Srinagar, April 22: Remember how strongly we condemned the hate crimes against Indian immigrants in the United States in recent times? Our blood boiled at the sight of the images of body of Hyderabad techie Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was killed by a xenophobic American in Kansas.
We all reacted instantly and channelised our anger in demanding immediate action against the culprit by the Donald Trump administration. We were right in our demands. After all how could we tolerate our Indians being attacked, abused and killed? However, similar reactions don't come forth when a fellow Indian is bullied, tortured, maimed to silence and at times killed in our country.
Have we started distinguishing crime as 'good' and 'bad' ones? Otherwise, why the lynching and death of Pehlu Khan, a 55-year-old dairy farmer, on a national highway in Rajasthan, by a group of gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes) failed to outrage us? Why the six main accused named by Khan in his statement to the police before his death are still scot-free? Currently, we are only confronted with questions. We have no answers to these unbearable, but ignored truths.
Coming to the vexed issue of Kashmir, currently, we are seeing a slow and sure division among Indians over it. Because of Kashmir, we saw several wars in the sub-continent since 1947 and India's continuous fight against Pakistan-sponsored terrorist activists.
Clearly, India can fight against Pakistan--the enemy neighbour. But how could India fight against India? How could Indians be pitted against Indians over Kashmir? And, how could we ask Kashmiris to leave any part of India?
Aren't a Kashmiri as much as an Indian, as say a Bengali, a Tamilian, a Bihari and a Maharashtrian, to name a few? When we claim Kashmir to be an integral part of India, how could its natives be aliens to Indians?
The hoardings in Meerut asking Kashmiris to leave Uttar Pradesh are something beyond comprehension. "Bhartiya sena par pathar maarne wale Kashmiryon ka bahishkar. Kashmiriyo Uttar Pradesh chodo warna... (Boycott those Kashmiris who pelt stones at Indian Army. Kashmiris leave UP or....)", stated the Meerut hoardings.
The warning against Kashmiris in these hoardings is loud and clear. In a few words, all Kashmiris are labelled as stone pelters, the enemies of the Indian Army, who need to be boycotted. The xenophobic and bigoted assertion of a group of 'mainland' Indians over another group of 'marginalised' Indians is the testimony of divisive politics of our times.
Still, those who have put the hoardings in the city are yet to be detained, even after Uttar Pradesh Nav Nirman Sena, a little known Hindu group, has taken responsibility of committing the 'crime'.
Recently, several Kashmiri students were brutally beaten up right in front of the Mewar University in Rajasthan by a group of local people. The Kashmiri students were once again called as "stone-pelters", the enemy of the country and its army.
The attempt of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to quell fear among the Kashmiris staying in various parts of the country by asking state governments to ensure their safety was definitely a move in the right direction, but was not enough, because times are difficult and words fail to convey the message.
Unless and until, the Centre does not send out a strong note by taking action against those who are responsible for spreading fear and division in the name of nationalism and religion, these kinds of incidents are likely to spread faster than a 'wild fire' across the country.