For the first time perhaps in three decades of armed struggle in Jammu and Kashmir, academics at the University of Kashmir on Wednesday unanimously and openly spoke against what they called "state terror on its people" and demanded Plebiscite for a "permanent resolution of the Kashmir dispute."
At its urgently-convened general body meeting, senior as well as junior members of Kashmir University Teachers Association (KUTA) slammed the Governments in New Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir for "unleashing terror on people of Kashmir and turning a blind eye towards their plight."
Historian and Dean of Academic Affairs, Prof Muhammad Ashraf Wani, who was first to speak at the meeting, vociferously called for Plebiscite to "allow people of J&K to choose their way."
"How long shall we (Kashmiris) continue to suffer?" he asked, asserting that "we cannot afford to remain apathetic spectators to this daily bloodshed. Those days are over. It is the first and foremost 'farz' (obligation) of the University teachers to come together and say that we don't want anything anymore than the permanent resolution of Kashmir issue. We have to be given our right to decide our future. Because now lot of blood has flown in Kashmir. Lot of people have turned widows. Lot of people have been killed."
"Don't expect it from bureaucrats or administrators. Our community has to apprise India, Pakistan and other stakeholders about the pressing need of the resolution of Kashmir issue," he said.
Prof Khursheed A Butt from the Department of Commerce said: "We are fighting for our rights. We are asking for our rights which are legal and just."
He said it is important to be careful while using vocabulary vis-à-vis Kashmir. "Separatists are not separatists. They are freedom-fighters. They are fighting the Indian occupation. We are asking for our rights enshrined in the UN Resolutions and as promised by the Indian Union and Pakistan," he said.
He called for continued "debate, discussion, documentation and propagation" in the University, on Kashmir issue. "We have to apprise Indian people in general about the Kashmir crisis. Majority of people in India are very civilized. But the biased Indian media is misinforming them. They forget journalistic ethics before the so-called national interest when it comes to Kashmir," Prof Bhat said, strongly condemning "use of brute force and blinding of people."
Prof MY Ganai from the Department of History, who also spoke on the occasion, also called for resolution of Kashmir issue, from the historical perspective. He also called for repeal of "draconian AFSPA and other black laws."
Prof GM Bhat, Dean of Applied Science, said KUTA must "ascertain the cause of Kashmir imbroglio." He called for constitution of a committee of academics "which even could be a part of Hurriyat Conference" to discuss various issues related to the Kashmir problem. "Kashmir issue has been left unresolved for decades but it cannot be allowed to remain so for long," he said.
Prof Zafar A Reshi from Department of Botany said he was pained to see the death and destruction around. "We can't be oblivious to all this," he said. He however said "our private and public stances don't have to be diametrically opposite but in consonance. KUTA can provide attractive solutions to issues facing the people of Kashmir. We have to ensure that bloodshed is stopped and that some sense prevails in this regard. Even Arun Jaitley has himself admitted that killings don't help the Indian State."
Prof Manzoor Ahmad from Department of Physics said: "Today I feel proud to be part of KU teaching community which has risen to the occasion to condemn civilian killings and blinding and injuring of people."
Referring to one of his acquaintances, Prof Manzoor said he knew a person who would verbally tell you five synonyms of a word. "He was very genius. He joined militancy when he could have been at a much better position than we are. He could have been a better asset than me," he said. "When we would, during early days, come down to Srinagar from Anantnag, Army soldiers would tell us to clean a drain which that feared could house explosives. But today's Kashmir youth won't clean that drain. Such is his commitment."
Others who spoke on the need for Kashmir resolution included Prof Altaf Pandit from Department of Chemistry; Dr Shehnaz of Law Department; Dr Muheet Bhat from Dept of Computer Sciences, Dr Habibullah from Distance Education.
In his address later, Dr M Hussain, President of KUTA, called for end to "state terror on people of Kashmir." He also gave data of people killed, injured and blinded by the government forces.
The KUTA members, after the GB meeting, marched in the University with banners which read: "Repeal AFSPA; No more bullets, no more pellets; Immediate resolution of Kashmir issue."
Prof Manzoor Ahmad Bhat from department of Islamic Studies and Dr Mussavir Ahmad from Department of Linguistics—KUTA vice-president and general secretary respectively—also spoke on the occasion.
After threadbare discussion on the prevailing situation, the members resolved that the political issue of Kashmir, which is taking a huge toll on civilian lives in Jammu and Kashmir and in the region, should be resolved as per the wishes and aspirations of people of the state. The KUTA said it is of the firm opinion that Kashmir is not a law and order problem but a political issue which needs a just political resolution. The KUTA members urged the United Nations and other world countries to impress upon all stakeholders to resolve the Kashmir issue. The members strongly condemned killing, blinding and maiming of Kashmiris and use of brute force on people, and stressed upon international human rights organizations to ensure that these human rights violations are stopped forthwith.
The KUTA members demanded ban on use of pellet guns, pepper grenades and bullets on peaceful protesters and immediate halt to undue harassment, ransacking of properties and witch-hunting of Kashmiri youth day in and day out. They also demanded release of all political prisoners and youth languishing in jails within and outside J&K.
After the general body meeting, all the KUTA members marched in the University and wore black bands as a mark of protest against the terror unleashed on people. They also wore white cloth stripes on their mouths as a mark of protest. Hundreds of teachers participated in the protest march, and vowed to continue to raise their voice against the oppression and repression of people.
The members also condemned and slammed "biased Indian media for its lopsided reporting on Kashmir" and also vowed to donate "one-day salary for next six months to people affected by the ongoing turmoil."