Scholar?s Mysterious Death

Insecure in India

The death in suspicious circumstances of a Kashmiri scholar in a Hyderabad university has sent shockwaves across the valley. Major street protests against the death were witnessed in several places across the valley even as the exact details of what led to the death are not clear. One can only imagine the state of mind of thousands of young Kashmiri men and women studying in various cities across India. Unfortunately, if there is no strong evidence in the death of Mudasir Ahmed – the 29-year-old scholar from Pulwama found hanging in his hostel room in Hyderabad – it may be impossible to ascertain the whole truth about his death.

The state government however has promptly come out with a statement ruling out any conspiracy in Mudasir’s death with the chief minister telling the state assembly that “the student committed suicide… due to depression” and that the government had “shared all the information with the family as to what led to depression and if they want we can make it public”. The family however is not ready to accept this version and see a conspiracy in Mudasir’s death in view of his being a part of a protest against the hanging of Mohammed Afzal Guru. Mudasir was also taken to the police station for being involved in serious differences with his roommate.

It is hoped that a clearer picture of what led to the death emerges soon. But unfortunately all the inputs so far, along with the version of the state government, are based on media reports and police statements. Both command little confidence among people in Kashmir. It is therefore no surprise that people across Kashmir have come out in strong protests with an overwhelming perception being that the death was a sabotage. And the government, again, had no answer except imposing severe restrictions to people’s movement in Pulwama.

Obviously, the issue is not just about the death of Mudasir. Kashmiris are being hounded in India for, well, being Kashmiris, be they students, businessmen or employees. They are generally discriminated against by the general population when it comes to renting a room or a flat. And things turn into horror whenever there is a terrorist attack anywhere in India, what with unduly being in the eye of suspicion of the Indian police. The state government’s response so far in case of Mudasir’s death simply proves that it is pathetically missing the larger picture thereby failing in its duty towards Kashmiris.

(editorial, Kashmir Reader- March 5, 2013)

One more infliction
Official version of Muddasir Malla’s hanging in Hyderabad is full of holes and gaps

It is a measure of the depth of their feeling of alienation and victimisation that the people of Kashmir instinctively tend to accept the worst case scenario whenever it comes to assessing conflicting allegations of harassment of Kashmiris in other parts of the country. So many innocent Kashmiris, young and old, men and women, have been so often subjected to virtual racial victimisation that it is impossible to eradicate the inescapable impression that there is method in this madness. The latest case of Muddasir Ahmed Malla who was allegedly found hanging in his hostel room at English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, on Saturday, has once again sent shock waves across length and breadth of the Valley which was already reeling under the stunning impact of the fallout of Afzal Guru’s hanging in New Delhi last month.

Although there are different versions of circumstances of Malla’s unnatural death and the AP government has been insisting that it was a case of ‘suicide’ there are far too many holes in the available official version. Allegations making rounds across the Valley suggest several other reasons: That Malla had died of police torture after he had been picked up as a suspect in the recent Hyderabad bomb blast; that a teacher at the EFLU had been harassing him and that drove him to taking his own life and that he had fallen out with his room-mate, a student from Pune.

The news of Malla’s death took the Valley by storm on Sunday resulting in clashes between demonstrators and police at several places. This incident seems to have exacerbated the hurt feelings caused by Guru’s hanging which is seen in the Valley as an act of communal prejudice. Normal life in the Valley which was yet to come out of the fallout of Guru’s widely condemned ‘unjustified’ hanging has, once again, been thrown into violent oscillation. There are hardly, if any, takers for the official version of circumstances leading to Malla’s death.

It would be a fatal miscalculation to attribute such a response to any kind of manipulation from behind the scene, by separatists or any other ‘interested’ party. Flare up in several areas of Kashmir on Sunday was instant. As pointed out above, this reaction can easily be traced to the deep rooted feeling in the Valley that Kashmiris are the victims of ‘officially blessed’ victimisation across the country. Kashmiri students studying in various states as also traders and others doing business outside of their home state are subjected to racial profiling and harassment which places them into the category of ready-made ‘suspects’.

Successive chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir have unsuccessfully tried to dispel adverse impression of Kashmiris and seeking an end to their unjustified wholesale victimisation. From Dr Farooq Abdullah to Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and from Ghulam Nabi Azad to Omar Abdullah, every chief minister has written letters to their counterparts in rest of India but, obviously, without any response.

