An Open Letter to Prof. Amita Singh from Kashmiri Students in JNU: Concerned Kashmiri Students in JNU

Guest Post by Some Kashmiri Students in JNU – See the End of the Post for Names

“Jab kendra main sarkar kamzor ya undecided hogayi to aap ko pata hai ki akhri dinoon main Manmohan Singh ji kuch ni kar rahe thei. State agencies koi kaam ni kar rahi thei. … Usi period main ye sab ghusein hain, jo Kashmiri militants hain aur ye saare hain. Ye usi period main in tatvoon ka yahan par entry hogaya hai. Varna JNU ki history main kabhi bhi is qism ki naare-baazi nahin hui. … anti-national matlab aisi naare-baazi jo desh ki akhandta  aur samprabuta  kei upar prashan chin uthayey. Aise kabhi naare-baazi nahin hui thi.”

When the government at the centre was weak and undecided, as you recall was the case in the last days of Manmohan Singh’s rule, no state agencies were doing their work…it was at that time that all these Kashmiri militants found their way in here (to JNU). It was in that period that these elements made their entry. Otherwise, at no time in JNU’s history have we heard this kind of sloganeering – of the anti-national type, meaning the kind of sloganeering that brings the akhandta, the inviolate integrity and samprabhuta/sovereignty of the country into question. This kind of sloganeering never happened before

(An excerpt from Prof. Amita Singh’s interview to the Uttar Pradesh Patrika newspaper, transcribed from its youtube upload) 

Dear Prof. Amita Singh,

The above quote is to remind you about the prejudiced, baseless, and ill-founded allegations against Kashmiri students made by you. In your clarification (through media), you claimed that “the interview was an informal one” and that you were not aware of it being put on a website.

[though when the interviewer explicitly asks whether he should switch off the recorder and have her views ‘off the record’, Prof. Singh, breezily dismisses any need to make the discussion ‘off the record’ suggesting that she would say very much the same, if asked, on a live TV programme. – Kafila. To listen to the unedited footage of the interview watch this youtube upload posted by Uttar Pradesh Patrika]

The fact of the matter is not whether it was an “informal” conversation rather it is about the views you hold. The more important question is regarding the ignominious views which you seem to uphold (regarding Kashmiri Muslims, Muslims in general and Dalits).

For some time now while the attacks from outside have continued unabated (be it the RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya’s label for JNU as a “anti-national block,” Subramanyam Swami´s suggestion to establish a “Anti-Narcotics Bureau Campus Branch to raid dorms and arrest Naxals and Jehadis” or the recent Rajasthan episode where four Kashmiri students were arrested for allegedly cooking beef (read mutton) on campus).

What is more worrisome is the attacks by some from within the university especially on the  Kashmiri, Muslim and Dalit students.  By questioning our ability to secure admissions on the basis of merit through due processes of the University, you have insinuated that we have militant links that have been exploited to secure admissions. You blatantly make the “failure of UPA government and state agencies” as the cause of our “infiltration” into JNU, as if entrance examinations, Viva voce and interviews were beyond us to crack. You further accuse us of being the beneficiaries of monetary assistance provided by certain “agencies” who also sponsor our “whiskey parties at Pathasarthy”. Continuing with your communal branding you abruptly dismiss the seriousness of academic work that we do and accuse us of not being able to defend our work academically and rather by bullying. “viva ke liye jati hun Jamia , yeh log to galiyan martey hain.” You have also enunciated that you are scared of visiting places like Jamia because Kashmiri students are most in number there.

Dear ma’am, we would like to inform you that while we are argumentative and politically sensitive, we are also the most hospitable people you will ever meet. It would be no exaggeration to say that Kashmir is most known for its hospitality. Even if you do not want, we would force feed you kehwa and wazwan if you ever visit our houses in Delhi/Kashmir or Jamia. We insist you to actually visit these places and then confirm if your reductionist logic of branding innocent students and Kashmiri people in general as “militants” is if at all justified. While we agree that you are entitled to hold a certain political and ideological position on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, what we don´t appreciate is the furthering of stereotypical construction of entire Kashmiri student community on the basis of your parochial political ideology.

