The Supreme Court on Friday directed chief secretaries and director generals of police of states and Union Territories to take 'prompt' and 'necessary' action to prevent incidents of threat, social boycott and violence against Kashmiris following the Pulwama terror attack.
It also sought responses from the Centre and 11 states where incidents of threat and violence against Kashmiris have taken place after the February 14 terror attack in which over 41 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed.
"The Chief Secretaries, the DGPs of all states and Union Territories (UTs) including the Commissioner of Police, Delhi are directed to take prompt and necessary action to prevent incidents of assault, threat, social boycott and such other egregious acts against Kashmiris including students enrolled with the institutions in the respondent states and the UTs and other minorities in the wake of the terrorist attack of February 14," said a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna.
The bench perused the list of top police officers, who have been appointed as nodal officers in state and UTs and said their details be given wide publicity by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) so that Kashmiris can approach them in case of 'assault, intimidation and threat'.
Following the order, the Centre late on Friday night asked all states to ensure security of people belonging to Jammu and Kashmir.
The state governments and Union Territory administrations and the nodal officers appointed by them are once again advised to take all necessary steps to prevent any act of assault, threat, intimidation, social boycott etc. against Kashmiris (including students) as well as minorities in accordance with the order of the Supreme Court, the advisory sent to all state government said.
The home ministry also said the central government is concerned at the reports of incidents of assaults and harassment against residents of Jammu and Kashmir, especially students in some parts of the country, in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack.
In this regard, an advisory was issued on February 16 to all state governments and Union Territory administrations to take necessary steps to ensure safety and security of the persons belonging to Jammu and Kashmir.
The Supreme Court said the Nodal Officers, in addition those who may have already been appointed by Jammu and Kashmir, as per the list placed by the AG before this court, 'would take necessary steps to prevent acts of violence, discrimination and other coercive acts against Kashmiris'.
Details like name, address, telephone numbers, and email id of these officers should be given wide publicity by the Ministry of Home Affairs in all the states, 'for prompt and timely action', the court said in its order.
The bench perused the advisories issued by the MHA to the chief secretaries and DGPs of all states and UTs from time to time and said, 'the advisories of the kind already issued be reiterated'.
It also directed that the police officers, who were appointed as nodal officers to deal with cow vigilantism and lynching incidents, would now be responsible for dealing with the cases of assaults on Kashmiris.
Besides the Centre, top officials of Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Delhi have been directed to prevent incidents of 'threat, assault and social boycott' of Kashmiris, including students.
The court was hearing the plea of Tariq Adeeb, a lawyer, alleging that students from Kashmir are being attacked at different educational institutions across the country after the Pulwama attack and authorities concerned should be directed to take action to stop such assaults.
At the outset, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Adeeb, claimed that 10 more incidents of assaults have taken place in various states after filing of the petition and necessary directions be issued urgently to stop them.
He said that some fresh incidents against Kasmiris have taken place in Punjab and Maharashtra and urged the court to make these two states also parties, which was allowed.
"The plea was filed in respect of nine states. But since I mentioned it yesterday and until today, 10 additional incidents have come to light, some in two new states of Punjab and Maharashtra,", Gonsalves said.
On being asked as to what relief was being sought for, the senior lawyer said tha he wanted a similar order which was passed in mob lynching cases and senior police officers be appointed as nodal officers to deal with such incidents against Kasmiris.
Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre said the ministry has issued the requisite advisory to states and UTs on this issue on February 16 and earlier also, such advisories had been issued.
"Nodal officers have been appointed in all states and UTs and there names and numbers are available. This list was last updated in 2018.
"The Centre has already issued advisory to all states and UTs on February 17 but we can't tell the states about their specific actions that can be taken in such cases because law and order is a state subject," he said.
Taking note of submissions, the bench referred to earlier orders in cases of cow vigilantism and mob violence by which it had asked the states and UTs to appoint a senior police officer as nodal officer in each state to deal with such cases.
The bench has now listed the matter for hearing on Wednesday when 'further orders' would be passed.
The public interest litigation has sought a direction to the Centre and other authorities for prosecuting people engaging in hate speech, and to appoint a nodal officer in every state and Union Territory, including politically-sensitive districts, to prevent acts of violence, discrimination and vigilantism.
