Students Say No to Assembly Polls, Call for Referendum

Kashmir View | Thursday, 27 November 2014

It is a cold cloudy Thursday afternoon and hundreds of students braving the chill and intermittent rain have gathered at the lawns of Allama Iqbal Library in the campus of Kashmir University, defying the varsity administration, to talk on the ongoing assembly polls in Kashmir valley.
The talk has been organized by the banned Kashmir University Students Union (KUSU). Valley’s highest seat of learning is unusually reverberating with pro-freedom and anti-election slogans as university officials from a distance gaze at the emotionally charged group of students.
The varsity, which has always been critical of student politics, especially those espousing the anti-establishment sentiment did not act against the student meet this time surprising even the organizers of the event.
“We did not face much resistance from the university administration in organizing the student talk however the posters put up by KUSU were torn down,” a senior member of the proscribed union said.
Kashmir University banned its only student union – KUSU in 2010 after demolishing its office in what was described as a plan to beautify the campus. However, the university union continues to function even if covertly, often making its presence felt through press statements and protest gatherings.
The student talk titled “Discourses beyond Elections in Jammu & Kashmir” was organized to apprise the students about “ill effects” of poll participation on Kashmir conflict as per the pamphlet distributed by KUSU among the students.
Dozens of speakers including female students while addressing the student meet in unison decried the elections calling the poll process a “sham” and “farce.” Each speech ended with a chorus of pro-freedom and anti-India slogans.
While speaking on the occasion, Ayesha, a post-grad student in the university castigated India for equating the elections with referendum. “India seems to be drawing a lot of glitter and pride from the ongoing polls but it should know the poll process can never be answer to our sentiments of freedom,” she said.
Another student Iqra while talking on the occasion said Kashmiris have lost their identity under “Indian occupation”, adding, “it is the responsibility of the youth to stand up against the elections and occupying power.”
“These are the young voices of Kashmir. Due to conflict in the region student activism has not been able to flourish. The state clamps on everything that challenges its authority,” Aijaz Ahmad, a youth who was among the gatherers told Kashmir View.
“All places in the world have four seasons in a year, we have another called bloodshed season,” cried a speaker drawing applause from the student crowd.
While strongly criticizing the intellectual community of Kashmir Valley, another student Junaid Ashraf while addressing the jam-packed audience of students said the “so-called intellectuals” had given nothing to the society “but only their arrogant faces.”
“We have failed to devise any new strategies for our goal of freedom. Azadi cannot be achieved by mere emotional sloganeering and strikes.” Ashraf said.
While the student union continues to remain banned since 2010, several mainstream parties in recent years have made a foray in the campus with their own student bodies. While Chief Minister announced the formation of National Conference Student’s Union (NCSU) in 2012, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi raised many eyebrows in 2011 by launching the state chapter of its student wing – National Students’ Union of India in the varsity.
However the ban seems to have done little to the KUSU that continues to exist despite the university curbs. “The sentiment has kept has alive. We meet every fortnight to channelize the sentiments of students and discuss the issues they are facing,” a senior member of the union, said adding the KUSU had representatives from all departments of the university. He wished not to be named in the report for fear of repercussions from the university administration.