‘Kashmir University has become an extension of the ‘state establishment. Moreover, academic freedom and genuine scholarship is the biggest causality.’ This lament has been finding an echo in most of the academic seminars held outside the campus. On 10 December 2014, when across the world people were observing the Human Rights Day and pledging to uphold all the thirty Articles contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in a seminar some scholars, researchers and students were raising their voice against denial of academic freedom in the Kashmir University. This seminar had been organized by a group of civil society to mark the historic day.
Scholars mostly from social sciences and languages narrated stories after stories about their being coerced to change their findings and bringing them in line with the ‘dominant discourse’, ‘loading them with cultural meanings that condition to think in a particular ways, not to be able to think very well in other ways.’ To quote Gramsci this is done to serve the “dominant ideology.” One of the M. Phil scholars narrating his traumatic experiences stated that he suffered the “academic oppression” for over three years for not tailoring his thesis in line with the ‘dominant ideology’. Despite protests, he was forced to alter his thesis and rehash it in tune with the ‘dominant narrative’. His was not an isolated case; many more instances were quoted.
It was disappointing to note that some teachers having ‘consented’ to the ‘political society’ for manufacturing narratives in total contradiction with the historical realties and using the institution they were heading for bolstering the anti-people narratives. These scholars believed that to use a Gramscian phrase “political society” has converted the university into a breeding ground for material and intellectuals corruption with definite purposes.
I am not going to debate here complex academic ideas, how this ‘domination’ and ‘hegemony’ can be countered by creating alternative institutions and alternative intellectual resources within the existing society’, but, to look for an answer for a few simple questions that have been haunting my mind for past couple of days. What does the establishment want to achieve by throttling the academic freedom in the Kashmir University and in other smaller universities. By not allowing scholars to pursue research and conduct studies with honesty of purposes to look into the genesis of the problem, identify factors that have added to the perpetuation of this dispute can Kashmir Dispute be wished away, made to disappear or stop existing.
Can world be made to think differently about the dispute, that since 1947 in the words of Josef Korbel has ‘cast a shadow from beyond towering Himalayas and the Pamirs, from Sinkiang and Tibet and the Soviet Union?’ Nothing has changed since Korbel wrote these words in preface to his book Danger in Kashmir sixty years back. Seeing non-resolution of the dispute as a ‘disaster’ he had written, “The two great nations of the Subcontinent, India and Pakistan, continue to dissipate their wealth, their strength, and their energy on a near fratricidal struggle in which the hitherto almost unknown State of Kashmir has become the physical battle ground.” These words hold as true on 13 December 2013, when I am pushing my fingers on the keyboard as they were when written in August 1954.
True, over past sixty-five years many solutions have been mooted such as plebiscite under aegis of the United Nations, a region-by-region plebiscite, UN Trusteeship, Trieste and “Andora models” (a nominally sovereign territory in fact controlled by two state. Most of these solutions have come from intellectuals and think tanks outside the Sub-continent. There is hardly an instance of intellectuals in India or Kashmir having ever come up with a solution for the resolution of the dispute based on justice and fair play outside the “dominant narrative” or playing a pro-active role in persuading the political leadership for solving the Kashmir problem and mitigating the sufferings of people in the Subcontinent.
It is equally true that but for the shortsightedness and lack of will of the political leadership, peace in region is threatened because of the non-resolution of the dispute. Nevertheless, I see the perpetuation of the Kashmir Dispute also as failure of academia and intellectuals in India, Pakistan and Kashmir. In the words of Noam Chomsky, “Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions. They are to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest, through which the events of current history are presented to us.” He rightly says, “The responsibilities of intellectuals, are much deeper than the "responsibility of people," given the unique privileges that intellectuals enjoy.”
One finds some intellectuals who could influence government’s policy in fifties, sixties even later in the dock. For these supplementing the government’s Kashmir policy instead of analyzing it objectively the dispute over future of Jammu and Kashmir has become one of the most complex and complicated issues of the world. Had there been an independent intellectual thinking or had the top academia sent cautionary notes to governments in New Delhi against its strategy in Kashmir that “has been gradually to erode Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution of India”.. In the words of Stephen Cohen to ‘pretend that the problem was ‘solved’ by the Simla Agreement… And it stubbornly opposing outside effort
s to mediate” the dispute over Kashmir “would not be now seen as one of the of world’s nuclear flashpoints.”
It is understood that scores of scholars in number of top most international universities have been working on the Kashmir Dispute. But they have been overwhelmingly focusing on its international and regional dimensions. How far can non-resolution of the dispute make Kashmir playground for Asian powers. If Kashmiri scholars are allowed and encouraged to research without invisible embargoes and tags- perhaps they will be able to come up with a formula that will help in its honorable resolution and bringing lasting peace in the region.
It is high time for the people managing the affairs of universities to allow academic freedom in the university of Kashmir and other universities.