“Are the stone pelters real heroes? Discuss.” Hundred marks?

Noor Mohammed Bhat, a college lecturer in Srinagar, who decided to get creative with the English examination paper. Amongst his essay topics: “Are the stone pelters real heroes? Discuss.”

It also asked students to translate this Urdu-language text into English: “Kashmir is burning once again. The warm blood of youth is being spilled like water. Police and soldiers are beating even small children to death. Bullets are being pumped into the chests of even girls and women. People in villages and towns are crying in pain. Rulers continue to be in a deep slumber. It appears they’ve turned dumb, deaf and blind.” [Associated Press]

Although the AP report linked above says he has been charged with promoting secession, it’s not clear if he’s been charged with sedition. Kashmir Dispatch reports say he’s been charged under section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Ironically, the college where Bhat taught (he’s already been sacked) is named after Gandhi. Univesity spaces in Kashmir are heavily controlled to prevent political expression and student unions are banned. So much so that when Kashmiri students see campus politics at the Jawaharlal University in Delhi, they often remark that they are seeing for the first time what freedom looks like!

Meanwhile, Rohini Hensman says Kashmiris should not have azadi until they ask India and Pakistan for azadi in equal measure, or something like that.

30 thoughts on ““Are the stone pelters real heroes? Discuss.” Hundred marks?”

  1. I can understand why he would be fired, but I cannot understand why he would be arrested. While I (or most of us) would not share Mr. Bhat’s point of view, putting him in jail for it is an act of a repressive state, not a free society.

    n our constitution – but by the way we behave whenever someone says anything we don’t like shows that we really don’t value our freedoms too much. We see the state as a provider of security and welfare, instead of protector of our freedoms and champion of constitutional values. It is sad to see society favor repression instead of freedom.

  2. I do not feel that this teacher should have been either fired or arrested. (Just as I do not feel that the Prof. Joseph of Kerala, Muvattupuzha, whose hand was chopped off by Islamic fundoos should have then been expelled by the Chistian mangaement of his college).

    But as for his ‘exercise’ being ‘creative’, I would tend to disagree. Those teachers are creative, who guide their students to look at things from different perspectives, and thus to search for the truth and to sense its rich possibilities in enhancing human culture.
    Perhaps the desparate situation in Kashmir does not allow that. To arrest teachers and crush them because they are critical of the State, is to expose the insecurity of that state. That is the tragedy of Kashmir. The would-be democratic state is insecure in its democratic institutions. The would-be liberators feel they cannot afford dissent and difference.

    1. So where would you draw the line between classroom teaching and political activism ? In this case he is clearly going way way beyond his job description. The students signed up for a course in English not in a course for Kashmir Conflict 101.

      It is not the task of a teacher to guide the students to look from a different perspective. To expose them to different perspectives – yes, to teach them to think critically on their own – yes. To use the classroom to further ones personal political agenda – definitely not.

      1. Aristocratic Radical, the point is that routine normalizing of the Indian state passes for neutrality in classrooms all over India, when in fact, even to simply state “Kashmir is an integral part of India” is a highly politically loaded statement, not one of simple fact. As a teacher I know that bias is suspected and alleged only when alternative viewpoints to dominant commonsense are presented as at least equally valid, never when that commonsense is confidently purveyed as objective truth.
        In this specific case, the English language skills of the students were being tested – of expression, of translation etc. Any passage provided for these purposes would have had some locally relevant meaning unless they were passages with no relevance to the Indian context at all, which in my opinion, would have been worse. So, if the passages had said “Kashmiri youth are misguided…etc” or “India is the largest democracy in the world extending from Kanya Kumari to Kashmir”, would that have been any more “neutral”? Some agenda or the other is always being fostered through curricula and syllabi and classrooms. I dont see anything at all objectionable in the passages set by Bhat. But mera kya, I’m no insecure state.

        1. Clearly in this case it was a stunt – and the person who set the question knew what kind of controversy it would create. People in kashmir think and talk about these things all the time – it’s not that he is putting forth a radically new thought into the discourse.

          This was what some students actually thought about the stunt – for some reason it is hilarious.
          “First we thought this was a new technique by (intelligence) agencies to trace what the youth are thinking and a trap for us,” said Mubashir Ahmed, one of the students. “I was apprehensive but I finally answered the questions.”