Your spate of irresponsible conjectures doesn’t end with just Kashmiris and you bring in Bijnor (which you mistakenly think is the home town of Umar Khalid) by branding it as “terrorists ka gadda”. Have you forgotten how Muslim youth have been unjustly targeted and incarcerated for decades on the mere basis of suspicion? To give you a recent example, Amir, a Muslim from Batla House, Delhi was imprisoned for fourteen years and let out when nothing was proven against him. This is a mere speck of how Muslim youth are reduced to their immediate identities through incessant media and public trials. Along with this you also attempt to demean the struggle for social justice of marginalized communities by reducing it to mere “grudges”. This undermining of the struggle against humiliation of marginalized students and their rightful demand for a life of dignity is highly condemnable and amounts to being criminally oblivious of the oppression that they have to face by both the state and the society.

We hope you understand that as an academic institution JNU needs to talk about the uncomfortable questions and extend solidarity to those who have been left out from what we commonly call the “mainstream.” We need to also work towards creating a viable and favourable academic culture where even the questions that seem provocative should be discussed and made part of our conversations, debates and dialogues. We hope that you realise the fact that propagating such views has dangerous repercussions. You should be held accountable for creating a hostile environment for Kashmiris, Muslims and Dalits who are at the receiving end of this onslaught.

Concerned Students from Kashmir in JNU

Altaf, Arshi, Fayaz, Gulzar, Khalid, Komal, Mudasir, Mudasir, Mutahar, Muzaffar, Raees, Sana, Shazia, Urfan, Zeeshan, Zoya

18 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Prof. Amita Singh from Kashmiri Students in JNU: Concerned Kashmiri Students in JNU”

  1. First of all any media posting of the nature of a public trial as this one is based upon conjectures on which a decision has already been taken but a target is required for justifying exemptions for a ‘questionable ideology’ from any critical scrutiny!

    Second, do not try to make a disjuncted private conversation doctored on many fronts a basis for media trials. Irrespective of the so called comments highlighted out of context let me be very clear on the following points;
    1. I condemn the sloganeering which was anti-India and which has projected and misguided less knowledgeable people(internet browsing community) about the Constitutional status of Kashmir. Kashmir remains an integral part of India and any agitation, noise and public mobilization within JNU Campus which rationalizes itself as ‘Kashmir nationalism’ would be despised, scorned and prohibited. This invokes university’s responsibility towards the safety of other students including those from Kashmir who may not like to participate or share such a militant ideology.
    2. The Kashmir students at JNU receive all benefits which other students receive. The university makes no discrimination, yet they have not come out in public to condemn the anti-India sloganeering, abuse and disrespect for India’s integrity and sovereignty. Even a soft public statement that ‘they are neither part of it nor do they support this disrespect towards this country’ could have been a good peace building initiative. By not doing it they have only put the rest of the non-politicized, academically inclined students from Kashmir at public disrepute and risk. This is enough to expose the mischievous intentions of the JNUSU leadership acting as a spokesperson of students from that region. This leadership wishes to divide the Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri students by failing to condemn the unfortunate and blatant incident.
    3. For a teacher, ‘students are students’ and not ‘Kashmiri or any other branded discriminating package…’. I wish that every student who comes to the university moves out with superior skills, an economic status and public honor as soon as possible. I am ready to spend any amount of time and effort to bring new positions, new opportunities and new directions to the university. Do participate in these efforts, complete your PhDs and move out to enjoy the blessings of life. I do not wish to see at any point, any of my student getting stuck up in an agitation where he/she becomes a fodder for ideological Big Machines sucking up innocence, wisdom and ability to think for oneself. At the end ‘Leader is the only beneficiary’ but for others only the ruffage of the brimming young energy remains which is subsumed into a permanent slavery for the Big ideological Machines. As a teacher this misuse of a bright youngster is distressful.
    Instead of mobilizing on a Don Quixote battle concentrate on the virtues of opportunities which come your way in JNU.

    1. Madam, the person doing the public trial is you. No one is making any conjectures here, other than yourself. You make a sweeping generalization that the Kashmiri student in JNU have ‘entered’ the campus – “When the government at the centre was weak and undecided, as you recall was the case in the last days of Manmohan Singh’s rule, no state agencies were doing their work…it was at that time that all these Kashmiri militants found their way in here (to JNU). It was in that period that these elements made their entry.” These are your exact words. And they are not being quoted out of context, not being edited, not being filtered, or doctored, here at all. The post gives a link to the entire, unedited recording of your words. You make egregious remarks about Kashmiri and Dalit students, you say things that have no bearing on facts – You make the accusations, and when the prejudice inherent in those accusations becomes public – you play the victim. It is absolutely transparent that the initiative for a media trial was taken by you when you uttered these words, knowing their public import.

