“The popular narrative that is being set is that Kashmiri Muslims must be terrorists and this sort of thing is intended to keep them away from participating in public discourse”, said Shehla Rashid, former Vice President of the JNUSU and an activist, while talking to The Citizen on the recent attacks.

Three days ago, a Kashmiri family of five, including four women residing in southeast Delhi’s Siddharth Colony, was allegedly assaulted by a ‘mob’ of 30- 40 individuals belonging to the colony itself. Armed with hockey sticks and reportedly with an arsenal of anti-Kashmiri slogans, the accused individuals were captured on video and are now facing a police inquiry.

Highlighting the problematic trajectory of this particular issue, Rashid said, “This was a civic issue that evolved out of dog menace and ended with violence against a marginalised community- Muslims and Kashmiris, in one”. Rashid was one of the political activists who visited the family to understand the issue at hand.

In Thursday’s incident, however, the victims alleged that they were targeted because they were Kashmiris.

This is not a case in isolation as over the past few months, a flurry of such ‘hate-crimes’ have surfaced across the country.

May, 2018: A young man from Kashmir was assaulted in Manali, Himachal Pradesh by a group of individuals who were chanting anti-Kashmiri slogans, right a day after the Delhi incident.

February, 2018: Two Kashmiri students of the Central University of Haryana in Mahendragah were allegedly assaulted by 10-15 men on their way back after offering Friday prayers. The students reportedly suffered injuries.

January, 2018: Students of Sher-e- Kashmir University of Agriculture Science and Technology (SKUAST) were harassed by a co-passenger on a train and later by the police in Bhopal. The co-passenger questioned as to why “a large number of these Kashmiri students were travelling”. They alleged that the co-passenger in question clicked a photograph of their five kg gas cylinder. “She tweeted the photograph with a caption ‘Dozens of Kashmiris carrying a bomb in Delhi-bound Bhopal train,” they alleged as reported by The Hindu.

December, 2017: Two brothers from Kashmir were assaulted by reportedly 10 men for not being able to speak in the Kannada language. When the brothers said that they couldn’t speak the language, they were told that they won’t be allowed to leave until they did after which they were assaulted.

These series of incidents against persons of a community raises questions against the nature of crime that is penetrating the society, at large.

As the facts of these cases unfurl, a visible pattern of violence against Kashmiris begins to surface. In a conversation with The Citizen, Suvir Kaul, Professor of Literature at University of Pennsylvania who works on the subject of Kashmir and matters, extensively. “After reading the letter from the Resident Welfare Association, it is evident that the kashmiris are seen as the ‘misfits’ in the resident society and certainly, this incident has taken place because they are ‘misfits’. What we are witnessing is an ugly form of nationalism today and it was reflected in that piece of paper. There is an evident pattern of rising levels of intolerance and motivated anger, motivated in a sense where it is encouraged.”

Highlighting the presence of the larger picture in place, Kaul added, “It is important to understand the spectrum between terrorism and ‘dog’ attack now. There is no question that this issue has a longer history. The use of religious and state origins of these people is the prime reason behind such attacks.”

In another conversation with The Citizen, Dr. Abdul Rahman Ansari, a professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Hyderabad), who specializes in Human Rights and politics, stated “I think the attacks on Kashmiris across the country and particularly in North India is a sign of rising hatred created by deliberate misrepresentation of the issue of kashmir by both the political bosses and the media. The attempt is to create an image of kashmiris as anti-Indian, anti-Hindu fanatics”.

He continued “This is a part of larger political game played by the ruling classes in India to keep people engaged in such issues so that real issues are never raised. Most of the attacks are carried not by common people but by the activists of a particular group or the followers of a particular Ideology. Though the common people might not be participating directly such attacks after vicious campaigns creates sympathies for the attackers among the masses. I think this is the real agenda. The attacks are serving political purpose.”

While the offices of Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Law and Justice and Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi were contacted, the ministers remained unavailable to comment on the issue.

However, Ajay Nanda, Minister of State for law and Justice, Jammu and Kashmir while talking to The Citizen said, “We are completely functioning according to our National Policy of zero tolerance and this extends to this issue as well. The state government has spoken to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to provide police protection to the victims. We will be holding more meetings to discuss the state of affairs. Iss mudde se sakhti se nipta ja raha hai (We are dealing with this matter, strictly)”.

If at all a pattern is being formulated, it is one with sinister outcomes where a section of the society will be made to face the trepidations of a political structure, bolstering its agenda at the expense of the Kashmiri Muslim.

“Unfortunately, being a Kashmiri Muslim tends to hamper the ability to be a full citizen because with every thing you do, there will always be an identity attached to it”, expressed Rashid. She went on to say, “It is not an organic sentiment but one that is being pushed top down on the people by the statements of people in position of power.”

In another conversation with The Citizen, Professor Nivedita Menon of the Jawaharlal Nehru University who specializes in Political Theory stated, “These attacks must be seen as part of the larger devastation wreaked on the idea of India as an inclusive, just and democratic country. This idea was never realized but at least it was an ideal. But with the coming of Hindu Rashtra, the ideal itself is radically different. India in this understanding is only for savarna Hindu men of the Hindibhashi region. All others - Muslims, other minorities, Dalits, anti Hindutva Hindus, independent women, leftists, rationalists - the list is never ending, are to be annihilated or thoroughly suppressed.” She went on to say, “Kashmiris in this understanding represent a combination of the internal enemy, the Muslim as well as the external enemy who challenges India itself. The pattern of such attacks is that they are localised, molecular attacks rather than the kind of organized large scale violence that the Hindutva machine has carried out earlier and is still capable of doing. The utter impunity enjoyed by the attackers is a positve signal for more such. This regime gave the green signal as soon as it came to power, for widespread localized violence by individuals and small vigilante groups. This is one of the key strategies for the actualisation of Hindu Rashtra.”

These series of incidents and the commentary by the experts indicates that there is definitely an identity under attack and that Kashmiris are caught in the “eye of the storm”.

(Cover Photo: A screengrab from a recent incident allegedly showing a mob beating up a Kashmiri family in New Delhi)