It had also sought immediate setting up of a nationwide helpline number and a web-site containing contact details of the nodal officers appointed in politically-sensitive districts.
"There is a sudden rise in the incidents of crimes against Muslims and Kashmiris after the Pulwama attack in which over 40 soldiers were killed...
"Immediately after the attack, mobs and vigilante groups engaged in vitriolic hate speech and began attacking, and threatening Muslims and Kashmiris throughout the country," the petition said.
Meanwhile, the University Grants Commission wrote to vice-chancellors of varsities across the country to ensure safety of Kashmiri students on campus and to maintain peace and harmony.
The UGC was directed by the Human Resource Development Ministry on Thursday to issue an advisory to all the universities to ensure that the security of Kashmiri students is not compromised.
"In the context of reports being received through various media regarding the safety of students from Kashmir studying in various higher educational institutions, all universities and colleges affiliated to them are advised to ensure the safety and protection of the students on the campus.
"They may keep a watch on the situation and seek support of law and order machinery in case of any untoward incident," the UGC letter said.
The letter also requested the vice-chancellors 'to look into the matter personally for the safely of the students and maintaining peace and harmony in universities/colleges'.
Journalist from Kashmir beaten up; one arrested
In yet another incident of assault on Kashmiris after the Pulwama terror attack, a 24-year-old journalist from Jammu and Kashmir was beaten up in Pune.
The local police, who earlier dubbed it as an incident of road rage, registered a case against the two suspected assailants Friday evening and arrested one of them.
The journalist was allegedly thrashed by the two men Thursday night during a squabble at a traffic signal.
Jibran Nazir, who works with a newspaper in Pune, said the assailants told him that they would 'send him back to Kashmir'.
Nazir, however, stated that it was not an 'organised' attack.
The assailants later apologised to him at the police station, he said.
A police official said it was an incident of road rage and not linked with the Pulwama attack.
The incident came a day after students from Kashmir studying in a college in Yavatmal in Maharashtra were attacked, allegedly by members of the Yuva Sena, the youth wing of the Shiv Sena.
Nazir said he was attacked on Tilak Road around 10.45 pm when he was returning home on a motorbike. As he stopped at a traffic signal, two men on a motorbike behind him started honking, asking him to move, which led to a heated exchange.
Noticing that his motorbike had a Himachal Pradesh (HP) registration number, the duo said they would pack him off to Himachal Pradesh.
When Nazir corrected them, saying he was a journalist hailing from Jammu and Kashmir, the duo beat him up, saying 'we will send you back to Kashmir, do your journalism there', he claimed.
They snatched his mobile phone, damaged his bike and fled. After Nazir noted down their bike number and approached the Swargate police station, police located the assailants, who came to the police station with their parents and apologised to him.
Nazir said he decided not to pursue the matter further and withdrew his police complaint.
Later on Friday evening, the Pune Police registered a case, on their own, against Azharuddin Shaikh, 32, and Dattatray Lavate, 35, the two suspects.
The case was registered against them under Indian Penal Code Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) and 279 (rash driving), said senior inspector Ashok Kadam.
While Shaikh was arrested, the police were in the process of arresting Lavate, he said.
Those involved in attacking Kashmiri students sacked from Yuva Sena
Yuva Sena chief Aditya Thackeray said on Friday that the organisation has sacked those who assaulted Kashmiri students in Maharashtra's Yavatmal district in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack.
The students, studying at Dayabhai Patel Physical Education College, were attacked Wednesday night by members of Yuva Sena, the student wing of the Shiv Sena.
"The party has sacked those involved in the act. Jammu and Kashmir is a part of India and no Indian, or for that matter, nobody should face the brunt of anger that is towards terrorism. We understand the angst but it must be against terror, not innocent people," Aditya Thackeray tweeted on Friday.
A video of the incident had gone viral on social media and a police case was registered.
As per one of the victims of the attack, they were asked to say 'Vande Mataram', slapped and abused.
The attackers also asked them to vacate their rented accommodations within four days.
Yuva Sena secretary Varun Sardesai had said on Thursday that the incident was condemnable, and action will be taken against the attackers if they turned out to be Yuva Sena workers.