visiting various universities in Delhi, UP, Haryana and Punjab over the last two weeks to rope in Kashmiri students for the conference.
The MRM was set up in 2012, for “nationalist” Muslims, under the leadership of senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar, who headed Sangh activities in J&K. The Manch’s website quotes Kumar as saying, “The two earlier approaches adopted by Mahatma Gandhi and Hindu Mahasabha failed to bridge the gap because they were lopsided. Gandhi left no stone unturned to placate Muslims and the Hindu Mahasabha stretched the issue of hatred and separatism resulting in failure of both the approaches.”
MRM has been campaigning for abrogating Article 370, imposing the Uniform Civil Code and organising Muslims to join the “fight against cow slaughter”. Describing an event it held in Jammu last year, MRM said on its website that “the sweet sounds of Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “demand for abrogation of Article 370 in one voice” has “sounded a warning to those elements in the Kashmir Valley who nursed the dream of Azad Kashmir”.
The Manch has been active in the Valley since its inception and one of its national convenors Giresh Juyal was in Srinagar during the last Assembly polls, canvassing for the BJP. Juyal told The Indian Express that the conference is part of a campaign titled “Hum Hindustani, Jammu-Kashmir Hindustan Ka (We are Indian and J&K is India’s)”.
“The Kashmir problem is not an Islamic problem, and a distorted image of J&K has built in the country. The problems are the proxy war and the firing along the LoC, which (Prime Minister) Narendra Modiji has now shut down. We have been conducting programmes about this across the country, including sending memorandums through SDMs and DMs to the President and Prime Minister,’’ he said.
“Kashmiri youth are the present and future, so we are working on them and connecting with them. We have also been petitioning the government to not allow Kashmiri students to pursue studies in Pakistan,” said Juyal.
One of the organisers, Engineer Ajaz, who is also vice president of the BJP’s J&K youth wing, said, “We didn’t find it necessary to involve the PDP or the Education Minister. It is not a government function. We are expecting to bring around 2,000 students studying in various universities in and around Delhi. Most of these students are here on government scholarships. We want Kashmiri Muslim students to develop a connect with the national mainstream.”
Ajaz, a resident of Balhama in Kashmir, said “there is a lot of suspicion regarding Kashmiris outside Kashmir and we want to address that”.
“The aim of this conference is to discuss issues faced by Kashmiris who are studying across the country. They have to go through rigorous verifications, harassment,” he said.
In Srinagar, the separatists view the MRM’s activities as part of the “larger RSS plan in Kashmir”. “They (MRM) have been active in Kashmir with the support of the government. They were also actively involved in the BJP’s election campaign. All this is to divert attention from the main political issue,” alleged Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who heads the Hurriyat’s moderate faction.
(With inputs from Arun Sharma/Jammu)
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