Postcards of Protest: Students of St Stephen’s Write to Modi

Students of St Stephen’s college wrote postcards to the prime minister as a unique way to protest the security clampdown and communication ban in Kashmir.

The initiative was the brain child of three students of the college – Ahtesham, a third-year B.A. Programme student, two students from the Philosophy department.

LiveWire was only able to speak to Ahtesham who belongs to Kashmir as the other two students refused to come on record. Ahtesham said that he, along with other students, came up with the idea on the 52nd day of the security clampdown in Kashmir, i.e. September 25. Hence, they decided to send 52 postcards to the prime minister.

Since the students also wanted some form of exhibition or performance, they mutually agreed to display the post cards on their bodies.

For almost an hour, students stood outside the café tree, a popular hangout spot in the college. They wore black clothes with red ribbons tied to their arms to express solidarity with Kashmir, displaying postcards on their bodies.

Students standing outside the cafe. Image credit: Ahtesham.

According to a Facebook post by Ashely N.P, professor in the English department, almost 73 students took part in the demonstration.

However, as Ahtesham pointed out, the demonstration was “completely apolitical.”

He also expressed his views on the communication ban in the Kashmir Valley saying, “It is not fair, when the state consciously tells you that you can’t talk to your mother.”

Other college students, too, extended support to the demonstration.

Students taking part in the demonstration. Image credit: Ahtesham.

Rinchen, a second-year English Honours student of the college from Ladakh appreciated those who started and took part in the demonstration saying, “even non-Kashmiri students took part in it and the response from the college was good”.

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“It was a nice and well thought out idea, especially in a polarised political landscape where it has become difficult to express one’s opinion,” she added.

LiveWire also spoke to Ashley NP, in solidarity, wrote a lengthy post on Facebook praising the postcard demonstration.

Postcards addressed to the Prime Minister. Image credit: Ahtesham.

He said that the demonstration should primarily be seen, “as an emotional and ethical response” by students to the situation in Kashmir.

He added, “though they have differing views with regard to the abrogation of Article 370, they empathize with their fellow Kashmiri students who have not been able to talk to their parents.”

The concern of the students for their fellow Kashmiri students was evident in some of the postcards:-

“Honourable, Prime Minister, I have seen classmates of mine crying and having no one to listen to them. I have also seen people counting the days to be able to communicate with their family but all in vain. The tears and messages hit us all hard but we feel miniscule in this entire process. Having said and shared this, I urge you to lift the communication ban in Kashmir.”

Another one read:

“Chandrayaan II didn’t reach the moon and nor did my friend’s Eid wishes to her mom back home. A humble request to let the free flow of communication resume in the valley.”

What also came across in conversations with students and teachers of the college was the fact that the demonstration was in consonance with the spirit of the college.

Taha, a second-year B.A Programme student from Kashmir, said, “Stephen’s is a safe space, where fellow students are empathetic and are willing to help.”

Postcard addressed to the Prime Minister. Image credit: Ahtesham.

Ashley NP also pointed out that though the college enjoys celebrity status and is seen as an elite institution, it has always been an institution with liberal ethos, accommodating dissent and coming up with ethical responses to political issues.

“Right from the anti-autonomy movement to standing in solidarity with Kashmir, the students of the college always took an effective and definitive stand on these issues”, he said.

Meanwhile, students continue to write and collect postcards.

Featured image credit: Ananay Koushal