A crusader for justice, communal harmony and peaceful coexistence, Prof Vipin K Tripathi, walks on the streets of Delhi distributing flyers that explain to common people the abrogation of Article 370 promising autonomy to Kashmir and fracturing the state by the BJP government is wrong and disastrous
Zafar Aafaq | Caravan Daily
NEW DELHI — At a time when speaking for Kashmir and the people of Kashmir is an open invitation to be labelled as an anti-national, here is an extraordinary IIT professor who has taken upon himself the task to educate people about Kashmir — the Valley that has come in the grip of crises after the Indian government revoked its special status on the 5th of August. In fact, he has embarked upon a mission to create awareness about the state.
With silvery grey hair and body double up with age, Vipin K Tripathi is an unlikely crusader of the cause. Setting all the setbacks aside, the professor chose to walk in the streets of Delhi distributing flyers that inform common people about how abrogation of article 370 is a wrong move.
“My aim of distributing the papers was to inform the people that it was completely wrong to abrogate article 370,” Prof Tripathi said while speaking to Caravan Daily. “It is inhuman to suppress people and then take decisions without their consent.”
Hours before parliament announced the revocation of Kashmir’s special status, the government launched a crackdown on Kashmiris, arresting thousands of them including politicians, civil society members, and even children as young as nine years old and imposed a lockdown restricting the right to assembly, shutting cell phone services, telephone lines and all forms of internet.
The people remained confined to their homes for weeks before some restrictions were lifted, including post-paid mobile phone services, earlier this week. Nevertheless, Kashmiris are observing a voluntary shutdown as a form of protest against the government’s arbitrary decisions. Markets and public transport in most of the towns across the Valley are shut while shopkeepers restricted themselves to a mornings-evenings schedule barely keeping their shops open for a couple of hours to let people buy groceries.
An overwhelming majority of Indians welcomed the government’s Kashmir move. Celebratory rallies and roadshows were organised in cities of north India hailing the current regime for being able to revoke Kashmir’s special status as well as the lockdown in the state, a move for which India faced criticism globally.
It hurts Prof Tripathi to see the aggressive attitude of people towards Kashmiris. “India may be an independent country, but our brains are locked,” he said.
Besides being a teacher at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, Prof Tripathi runs an initiative called Sadhbav Mission (mission for harmony) to combat communalism by organising maths and science workshops for students in areas hit by communal violence. He hails from the Lalitpur area of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state of India. Since 1989, he is actively working for the welfare of marginalised people. In late 80s, when the momentum around the Ram Janambhoomi movement spiked, he and some of his friends decided to form a group, which later became Sadhbav Mission, to combat rising communalism in the country.
Prof Tripathi was widely hailed for his humanitarian efforts to provide relief to the victims of 2002 Gujarat pogrom in which nearly two thousand Muslims lost their lives.
In earlier campaigns, he used to be accompanied by volunteers, but this time around he was alone. “Since it is about Kashmir, not many people are willing to stand up,” he bemoaned.
During a march, he encountered mixed reaction from people. In institutions like Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU) and Jamia Millia Islamia, where the scope for dissent is marginally better, he was welcome. But most of the people who he came across on the roadside were riled up. “The people who drive cars and have well-paying jobs were either indifferent or happy with what is happening in Kashmir,” he said.
Most of the provisions of Kashmir’s autonomy had already been diluted with the passage of time by successive governments so much so that it remained only nominal with just ensuring state Assembly powers over whether to approve legislation passed in parliament or not.
Indian constitution allows the states to make laws, so that way, Prof Tripathi said, there was nothing wrong if Jammu and Kashmir too had enjoyed the special status. There are other states which possess special status in the Indian constitution. “In fact, the provisions of political autonomy should run down to village level across India,” he asserted.
Now, Prof Tripathi is waiting for November 14, the next date of hearing for the case related to Article 370 pending in the Supreme Court of India. “We expect good news,” he said.
Prof Tripathi and his aides are also planning to approach the Supreme Court committee monitoring National Registrar for Citizens (NRC) to put forward the grievances and fears of the affected people.
On August 31, the government in the state of Assam published a list of citizens that excluded nearly 2 million people, mostly Muslims who are considered foreigners. The process has come under sharp criticism from marginalised liberal sections of the country for its flaws.
Thereafter, Amit Shah, the Union Home Minister and president of the right wing Hindu party, the BJP, has several times stated that the government may implement a countrywide NRC, which has triggered panic amongst its Muslim population.
“The environment of hate that is prevailing in the country is detrimental to our thinking,” Prof Tripathi observed. “I don’t understand why there is so much of hatred for Muslims, all religions teach us to be good to all humans irrespective of their background.”