Starting a campaign for students’ politics in Kashmir varsities, Peoples Conference (PC) chairman Sajad Lone on Saturday questioned the rationale behind allowing Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi to do campus politics in the state while banning students’ politics.
“The so-called youth icon Rahul Gandhi is allowed to do politics on Kashmir University campus but locals are barred. When Rahul can do why can’t I?” said Lone, while making public the party’s students wing, Peoples Student Union (PSU), in Srinagar.
In September last year, Rahul made his maiden visit to Kashmir University (KU) and interacted with 1200-odd students. After his visit, the youth Congress set a record registration of around 25,000 members in its drive last year, a quantum jump from mere 500 cadre base in a state highly dominated by regional parties like the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party.
“The authorities ensured Congress’ student wing, NSUI, open offices and do campus recruitment. Unfortunately, otherwise, students’ politics is banned in Kashmir to stunt evolution. If students are kept away from politics, it’s a recipe for disaster. The absence of elections at KU is an indictment of democracy,” said Lone, who unsuccessfully contested the 2008 parliamentary elections from his native village Kupwara in north Kashmir.
The PC’s union, he said, will be an off campus organization and reform oriented, with main thrust on academic excellence.
“Leadership needs to be a function of evolution and not dynastic succession. It’s time Kashmir embark on a journey towards evolution, choosing to shun dynastic politics,” said Lone, who is preparing to foray into upcoming local bodies’ polls.
Appealing to parents to abandon “penny wise pound foolish approach”, Lone, son of slain separatist icon Abdul Ghani Lone, said, “Nobody from outside will clear up socio-economic and political mess created by us. Students deserve to be part of policy making and planning, which is going to script their tomorrow.”
Lone accused the Kashmir varsity authorities of creating hurdles in the way of students joining his party.
“My union president Shafaat Siddiqui was barred today from joining PC function by illegally detaining him at the varsity,” alleged Lone.
According to Siddiqui, KU’s proctor warned him of expulsion in case he indulges in active politics on campus.
“Democracy cannot be selective. If elections are held to assembly and panchayats, what is stopping the government from holding university polls for political evolution?” asked Lone, who also threatened to take legal course to push for “democratization and free politics in Kashmir varsities.”
At present, among three varsities in the Kashmir valley, only Islamic University of Science and Technology allowed students elections, for the first time, last year. But students’ politics is not banned in Jammu region, where there is no secessionism sentiment prevalent.