      2. Why should any Kashmiri student in JNU or otherwise have to ‘apologize’ for the slogans of ‘barbed’ and ‘tukde’. IF apologies are required, then they are required only of those as yet unknown individuals, who are not JNU students (they could be anybody, and we are not certain about who they are, or even if all, or any of them are Kashmiri) who made those unfortunate statements. Why should you, or anyone, assume that simply because you think that the students who wrote this open letter are Kashmiri, and that the individuals who uttered those two particular objectionable slogans might have been Kashmiri, that there is any necessary overlap or congruence between these two sets of people. I am an Indian Passport holder, so is Narendra Modi. Does it follow, that therefore, I have to apologize for every disaster unleashed by Modi. Do we expect any average Indian, Hindu student, in JNU or anywhere else to ‘apologize’ for the disgusting, violent filth that the ABVP puts out as slogans on occasion. No we don’t. We don’t, because we do not see the ABVP as ‘representative’ in any way. Similarly, why should any Kashmiri student, have to feel that those who gave the two specific objectionable slogans – again, only to do with ‘barbadi’ and ‘tukde’, represent them in any way. By implying that they do, it is you, again who is making the easy logical fallacy of seeing representation, in a situation, where in fact there is none. It is you who is creating the generic category of the essentializable Kashmiri student. If that is not prejudice, and naked bias, I do not know what is.

      3. Students do not get themselves ‘caught up in agitations’ without reason. Here, and in The Hyderabad Central University, it is university administrations that are being provocative, taking initiatives to mark out and be punitive towards students without reason. It is absolutely within the rights of students to mark an occasion that they wish to remember by gathering with their friends and to read poetry, or to screen a film. It is the ABVP, that actually interferes and disturbs this normal process. It is they who involve the university administration, which then takes punitive action, and involves the police. The first salvo, in JNU, and in HCU was fired by the right wing student organizations in cahoots with the university administration and the police apparatus. You cannot pretend it was otherwise. It was they who created the ‘disturbance’ in the first instance. So your advice to students not to be ‘agitational cannon fodder’ is better served in that direction. It does not apply to the students who wrote this ‘open letter’.

        1. I have written elsewhere in Kafila that I categorically condemn two specific slogans – ‘bharat ki barbed tak Jang rahegi, jang rahegi’ and the ‘bharat ke tuckde hongey hazar, inshallah, inshallah’ – because these are calls to war and destruction. I think that whosoever raised these slogans should reflect on the damage that their voicing does. i think they call for introspection.Just as I think those Indian nationalists who say ‘Kashmir Mangoge to Cheer Dengey’, or the ‘…goliyon se aarti’ slogan should also introspect on their unquestioned call for war and violence. I do not agree with calls to war, no matter who gives them, and in the service of which nation. When it comes to war, I am against war, and I am absolutely, categorically sure that it is better to be anti-national, than to be pro-war. And I don’t care which Nation, India, or Kashmir, we are talking about.

          However, I do not have any objections to calls for ‘Azadi’ for Kashmir. Or any slogan that condemns, or questions, the execution of Afzal Guru. So, I am not saying, like you think I am, that there were no ‘anti-national’ slogans raised on the 9th of February.I have heard Kanhaiya saying that he condemns all ‘anti-national’ slogans. I am not going to condemn all the slogans that you call ‘anti-national’. You might call the ‘Azadi’ slogans, ‘anti-national. You might call the slogans criticizing or questioning the execution of Afzal Guru – ‘anti-national’. You will certainly call the ‘Barbadi’ and ‘Tukde’ Tukde’ slogans, again, ‘Anti-National’. Of these three kinds of slogans that you might call ‘anti-national’, I condemn only the last kind. Not the first two kinds. I am perfectly willing to morally and ethically justify ‘anti-national’ slogans, if I agree with their substance. And I am perfectly willing to strongly condemn them if I don’t. For me, ethics is a far more important thing than nationalism. Where my ethics contradict the imperatives of nationalism, I will choose ethics, any day. I hope that answers your question.