          You talk of rights of teachers to teach what they like – but students have rights too. Especially when the participation in the course is compulsory not voluntary. Clearly the teacher was crossing a line, that went way beyond his job description. If it were a free market and students free to choose their teachers and courses, then there would be no issue, but it is clearly not the case. In our current educational paradigm classroom is not the place for polarizing political debates, more so when the teacher holds strong biases. These debates have to find other venues.

          You would have had a completely different reaction if someone would have used an exam question to put forward the case for hindutva. You may think that subversive discourse in classroom is a good thing – but it really is a double edged sword.

  3. Another way of achieveing the equal amonunt of subversion would have been to eulogise the establishment and appreciate it for all that it has done this summer. I think they would still arrest the lecturer for being ironical!

  4. your last sentence begins with the word Meanwhile…let me (dis)locate this word in your post. you know quite well that rohini is against repression of any sort…but you have placed the word “meanwhile” very cunningly.
    to show honesty( as a display, in a fleeting manner) you have given the link to rohini’s essay… instead of arguing with her on the nature of identity-politics, meaning of azadi, and the consequential meaning of deed and doer(some of the points raised in her well-argued essay), you have resorted to a very shallow, superficial,dismissive method of presenting a name, and the idea attached to it has been thrown at the readers without any head or tail. if you have arguments against her essay why don’t you come out with them(because she has criticized your views in her essay). perhaps, you are thinking, or SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

  5. “In future all teachers of KU should set papers on current situation like that. That Kashmir is heaven on earth. Dal is only Lake in the world. Chief Minister of JK is as powerful as president of United States. That forces in summer 2010 did not fire on protesters. That year 112 youth died of heart attack. That all is well in Kashmir. If you divert from the line, be ready to face unlawful activities act.” Naseer Ganai -(elsewhere)

  6. shivam, my point is simple.
    rohini, including me, and many others are against state-repression, custodial killings, and multiple undemocratic acts going on in the name of law, order, and security. however, when you bring up rohini’s article in such a foxy manner, it shows your intentions are sneaky. why don’t you respond in an elaborate way? why are you indulging in an underhanded trick?

  7. I stand by Shivam’s underhanded challenge rather than Rohini’s overhanded conservatism.

    1. i am really glad to meet someone who considers,inter alia, an attack on geelani’s two-nation theory as overhanded conservatism, and underhanded trick as an underhanded challenge: am i being sarcastic? i am always prepared to have a dialogue with someone who uses terms in a different way as opposed to their established meanings. manash, i hope i can enter your world of new things,meanings, signs, their denotata, exemplification and antecedent. or, do i need to present a password with names of certain semioticians who deal with semantics, syntactics, and pragmatics?

      1. by the way, manash, i am being sarcastic if somehow you concluded otherwise(are you the same jnu guy, i used to know?). shivam please do not delete– this much is expected.

  8. Shivam, one thing I could not understand is why I have to agree to an oppressor to oppose another oppressor or support a fundamentalist to oppose another kind of fundamentalism.
    Indian state with its shameful record of human rights, by principle at least, allows a discussion on azadi to take to place on its capital – may be reluctantly, may be to portray a democratic and humane face to the world, and may be this is only a pretension, but in its pretension, it has to provide a little democratic space for debate at least in the capital and big cities that allows a mass opinion to be formed for withdrawing the autocratic acts of barbarism. Considering the idea of ideal state of Geelani, his state certainly would not have any of these, not even the pretensions. Why shall I bring myself to support the most blatant, unashamed and naked form of fundamentalism which at its ideal best would be thousand times worse that the current state like bird getting entangled in its trap more and more in its blind attempt to free itself?

  9. shivam( and manash),
    i really, really, really fail to understand why you people are not presenting a critique of rohini’s ideas (if you have one). “i stand by…” is a declaration, which is neither analytical nor explanatory. furthermore, it completely misrepresents her political position. by the way, i hold no brief for anyone. specifically, in this instance, mine is a logical standpoint problem,which is related to critical praxis that is limited to the language of ideas. i find this to be missing because of some strange refusal to engage with her, while at the same time political judgement is being passed (on her ideas). In effect, you are passing judgement on a void because her ideas have not been refuted or negated in the form of a systematic and structured argument!

    Put differently,this is what is happening: without questioning her ideas, you are questioning her ideas! without writing against her political position, you are against her politics! she writes a detailed essay to present her political views, you drop a dismissive one-liner!

