Kashmiri students are the gullible victims; a clear policy is needed to end their trauma

In the wake of some terror related recent incidents involving Kashmiri students studying outside their state, there is a backlash against them  across the county. In Punjab, where three students were arrested on terror links and a cache of weapons was ceased from their possession (from their hostel room at an engineering college on the outskirts of Jalandhar), was followed by arrest of two more students elsewhere in Punjab. The Punjab state government has decided to monitor the entire Kashmiri student population in the state. Several PG owners have started eviction of some of these students from their premises fearing terror links.

Attempt by a group of Kashmiri students to offer Ghaibana namaz-e-janaza of Mannan Wani an ex-AMU student from Kashmir who had joined militant ranks a few months back and was killed during an encounter with police, snowballed into a major controversy and two students were booked with sedition charges.  In yet another incident at Sharda University in Greater Noida, a Kashmiri student got beaten up by mistake as some student mistook him for an Afghani student in a group clash.

Incidents of this kind of brawls, accusations, abuses and at times physical violence has been sporadic in the past but it has been always present. However, active terror links, weapons and attempts at brazen anti-national acts has come to fore for the first time in the last two decades.

The number of Kashmiri students who study outside the state is significant thought exact statistic is not available. But according to some estimates as many as 12 lakh Kashmiri Muslims either work or study in various parts of country. Another seven lakh Kashmiri Pandits, who have left homes in 1990s due to militancy make this population more sizeable. While it is commonplace to study or work outside the home state and even abroad, in case of J & K, it has an element of state support. In order to wean youth away from militancy and offer them higher educational opportunities, the government of India is offering scholarships in several cases upto 100%.

This freeship has its own disadvantages. It appeals to even those who are not interested or passionate about pursuing a specific education stream. Also, over the years, it has given a birth to a culture in the valley, where studying outside has come to be associated as a status symbol for youth. And, a lot of private educational providers of suspect quality, find a ready market to poach. In some cases, families have sold precious lands to support education of their wards and got in return got just a degree of no consequences. Udaan is another sham scheme of the Government, in which in the name of skilling, people are just making money without having any noticeable impact on ground.

The whole policy must change. As a welcome measure, the administration in Jammu and Kashmir has decided to put in place liaison officers in the states where a “sizeable number” of students are studying. The government must roll back the freeship and instead guarantee educational loans, so that only serious students pursue education outside.

The government must explore and fund liberally student exchange programs at school level both from and to the state , because such interactions and memories will have lasting value. Otherwise, when this generation grows up, they will much hardened with lesser exposure.