      1. This is not the first time the term ‘militant’ is used in relation to JNU. JNU has been referred to as the oasis for Maoists and Naxalites several times. Not just by outsiders but internally by JNU students who choose not to get involved politically. No one needs to explain the relation between terms like militant, naxalites, maoists. JNU students need to understand each other better if one section is so surprised by the views and words of their peers. Also, as a reminder –
        Were these ‘concerned students’ part of this? “Hindustan ho Barbaad”, “India Down Down”, “India Go back” – are these slogans any different from the ones you condemn Shuddhabrata Sengupta?

    2. Prof Singh,
      I’m a student of JNU, and you will possibly even know me from the animal saviour group that you run. I recently quit the group, specifically because I simply could not tolerate the way you have been making sweeping statements, no matter the damage it caused.
      If you remember, some of us in the same group have been constantly problematising your insistence on posting anti-beef consumption posts. That your statistics were out of context in the case of India and beef consumption was the most wateted down, non-political argument we made. Even then, I remember your aggressive manner of displaying a certain part of the Muslim community as more ‘appreciable’ because they defended the cow and did not eat beef. For you at that point, beef consumption or the abstinence from it was the mark of a lower and higher kind of human being.
      The second instance where I personally waged a literal war in the group was when you posted the Boycott Kerala posts. And in a discussion that followed, mentioned how “sad” the people of Kerala were because of the lack of milk and curd. This was ostensibly related to the region’s famous penchant for being beef consumers. Again you showed a marvelous lack of sensitivity towards even the Malayalis and/or beef consumers in the group that you constantly claim was above ‘such petty politics’. More than that you displayed an absolute disregard for either factual truths and argumentative nuancing, both basic qualities one would expect in a professor, that too of legalities, from an institute as esteemed as JNU.
      Your interview, and now this reply to the letter, for me at least is one more display of your lack of concern for people who might hold different views from yours and the way you tend to bulldoze over criticism and questions through more problematic and sweeping statements under the guise of a higher purpose.
      As a parting note, Professor Singh, kindly refrain from trying to create the binary of politically non-inclined as academic and good vs politically inclined as non-academic and irresponsible. The mere fact that we have and are entitled to have, express and defend our own thoughts is the act of being political. It’s the ultimate act of academics and a higher sense of the self in the context of the world.

      1. You seem to be an opportunist settling your personal grudges from some animal saviour group, unrelated to this matter here. As an outsider and an animal activist myself, I can tell you that everyone has a different reason for protecting animals and it is a selfless act, as there is no vote bank politics involved. Just because her reason doesn’t appeal to you doesn’t mean she can’t hold that view. You did the right thing by leaving the group and that was your way of opposing. To draw the conclusion that one is insensitive to malyalis because one is against cow slaughter is wrong. I’m sure any group has a number of issues and not supporting the group on one matter while choosing to stay firm on one’s opinion doesn’t imply one is against the group, malyalis/beef consumers in this case.

  2. dear mam, how you can say they are the kashmiris. even police has not been able to identify them. the report of the kejriwals enquiry has also said that some videos has been doctored. you can’t identify the people by physical features. may be they would have been the people of abvp goons to get political mileage which they tried their best but failed.

  3. Prof. Amita Singh underlines a brand of opinion making that has been the hallmark of a totalirarian and absolutist political regime – where disagreement or refusal to confirm is declared as an overture against the nation state itself, where sentiment of nationalism becomes far more important than humanism and democracy. Her majoritarian assumptions are simply saddening.

  4. Amita ji, you say that for you ‘a student is a student’, yet you refer to Umar as being different from other students because he is from Bijnore, and you refer to Shehla as being different on account of her ‘strong Kashmiriyat’. I would like to know what you mean by ‘Kashmiriyat’. Why is ‘Kashmiriyat’ a bad thing? How is it a bad thing, compared to, say, ‘Biharipan’? Why should a Kashmiri student be ‘accused’ of ‘Kashmiriyat’? Why did you, a teacher, single out Shehla by name even when you were not asked about her by the interviewer? I would really like to know, and have no other forum where I can ask you this. I hope you will reply.  