    Her ideas, as you seem to imply, are so insignificant that they do not deserve a comprehensive analysis; then, the question is: why are you commenting on her? but, at the same time you provide the link to her essay—-without presenting a critique of that essay, this is an inauthentic move on your part.

    Moreover, such noticeable lack of rigour in social, political discourse is unsustainable.

    1. geelani has openly told yoginder sikand that hindus and muslims are separate nations. this is a fascist idea, just like the idea of a hindu rashtra. and anybody who supports geelani is supporting a fascist ideologue. this is very disturbing, to say the least.
      that is why i am insisting on shivam’s clarification.

        1. shivam, i have read that, and i know that you are no supporter of fascist ideology. but your liking/momentary appreciation of geelani is quite evident in that post. one has to fight against people like geelani from the start, and provide no credibility to such people. for example, i have always condemned/critiqued vajpayee while many on the ‘left’ and ‘liberal’ side of the fence kept calling him “statesman”– a person who was asking for national debate on conversion when nuns were being raped and the staines were burnt alive!! similarly, tagore shaking hands with mussolini or bose with hitler: both have to be condemned in no uncertain terms. one has to consistently argue against people like geelani, advani, modi, togadia etc. even if one finds that the majority is with them. as far as i am concerned, this is a non-negotiable principle. i sincerely suggest kevin passmore’s book titled”fascism”(OUP) to comprehend the complex nature of right wing movements. moreover, shivam, to be honest, i cannot write very long responses (like some of you). i can have a discussion over a cup of coffee.

            1. shivam, there is something called reading between the lines. first, i do not know how to “quote” thoughts/words that are expressed between the lines. second, there is an understated, implicit(though sometimes explicit) exegetical reading of textual context and meaning. that is precisely why i said we can discuss this over a cup of coffee. but i think you prefer harder stuff. that is also fine with me.

            2. i choose my words very carefully. i said liking/momentary appreciation(of geelani)is quite evident in your post[consult a dictionary/thesaurus for meanings/synonyms of “evident” and you will understand how i have used it]. and do not delete this comment in case you are feeling embarrassed because that is not my intention. i simply want to clarify the way i place words in my sentences.

  10. I wasn’t supporting any Geelani. People like Geelani weaken the argument from any side. I am simply not interested in the likes of him.
    I just stuck my neck out to defend Shivam questioning Rohini’s theory which I find is nothing but a balancing-act between competing nationalist positions, and is based on democratic presumptions which are not political enough. In other words, I find her arguments based on normative but not radically ethical grounds.
    And this response is general. I prefer not to respond directly to tricky pseudo-nyms.

    1. so, would you refuse to read kierkegaard and pessoa? or, read them but not refer to them, talk about them, or whatever…just wondering.

    2. do you know the real names of ellis bell,acton bell, currer bell, mark twain? do you want more pseudonyms? and hyphenating this last word for someone like me is petty word-play because i can teach joyce to you to increase your level of word-play, if you want(do you know in the 1970s delhi university students used the word “pseudo” or “pseud” for anyone with a beard, a jhola and works of marx?). you don’t seem to be from that crop, so please find out about pseudonyms before you open your gab or your pen and computer. let me give you some biographical details—- whoever you are you know nothing about my political activities which go beyond people like foucault who supported khomeini, while i was actively working against the shah of iran, and khomeini. i was standing by the side of Kate Millett(author of sexual politics) who opposed khomeini while many maoists, and other stalinists supported khomeini. many of my iranian friends were killed and incarcerated by savak, shah’s iranian secret police which was not dismantled by khomeini, but whose name was changed to savama which continued to kill and imprison my friends. i think this much is enough for today.

  11. While I have to find the time to respond to Rohini Hensman’s misrepresentations of my arguments in her Outlookinia.com piece, I am not going to defend and explain the “meanwhile”. To oppose opression but not the mechanisms whose natural by-product is oppression reminds me of the Hindi saying, bhains bhi mar jaye aur lathi bhi na tootaty, to kill the buffalo without breaking the stick. I am not interested in thinking about whether I should label this position as left, right or centre. It’s naivete at best and dishonesty at worst. Please enjoy the scotch.

    1. i prefer to respond to your response to rohini’s essay. and that is logical enough considering that i am ‘pestering’ you to respond to her essay. oppression and its mechanisms are inseparable. i think rohini understands this much. i drink red wine these days.

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