Racial discrimination and profiling of Kashmiris continues unabated. In a way, this obnoxious mindset fits into the general anti-Muslim attitude of security and intelligence agencies in the country. Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde might have extricated himself by eating his own words but his assertion that the country was faced with the real threat of ‘Hindu terror’ cannot be dispelled that easily. Sensational revelations by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on how acts of sabotage and subversion actually carried out by ‘Hindu’ terrorists were conveniently pinned by state agencies upon Muslim ‘suspects’ have been backed up by concrete irrefutable facts. At least in three cases the police agencies were found to have acted maliciously: Malegaon blasts, Makka Masjid blast and Samjhuta Express bomb blast. The conduct of the Hyderabad police in the latest Bomb blast shows that the lesson has not gone home.

It is in this background that the case of Malla’s hanging in Hyderabad has evoked such intense reaction in his home state. It is for the authorities in Andhra Pradesh as well as in J&K to act promptly and bring all facts of the case to light in a convincing manner. Till then the public mind would continue to be haunted by the worst fears. Credibility of the government and its agencies is at the lowest mark in so far as popular psychology goes. The ugly image of security and police agencies, created by their acts of omission and commission, is not easy to dispel. In fact the entire system has come to develop inimical image of itself—some say by design.

(editorial, Kashmir Times- March 5, 2013)

Studying outside the Valley

On January 1, when the country was on the upbeat with the new year celebrations, Kashmiri students in various institutions outside the Valley were sulking due to growing feelings of insecurity. In the same month, a year ago a Kashmiri student was shot in Madhya Pradesh, which resulted in arousing fresh feelings of insecurity among the worried families.

Earlier, there were also reports about Kashmiri students being maltreated and intimidated in an institution in Haryana. The incidents, which have been recurring and more frequently now, have been condemned by both the state and the union officials. 

The officials have been pacifying the agitated parents and assuring them that they will take appropriate measures to ensure security of the students studying in other states of India. The horrible news about students being abused and growing concern has taken aback the people in the state, who are desperately scurrying to get to their life back after Afzal Guru’s execution. 

The situation has been aggravating as the aggressors are found representing different classes and sections of the society. The state government officials, also supported by others, stand at crossroads as how to address these problems and what measures or policies to adopt. So far the status quo has failed to change a bit or even present a silver lining from where on the damage could be contained, if not significantly improved. There is also this bad feeling growing amongst concerned parents and people of Kashmir that if boys are treated like that and subdued it might be even worse for girl students. The incident in Madhya Pradesh, where local goons attacked Kashmiri students and threatened them to return to the Valley has further widened the gulf between people of Kashmir and other communities. The trust deficit also questions the whole exercise of ‘Confidence Building Measures’ which has been overused at the top level and grossly neglected at the bottom. As the contours of alienation of Kashmiris are becoming permanent and visible, there is a great risk of the situation turning irreversible. The political tags are fast breaching the boundaries and encroaching upon the societal order. From here, delinking political alignment from social disorders seems an uphill task for governments at all levels. And as far as the grievous parents are concerned, the reassurances have to convert from mere promises to tangible solutions. As one mournful family describes – “we send our sweethearts to make a better life, not to take it.”

(editorial, Rising Kashmir- March 5, 2013)

Security of Students

The death of Mudasir Ahmad Malla in mysterious circumstance in Hyderabad is shocking. The twenty-nine year old scholar was pursuing his PhD in English literature in prestigious and internationally known the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad. Nothing authentic is known about the inexplicable death of the Youngman found hanging in his hostel room. The Jammu and Kashmir police and Hyderabad police amidst conflicting reports have been maintaining that the death is a clear case of suicide. There was no suicide note in his room. How police concluded that it is a clear case of suicide without a proper investigation is in itself questionable. The contradictory reports coming from the authorities and the campus led to guessing and rumors, which sparked unrest in Pulwama hometown of young research scholar. The state authorities failed to come up timely with details about the circumstances that led to the death of the young man. This largely contributed to the disturbances spreading to some other towns including to some parts of the city. The authorities only woke up when tension gripped Pulwama and other adjacent areas. Notwithstanding reports about the Hyderabad police, having detained him a few days earlier for questioning for unknown reasons, it seems to be a case of harassment. True, the Hyderabad police have lodged an FIR under number 79/2013 under Section 306 of the IPC, against the Proctor of the hostel but for finding out details about the harassment the scholar had been subjected to, there is need for getting the matter investigated by an independent agency. The incident has not caused only anger in people but has also sharpened the sense of insecurity amongst thousands of students studying in various universities and professional colleges in other parts of the country. Now for the past many years’ reports about harassment of students from Kashmir studying outside the state in various colleges and universities have regularly been coming and causing panic in the state. In December of last year, there were reports about harassment of some students undergoing various professional courses under GoI scholarship scheme in some professional colleges of Haryana. Except sending a communication or two to the Union Home Ministry, the state government has so far done nothing for ensuring security of students studying outside. The matter needs to be taken with the Prime Minister.

(editorial, Greater Kashmir- March 5, 2013)