There is a sense of insecurity among the out-station students

Cricket politics nationalism and azaadi What really happened at NIT SrinagarImages: social media
news NIT Srinagar Wednesday, April 06, 2016 - 19:59

A scuffle between students at National Institute of Technology (NIT) campus in Srinagar, over Kashmiri students celebrating West Indies’s victory over India at world cup last week, has turned into a major controversy for the freshly formed PDP-BJP coalition government to deal with.

On Tuesday, around eight out-station students were injured in a confrontation with the police after they tried to march outside the campus gate to the main road. Over fear of security, the students had earlier boycotted classes which had been resumed on Monday after the university was shut down on Friday following clashes between two groups of students. Sensing the situation, the government has deployed CRPF in the campus.

A two-member HRD team arrived at the campus today to take stock of the situation. The team, comprising Director Technical Education of the HRD Ministry and an Under Secretary-level HRD officer, interacted with the protesting students at the varsity. The students set forth certain demands to the team. The team later also met some Kashmiri students on the campus.

A 1st-year student from Jammu, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that around a thousand out-station students at the varsity met the HRD team and asked for reassurances on their safety. “There is a sense of insecurity among the out-station students after what happened,” he added.

Another out-station student alleged they were “brutally assaulted” by the police on Tuesday. A senior police official refuted the claims, but said ‘mild-force’ was used to disperse the students after they started pelting stones at the official posted at the gate.

Videos and images of policeman hitting students with lathis have been doing the rounds on social media.

What really happened?

The unrest in NIT, Srinagar started on the night of March 31 after Kashmiri student started celebrating West Indies’s win over India in the semi-final of T20 World cup. Students supporting India objected to this, which led to a verbal altercation between the two groups.

On the next day, the out-station students went to director’s office to register a complaint against those celebrating West Indies’s victory. They carried out a protest and shouted slogans, after which a fight broke out between the two groups, leaving a few from both sides injured. Sensing the escalating tension in the campus the authorities called off the classes. Police was also called to the campus to control the situation.

A circular was later issued asking the Kashmiri students to vacate the hostel premises. But it was later revoked.

“They went to the director’s office to complain. But there was no reason to take any action against those who celebrated West Indies’s win. This angered them further. Some students were injured in the fight. After which they waved Indian flag near the administrative block and started shouting Bharat Mata Ji. Some Kashmiri students responded by shouting back Hum Kya chahte Azaadi,” says a second year Kashmiri student, who also asked for anonymity, and believes the issue is being blown out of propotion.

“This has not happened before. We are friendly with each other and what happened on Friday was in the heat of the moment, but now I don’t know what they are demanding,” he adds.  

Fishing in troubled water

While the government is claiming to have pacified the situation, former chief minister Omar Abdullah took the opportunity to take a swipe at the newly-sworn chief minister of the state Mehbooba Mufti. Omar accused Mehbooba of taking a back seat while letting the centre take charge of the situation.

“Rushing in a team from HRD ministry coupled with the CRPF replacing J&K police speaks volumes about Delhi's confidence in Mehbooba Mufti,” Omar tweeted.

Criticism on the handling of the issue also followed from Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who condemned the police action against students at NIT, Srinagar.  

Kejriwal tweeted that BJP is beating those who are "chanting Bharat Mata ki Jai" in Kashmir, while doing the same against those "who are not" raising the slogan in the rest of the country.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh also called up Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and discussed the situation with her.

The state’s education minister, Naeem Akhtar talking to an English daily said it is an administrative issue and there is no security threat to the students.

“I assure the parents of the students of NIT Srinagar that their wards are safe and the State Government is taking all the measures to normalize the situation at the campus,” he was quoted as saying.

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