‘Student freedom under stress’

Kashmir Magazine

Coming out from the JNU campus, prominent youth leader and former Vice-President JNU Students Union Shehla Rashid on Monday trained guns against the ruling regime Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying she will campaign against the BJP in next elections, slated to be held in the year 2019.


Sheila a graduating in computer engineering from NIT Hazratbal is one of the few Kashmiri women involved in student politics in Delhi has contested the election for Gender Sensitisation Committee against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) in JNU in 2015 which she lost.


In September 2015, she won the election for vice-president’s post of JNUSU as a nominee of the Left-backed All-India Students’ Association (AISA) defeating Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s Valentina Brahma.


In an interview with The Kashmir Magazine, Shehla said that the urgent need is to throw Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) out of power.




How do you see the student protests that lead to the closure of colleges in the Valley?


The voices of students here have been suppressed for long. I have been vocal about the subject in the past as well and I have been always talking about why is student politics not allowed in Kashmir.

These protests are part of it. They are never allowed to express themselves. When we talk about college students, they are either eligible for voting or are about to become eligible. Mainstream politicians at the time of elections keep on saying that youth should come out. But when they come to shape their own discourse, that is not just allowed and that is not fair. Students are not allowed to have a discussion, they not allowed having any elections, they are not allowed to form parties. That is why you see the widespread protests in colleges because students have no other way of expressing themselves.


How do you see girl’s students at the forefront?


This is pretty unprecedented. I recently saw this post, I actually was confused if it was a true or fake news. The girl who was seen pelting stones and later sees with a football said that she is kind of regretting. What I felt at that when I read her statement. All these categories we are being forced into; either you are separatist, or terrorist, nationalist and that doesn’t capture the reality of Kashmir. People who are living here, who have to face disturbance every day, who have to face injustice every day. If New Delhi would you have believed, Republic TV or Times Now, these are the hardened Islamist, ISIS terrorists, But that just is not true. We are forced into these categories where we are pitted against one another. Congress and BJP are united on Kashmir. But we are made to fight against one another. They will pit Shah Faisal against Burhan Wani, now what some of the RSS trolls were doing on Twitter is that Afshan Ashiq against me by saying how is she a nationalist and how I am not. It is all ridiculous. It is State and central government who create such circumstances where students are compelled to come on the street.


I see no way out in the current system. PDP-BJP government is like a marriage between Horse and Donkey which has produced a mule. I see no positive coming.


What is your take on KUSU?


I have written about it earlier. In 2008 their office was dismantled. I think that is a huge injustice. The only fear of the state is that if students would be allowed discussions, they will end up discussing Azadi, that is like an elephant in the room. But let them talk, what is wrong if they talk. RSS talks about changing constitution all the time, they are involved in terror attacks, they talk about the Hindu Raj and that is against the constitution of India. If they are allowed to talk, why are people here labeled as a terrorist?

The fear of the state is that the students will engage in radical politics which is to say Islamist politics. But we have ABVP in all campuses; they indulge in Hindutva politics all the time. Why is that not banned? There should be one standard for everyone. Student elections should be restored and there should be space for intellectual discourse.


The way student protests are handled here, Do you think the situation would have been different in Delhi?


Absolutely, there is no two opinions. It is not that they have not done repression in Delhi. We did face tear gas shells, Water Cannons, and everything. But here the first response is to kill. To shoot at your face and use pallets.


Since you talked about Muslim Identity, Do you think after 70 years of independence, Indian Muslims have to prove loyalty to India?


It is very unfortunate that they have to do that. I feel that partition on the bases of religion was stupid. I don’t believe in the theocratic state because in theocratic state there is no place for the minority. There is hardly any place for women. The Indian Muslims who stayed in India, are Muslims not by chance but by choice. Indian Muslims are a very patient nation. Indian government should actually reward Muslims for not raising a rebellion, the way muslims are being lynched right now. I have cried on occasions. Look at what is happening in Kauthua, People are rallying for Rape and murderers release. But where are you seeing Muslims protesting against lynch mobs?


You are always vocal about minorities and other issues, but why this silence on Kashmir?


So here is a thing. I will tell you why. First of all, I am not silent on Kashmir. I talk about Kashmir all the time. You have to actually carefully go through my speeches, I talk about Kashmir all the time. I talk about Shieikh Abdullah’s legacy all the time. I am somewhere on the left, I don’t deny that. The only way to relate back to my state is Sheikh Abdullah. My ancestors have given their lives during his movement. I come from carpenter cast. People from my family have been the first martyr for the movement.

I talk about how 1987 elections were rigged and why people in Kashmir took arms. Now what I don’t do or avoid doing is speaking in the name of the moment of which I am not part of. I definitely don’t talk about Azadi because I am not the part of that on the ground.


Are you going to contest the election in Kashmir?


See, I am gonna campaign in 2019 elections against BJP and that is my clear purpose. I am going to campaign in 2019 against the BJP and that is my clear purpose. I don’t want money, I don’t want power. I want Narinder Modi gone from power. He is not just oppressing Muslims only but he is oppressing students, Dalits, women, farmers, and poor people. The BJP is the most anti-people government India ever had. Anti-BJP vote is utterly divided right now and we are also talking to all other political parties asking them to ally.

Many of us will end up contesting elections and for that, I need to focus on one constituency but I would also like to make a big change. I am not a member of any political party but I am not averse to joining a party but it has to inspire me.