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What I think of Student Nationalists from the National Institute of Technology, Kashmir

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Message Prakash Kona

The same thing that I think of the student leftists in Delhi and Hyderabad: a bunch of self-serving hypocrites. In fact, both of them are "nationalists" (read: sectarian) in strangely similar ways and in the worst and most unacceptable sense of the term. One relies on caste and another relies on a communal world-view. Both refuse to accommodate others. Both are meaningless and as an understatement both their agendas are scripted by political parties and in both some students have more to gain than the others.

That most of these protests are orchestrated is a matter of fact. That is fine in cynical day-to-day politics where you need to be prepared to disrupt at every possible opportunity in order to score brownie points with ignorant masses and political bosses. Everything orchestrated is always given the appearance of spontaneity. Far from being spontaneous occurrences these are merely done to feed a news-hungry media and stay in the public imagination for as long as possible.

I did not think that the police did a wrong thing by forcefully chasing the students away when they attempted to get out of the campus. Had the students been left to do whatever they liked that would certainly have caused a far bigger crisis. If the only thing that the students are interested in is raising national flags and wanting to build temples they don't need to have a degree in engineering for that.

In a highly sensitive environment such as in Kashmir where life crawls to normalcy on a daily basis thanks to the efforts of countless well-meaning people some awareness of what is happening around is vital. These ignorant students have no respect for education and their penchant for adventurism is exposed when they make erratic attempts to destabilize a social order.

In the forty-eighth year of my life I still am sometimes struck by pangs of conscience when doing things that my frail, old mother will not approve of as being morally acceptable. The moral authority of parents in certain things will shape the child's imagination. The young should be free to make choices but hypocrisy and self-seeking behavior is not just bad education but also bad parenting. I think the parents of the students are largely to be blamed for encouraging their children to indulge in the kind of nonsense that they are doing as students instead of using their education to building bridges between people.

Fancy phrases like "critical thinking" which in the Indian university is reduced to being a facet of nationalism and badgering those who disagree with "us" means nothing without moral backing. Uncritical loyalty to ideologies such as nationalism is dangerous to the body politic. Uncritical loyalty to those who are opposed to nationalism is also inimical to the welfare of the nation. People should take pride in who they are and where they come from as long as they don't make it a divine right to dictate their philosophy of life to others who might have serious differences.

The Kashmiris in my view are a decent people and to deliberately portray them as anti-nationalists merely because some of them might not have supported India in a cricket match is unpardonable. I don't always support India when I watch a cricket match which is like once in many years. Why should I be supporting India all the time! I see no reason on earth why Pakistanis or Bangladeshis or Australians or Sri Lankans should not win a match. It's a game at the end of the day where somebody loses and somebody wins. I am not willing to invest emotion in either winners or losers.

"Cricket" nationalism is a poison that intelligent people ought to desist from consuming. It is silly and infantile to chant nationalist slogans and watch matches where the players make more money than an ordinary person would ever dream of making. Frankly that's what we should be asking: why are sportspeople and actors making so much money for doing so little as playing or acting?

Wearing a badge of nationalism has never been a serious indication that someone loves their country. Those who love their country feel with its downtrodden classes and its oppressed women and children. They are not blind with hatred that destroys the soul. They think of innovative ways to make life meaningful for everyone who comes in contact with them especially those who are ostracized or without a home.

Why is this so-called "nationalist" right-wing government with PM Narendra Modi at the helm of affairs hell-bent on distracting the public from the water and food crises across India? When a dominant, upper caste social group such as the Jats in Haryana were given reservations in education and jobs, I knew that this government is just buying time like all previous governments and enjoying power while it lasts doing absolutely nothing for the masses. In doing so they are merely sowing the seeds of lasting discontent creating in the long run all the conditions for a potential civil war in the making.

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Prakash Kona is a writer, teacher and researcher who lives in Hyderabad, India. He is currently Professor at the Department of English Literature, The English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad.

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