  5. The weird views on Kashmir by even scholarly persons stresses the need for open debate on the systematic oppression of minorities, dalits, adivasis, Maoists, …. all over again from the hanging of Maqbool Bhatt, Afzal Guru, Yakub Menon, Kasav, and detentions for years the innocent and torturing of tribals and their supporters like Kobad Gandhy ,Dr. Saibaba and others. Dominant propaganda of one mainstream ideology is leading to trampling of other ideology and point of view. While the notion of Kashmiri’s and Maoists being anti nationalists harangued vociferously by the media and mainstream politicians, the true cause of the rise of opposition to neo – colonial capitalism is not explained to the public due to lack of viable communication network and draconian laws stalling the spread of such views. As such, the views of ruling classes are easily spread while the views countering the official version are nipped in the bud. JNU is a prime example of this suppression.

  6. Thank you Prof Amita Singh for laying what is happening threadbare. Of course everyone knows who those students were. I have not even lived in Delhi, and I know half of them from Jamia through facebook posts on various J&K groups notably Moderate Voice of J&K where they routinely froth their Islamist bile. Half of them went into hibernation after the episode and only a few have resurfaced on facebook since. Thanks for confirming that.

  7. After listening to the entire audio, it is believable that this is an informal private conversation. She says ‘sab bol rahein hai, tv pe ja kar bol rahein hain’ which is true, so recording hearsay shouldn’t be an issue. Kanhiya, Shehla, Umar are household names now and several people strongly believe they are anti-nationals…is she being singled out because she dared to say this on JNU campus? What is national or anti national can be debated, but if Kanhaiya is out on interim bail and being called an infection by the judge, then it is established that the legal opinion is that he was associated with some form of anti-national activity. In spite of that, she refers to him more as a silly student without much depth, training or negative intentions. She refers to Umar and Shehla as people with strong ‘kashmiriyat’ but does not say Kashmiriyat is a bad thing. Again, for a conversation of this nature, it is completely all right because Shehla openly declares she is from Kashmir and shares how her experience being a Kashmiri gave her a violent image of India, and Umar is supposed to be the organizer of the much-criticized Afzal Guru function, Azaadi slogans etc. Associating them with Kashmir or kashmiriyat is obvious…and someone rightly said above that it is no different from ‘biharipan’ etc. The interviewer tells her that he has heard of foreign funding, which is already in the news, and asks her for proof which she says she doesn’t have. She adds that some local person showed her whiskey bottles somewhere on campus and said that was how the money was being spent. If the majority of students are economically underprivileged, it is not abnormal to draw a conclusion that liquor was being paid for by someone else. Again, if condom usage on JNU campus is in the news, why is this offending people? She talks of people at Jamia openly and fearlessly expressing their views on Kashmir and says that annoys her. Is she not entitled to saying the same thing that so many Indians are saying in every corner of the country? She obviously did not start #ShutdownJNU, instead, she says that the number of people behind such activities on campus are limited. Who are these people? She doesn’t take names but the ones out in the open are Ayesha Kidwai, Umar, Shehla Rashid etc. This is not confidential information. It is for everyone to see and draw their own conclusion. Regarding Bijnor being mistakenly considered Umar’s hometown – wasn’t that his friend’s hometown? She mixed up! But then talks about how Bijnor has a slaughterhouse and the local Muslims don’t speak against it, whereas the Muslims of Sambhal do. So it is not a Muslim issue. It’s an issue of cow protection in Bijnor, which is a challenge. It is no secret for anyone working in cow protection, or for animal rights, that a majority of Kasais are Muslim. Bijnor has otherwise also been in the news for terror activities, and those from the area can give stories on how their domestic helpers, drivers etc. were recruited by local agencies that took them to Kashmir to work for militant organizations. Shouldn’t someone from JNU be interested in doing some research around this? Yes, propagating ones thoughts to steer public opinion in a certain direction that can incite violence is wrong. Organizing groups of people with hate speeches is wrong. Talking to someone across the table in ones office, repeating common perceptions or sharing personal experiences is definitely not wrong. Freedom of speech cannot be one sided. It is tough to overlook the fact that something as trivial as this informal conversation warranted condemnation by JNUTA, when Kanhaiya out on interim bail is still being hailed as a hero. This is not an issue of national interest or of discrimination against a particular community as it is being projected, but clearly an attempt to politicize a non-issue and stifle a voice that does not align with JNU’s conventional ways.

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