Today, I read about some Kashmiri student who has been charged for creating a nuisance and writing something against India on fb. Obviously, complaints have been made from the right-wing and the culprit has been dealt with!
This encouraged me to tell you all a story about my college days. It has taken me almost 10 years to be able to share this story and be ok with it.
I went to one of the reputed colleges in South India and stayed in one of the famous hostels. I made best of my friends in both. College days always have an impact on a person, mine were amazing because I had the best teachers and I loved studying! I never missed my classes, plus our attendance was compulsory.
During the three most amazing years of my life, I had a very bad incident in my hostel. A then senior from college (wont reveal any names), had a minor discussion with me during our Annual Hostel Day event. I was in second year of my college, and she was in third. I was supposed to sing three different songs, both solo and in groups. Over this small altercation, she was extremely rude to me, and when she left I was stunned with her behaviour. I told my friend, ‘Why did she behave like this, she is such a bitch!!’ These were my exact words. The evening moved on. I sang a Kashmiri song, one of my favourites, ‘Shouq chane waaye’. The Chief guests of the event were an Ex-Air Commodore and his wife. He had served in Kashmir and they both got very emotional and nostalgic with my song. They loved the song and invited me for dinner to their table in our hostel mess. This somehow did not go well with the seniors, who actually were the organizers of the event. I believe now, they wanted the attention I got. I somehow had snatched it from them.
That night, they all (some 10-15people) came to my hostel room and picked up a fight. They asked me why I had called that Senior a Bitch. They abused my family, my homeland, everything they could. This continued for 45mins to an hour. Some of the girls, in the hostel filmed the whole thing. Obviously, I retaliated and said mean things as well. I was being targetted for calling someone a bitch, without her realizing how wrong she was in the first place. When they all left, they stayed in the corridor and abused and shouted and made a huge fuss.
Moments later, the same senior came to my room and broke an egg on the railing of my bed. It made a mess everywhere. Few seconds later, another hostel senior, who was from Christ University, threw an egg at me, which did not hit me, but hit the wall near me and broke on my top, a white kurta with Kashmiri embroidery. I loved that top. I was in a state of shock but full of rage. I went out to the corridor and slapped one of the seniors. All the rest in the corridor attacked me and started to hit me. Some friends jumped in and tried to protect me and one of my roommates called the hostel warden who had gone to the Chapel for dinner. These seniors and also some women from my batch warned me and told me they would spread this, the news and the videos throughout college. I lived alone, away from home, I couldn’t tell my parents. In Kashmir, its a different story, you involve your parents, they blame you and call you home and stop your education. In Kashmir, we are a different level of protective. Thats how it works. I did not tell my family about it for a long time, though my brother knew. I cried until 4am that night, questioning what was my fault!
Next day when I went to college, I approached few of my very close teachers and mentors. I told the entire story. We approached our then Principal and we were promised some action would be taken against them. I heard later they were all summoned and asked to write their account. Obviously, they had decided to say one thing, which everyone would believe—
‘The Kashmiri girl said, Kashmir is not a part of India’
Surprisingly, some of the girls there were from Nepal, who also somehow were fighting for the integrity of India. That was bizarre. I had never said anything against India. They said things against my Kashmiri culture, I said things against their State cultures in retaliation (depending on who asked).
A simple fight in my hostel that had a very big impact on me, was politicized by one coherent sentence. I was then, during my college days, the most APOLITICAL person alive. I never cared about the Kashmir conflict. I never talked about Kashmir. Now, this illicit statement had put my entire ordeal in question. What followed was many such abuses in hostel, they hurled at me, tested my patience, I never retaliated back. I used to be in National Cadet Corps (NCC) those days, they abused my uniform, they abused a cadet’s NCC uniform, which is the biggest Youth Organization in India. Did they actually have any respect for their country? maybe no.
I did not pursue the case because I was defeated by the system. There will be many such examples among us.
I couldn’t change the hostel without informing my parents. For more than a year, I lived in the same hostel, walked through the same corridors where I lay, with a torn kurta, with my blood. This is my story. It changed me in so many different ways but also taught me some important lessons:
1. You know what caused the incident? Jealousy of those women. I often say, its we, women, who bring down other women mostly. We need to learn to support each other and not succumb to pointless jealousy, hatred.
2. It is impossible to please everyone, if you have an opportunity, make most of it. If I had pursued that, I would have affected many peoples’ lives, careers, but I decided not to. My aim in my college was to get ahead in my career and learning, not follow petty distractions. I learnt to channelize my fears and I must say, to a great extent, I have succeeded.
3. I am sure all of them are doing extremely well, but they were not my competition ever. I studied to better myself each day. I am happy for them but I wonder, does it ever occur to them, that they wronged someone’s faith in people?!
4. When I see in news, a Kashmiri student in Dehradun is writing stuff etc on fb and obviously has been handed over to his family, it makes me think, how many of us in Kashmir want to avail this opportunity to study outside the conflict and don’t get it and those who get it, unfortunately, blow it up!
5. We as youth, need to take smart decisions. What do you expect if you disrespect a country you are studying in? With our levels of intolerance in India or Kashmir, we make enemies very fast. Do not put yourself or your families in unnecessary circumstances. Trust me, it isn’t worth it. Focus is paramount in education. Use this opportunity. You are lucky to be there. Your families back home have to go through a lot to sustain you outside Kashmir. Think about the separation from you, what do you think that does to your mothers and fathers back home?
We all need to learn to choose the right battles. At the start of your career, you already have a black mark, this setback will go in your character certificates. And all this for what??