The story starts when a lone ranger hailing from Anantnag district of Kashmir bagged the post of President in DU’s College of Vocational Studies local elections, with a lead of 235 votes over his rival.
While a freshman, Aeshal Nisar recalls how he was enamored by the electoral stage. “I was an active student in the campus,” he says, undertoning how his journey started. “I worked hard for two years and gained a lot of support along the way.”
The famed Delhi University holds two elections: the Union, and the local. At the Union level, ABVP bagged the top three posts, citing students disappointment with NSUI’s work, while NSUI managed to stay afloat with a single secretary post. Amid flashes of fame and hidden layers of work, a single story caught the eye.
What seems utterly surprising is his capacity to have beaten the most fearsome odd that grips a Kashmiri living outside JK, the possibility of being dubbed as an ‘anti-national’.
“It wasn’t easy,” he admits. “I got noticed in and outside the college due to my active participation in those two years. When people got to know about my potential nomination, I was met with a lot of resistance.”
Where did the resistance stem from? “My alumni from college got a wind about my potential nomination and filed an FIR,” he told Free Press Kashmir.
The police had contacted him at 11 pm. “I was called to the Malviya Nagar police station on the day of my nomination,” he says. “I told them I could not come since I was needed in college, but they said it was necessary.”
He didn’t understand the power of the electoral stage until his resistance had taken strong steps. “I then realized that being elected was a pretty big deal,” he says. “After the police called me, I didn’t understand what my next step should be, so I contacted a few friends of mine who are from the press.”
“They told me not to worry and to tell the police that I would come after my nomination day. The police called me the next day and started asking details of my mother, my father, my sister, my brother and his wife. I was perplexed as to why they would want such information and what would they need it for,” he says.
His friends told him not to worry, he said. “They advised me not to be intimidated and assured me of their support.” One of the most heart-touching moments was when his college got to know about the FIR incident.
“Upto a thousand people voiced their support for me and defiantly said, ‘If Aeshal is anti-national, we, too are anti-national’.”
After his nomination, however, the situation didn’t simmer down. A popular Hindi newspaper, Dainik Jagran, published an article about him, alleging that the college’s atmosphere was being dirtied ( ‘mahol kharaab’) after he wrote an opinion on Kashmir in a Facebook post. The post itself was taken down too.
Things are difficult for Kashmiris, especially one living outside, he observes.
The newspaper, although, along with the police, took note of the college’s glowing praises for Aeshal, he admits, adding that if his college had not supported him, the situation would have been entirely different, not to mention difficult.
But what about his parents? Knowing how overly cautious every Kashmiri household is while eyeing the line between politics and religion, how was he allowed to contest?
“I didn’t give them the full details,” he admits. “They knew that I was contesting, but they believed it to be a small event. They got to know the whole scenario a day before the elections.”
“They were very shocked and worried, especially about the FIR, because its a potential roadblock for further studies. I told them I’ve come this far, I’ve worked this hard, I can’t back down now,” he says.
Finishing the conversation, he says how he is thankful for the support and for the Almighty’s Grace. “A Kashmiri contesting elections in a non-local college is a huge deal. I’m just glad I got out with a few scratches.”
Aeshal Nisar became a student leader, with over 900 votes cast for him, and a margin of over 235 votes between him and the runner up.
Even though student politics in Universities in Kashmir remains gagged and supressed, the Delhi University remains a place of hope, it seems, for young people like Aeshal, whose dreams were lifted by a thousand hands and two hundred and thirty five ballot cards.
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