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After Pandits, non-Kashmiri students now fear for their safety in Srinagar

Kumar Shakti Shekhar
Kumar Shakti ShekharApr 06, 2016 | 21:14

After Pandits, non-Kashmiri students now fear for their safety in Srinagar

It was on January 19, 1990 that the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits had started from the Valley because of the violence perpetrated on them by the terrorists in connivance with the local population. Now, non-local students in Kashmir are at risk of getting driven out of the state.

Outstation engineering students of National Institute of Technology (NIT), Srinagar, are feeling insecure, first after clashes with the local students over the Indian cricket team's loss against West Indies in the semi-final match of T20 World Cup last week and then being chased and beaten up badly by the police on April 5. The outstation students have expressed a sense of insecurity and attempted to leave the campus.

According to a police official, some outstation students wanted to quit NIT and return to their home states, saying, they were "not feeling safe" inside the campus. The security personnel on duty at the NIT tried to pacify the students and reassure them that they were safe there but to no avail.

As anti-India sentiments dominate in the Valley, being a nationalist seems to be a crime there. In an indubitably anti-national act, the local students of Srinagar NIT celebrated India's loss to West Indies on March 31. They burst crackers and rejoiced at India's defeat.

The next day, the local students repeated their act. The outstation students protested against them. They hoisted the national flag and chanted "Bharat Mata ki jai", "Hindustan Zindabad" and "Pakistan Murdabad". They allegedly also burnt a replica of the Pakistani flag.

The local students countered by shouting anti-India slogans like "Hum kya  chaahte azadi" - the same as the one which was allegedly shouted on the JNU campus on February 8. The two groups clashed and the police fired tear gas shells and resorted to lathicharge to disperse them, leading to the shutting down of the institute.

As the situation started getting out of control, Union home minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Jammu and Kashmir governor NN Vohra and DGP K Rajendra on April 3 regarding the grave situation in NIT Srinagar. He also instructed the DGP to send a team of officers to the institute to reassure the students of their safety and security.

Feeling deeply hurt with the "anti-national" atmosphere and the attitude of the institute's administration, the non-Kashmiri students boycotted classes after the institute reopened on April 4. On April 5, the police brutally assaulted them while they were returning after meeting the top administration.

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Police thrashing outstation NIT Srinagar students on April 5.

While the police claimed it was a "mild lathicharge", pictures posted on social media refute them. A student even claimed that policemen, while raining lathis on them, said "tum Hindustani kutte ho" (You Indians are dogs).  With the situation being tense there, CRPF was deployed on the campus.

This time Rajnath Singh spoke to chief minister Mehbooba Mufti regarding the situation there.

The Union human resource development ministry has sent a two-member team comprising a director and a deputy secretary rank officer to NIT Srinagar campus following the tension which has gripped the NIT campus. The team will listen to the grievances of the students there. Meanwhile, HRD minister Smriti Irani spoke to CM Mufti on the issue and sought assurance over the safety and security of the outstation students.

The BJP finds itself in an unenviable situation.

On the one hand, they cannot be harsh with the Jammu and Kashmir dispensation because it is running a delicate coalition government with it. It took three months for Mehbooba to decide on continuing the alliance after the death of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. On the other hand, it will be highly embarrassing for the BJP if the outstation students migrate from NIT Srinagar on the grounds that they are being harassed for opposing the anti-nationals.

The BJP is walking a tightrope in the matter. It does not want to be seen not supporting those who are following its favourite nationalist agenda. No wonder, senior leaders are active to ensure that the non-local students feel safe once again. "We take responsibility of all the students of the country studying in NIT. We have put in place all the measures," deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh said.

The administration has held meeting with the NIT students to resolve the issue, Singh said, adding SSP Srinagar is camping in the area to ensure peace. The outstation students are demanding security.

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Outstation NIT Srinagar students demanding justice.

The BJP's rivals have again got a handle to beat it with. Taking a dig at the BJP, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the party was thrashing those who were chanting "Bharat Mata ki jai" in Kashmir and was beating those who refused to do so in rest of the country.

The non-local students of NIT Srinagar have now demanded that the national flag be hoisted on their campus. While it is a question of safety and security of the outstation students, it is also a crucial litmus test for the BJP - to fulfil the demands of the students while not offending its alliance partner PDP.

Last updated: April 06, 2016 | 21:14
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