“I had no idea that the event was an RSS event”

A few students from Mewar University said that the university’s administration had told them that the event was mandatory.

On 7 January 2017, the Constitution Club of India, in Delhi, played host to the Kashmiri Students’ Conference. The press kit for the event described it as “a dialogue on students’ role in nation building.” It was organised by the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), the Muslim wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The MRM was formed in 2002, and identifies itself as “an Indian nationalist Muslim organisation.”

The MRM is headed by Indresh Kumar, a senior RSS leader who has long overseen the Sangh’s efforts in Jammu and Kashmir. Kumar was also the chief speaker at the event. His history with the Muslim community is troubled—according to Swami Aseemanand, the Hindu fundamentalist accused of plotting several terror attacks on Muslims including the Samjhauta Express blasts in 2007 and the Malegaon blasts in 2008, Kumar was one of the senior RSS leaders who encouraged and aided him in the execution of the attacks. This conflicted record notwithstanding, the MRM’s website states that its formation encouraged Muslim intellectuals and leaders to accept the RSS as their “true friend,” and Kumar as “their messiah.” Other guests at the conference included Jitendra Singh, a minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office; and Engineer Aijaz Husain, the head of a non-governmental organisation named Develop Kashmir, which had helped organise the event. (Home Minister Rajnath Singh was slated to be the chief guest, but he did not make an appearance.)

Kashmiri students at the conference—the number of which appeared to be no more than 500, a quarter of the 2,000 that were expected to attend—primarily comprised those from Mewar University, in Chittogarh, Rajasthan, and students invited by NGOs such as Develop Kashmir and Youth Power J&K. Members from these groups, including the university, also made up the organising committee of the event. The press-kit brochure described these groups as “nationalist organisations” that were working “peaceably in the valley to lime light the true voice natives [sic].” A few students from Mewar University said that the university’s administration had told them that the event was mandatory.

Indresh Kumar said in his address that organisations such as the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed and the LET had corrupted Islam in Kashmir, and had destroyed a spirit of brotherhood and tolerance that the religion actually promotes. He also added that the smooth proceedings of the event were a testament to the RSS’s ability to inspire trust in Kashmiri youth. “If a secular party tried to organise this event, they would have had at least 20 armed officials,” he said.(The Caravan reported)

Umaid Shah, a former student of Kashmir University who is currently looking for a job in Delhi, said, “They are promoting schemes that aim to take Kashmiris out of their home, but not talking about improving education there.” He continued: “In Kashmir, we are dependent on pre-paid Internet connections, but they get suspended at the slightest conflict in the state. How can we apply or find out about these schemes when our access to the net is always getting suspended?”

With Inputs from Caranvan.