Ratan Tata, Ravi Bajaj, Azim Premji, Kumarmangalam Birla were among many to discuss opportunities with Kahmiri youth
Building on his efforts to reach out to the youth in Kashmir, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Friday 5 October organised an interaction between Kashmir University students and India’s corporate top brass. Issues such as avenues of investment in Kashmir, job creation and the career opportunities for the youth were among the most discussed at an event graced by the likes of Ratan Tata, Azim Premji, Kumaramagalam Birla, Deepak Parekh and Ravi Bajaj.
For the Gandhi scion, it was fulfilment of a promise he made to the students last year. “The students had said they wanted to speak to the captains of industry and I had promised them this. I think we have some of the brightest children in the room behind us. They were very happy to talk to the business leaders. My aim is to develop trust with the youth of Kashmir,” said Gandhi while talking to reporters after the discussion.
An emotional Tata termed the session a step forward in the conversation “with the great wealth of human capital” that exists in Kashmir. “The session has displayed intelligence, ability and the keenness to be part of the growth and development of India. The potential (of Kashmiri youth) is enormous,” Tata said. “What Mr Gandhi has done is not open a window, but open a door.” The industrialist said it was for the people in the industry to look beyond their normal places of endeavour “to do something in Kashmir, to do something with Kashmir and to do something for the people of Kashmir that will bring prosperity and change”.
Inside the auditorium, the industry leaders promised to do everything to help out the educated Kashmiri youth. They told students that they will be given an “equal opportunity” to compete for jobs and will set up “incubation centres” in the state for training. Some talked about the paid internships for Kashmiri students. Industrialist Ravi Bajaj said that he saw six bikes in the University and all of them were from the Bajaj group. “If you are using our bikes, I will want that you also manufacture them,” Bajaj said.
Though the event passed off peacefully, the government had made stringent security arrangements to pre-empt any effort at disruption. A ring of security personnel, sniffer dogs in tow, maintained a tight vigil around the auditorium. The event had been boycotted by the Kashmir University Student Union, which termed the visit as an attempt to politicise the university. And just when Gandhi was leaving the university, there were protests on the other side of the campus. Students shouted ‘Azadi’ slogans and called for the “liberation of Kashmir”.
The university, on its part, had taken pains to choreograph the event and ensure it passes well. There was an effort to screen the students who attended the session and those who were finally given passes for the event were specifically told not to ask “uncomfortable questions”.
“I was told to ask only questions about development. But I wanted to ask about the ban on Facebook and Youtube in Kashmir but was not allowed,” said a student of Department of Mass Communication preferring not to be named. “Rahul Gandhi wanted to hear our inner voices, he wanted to share our pain and understand us. We should have been allowed to freely express our opinions.”
Riyaz Wani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.