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'We cannot study at gunpoint'

By A Ganesh Nadar
April 07, 2016 14:40 IST
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Police and CRPF personnel deployed at National Institute of Technology following tensions between the local and non-local students of the institute, in Srinagar. Photograph: S Irfan/PTI

IMAGE: Police and CRPF personnel deployed at the National Institute of Technology in Srinagar. Photograph: S Irfan/PTI

'We don't want to fight with the locals. We are like prisoners here.'
A non-Kashmiri describes the state of siege and police brutality that students from outside Kashmir at the NIT campus in Srinagar have faced in the last week.

On March 31, India lost the World T20 semi-final to the West Indies. In Srinagar clashes broke out on the National Institute of Technology campus. Some Kashmiri students celebrated India's loss to which non-Kashmiri students objected.

The next day there was a protest march by non-Kashmiri students who were carrying the national flag. Classes were suspended. On April, 4, classes resumed, but the non-Kashmiri students did not attend.

On April, 5, non-Kashmiri students tried to leave the campus to speak to the media. They clashed with the police. The human resources development ministry sent a team to visit the campus and talk to the students. They noted the students' demands and said they would take a decision after they returned to Delhi.

Non-Kashmiri student Ramesh Singh* spoke to A Ganesh Nadar/ about events on the NIT campus this past week.

After India lost the World Cup semi-final, a few Kashmiri students started celebrating. They were shouting pro-Pakistan and anti-India slogans.

When we objected they started throwing stones at the rooms of non-Kashmiri students in the hostel. We complained to the security guards who told us to stay in our rooms.

Some of the hostels are near the wall of the institute. Outsiders were also throwing stones at us.

On April, 1, we met NIT Director Rajat Gupta and asked him for security. He did not listen to us. We shouted Bharat Mata Ki Jai. Local students from other colleges entered our campus.

We were scared. Even the staff members were supporting the Kashmiri students.

We showed the national flag to show our unity and to make us feel secure. Locals had climbed the walls and were throwing stones at us. They were shouting slogans supporting Pakistan. The police did not interfere.

We were all together, displaying the national flag. The NIT has 2,500 students out of which 1,800 are from outside Kashmir.

About 1,200 students had gathered on April 1. We tried to run away. The police lathi-charged and tear-gassed us. One student received 12 stitches on his head. We went back to our hostel.

On April 2, we went on strike. The director came to meet us, but he could not answer any of our questions.

The police did not let us assemble. They tried to stop us from shooting videos. We stayed in the hostel. Our staff ignored us. They fixed our exam dates on April 11. They did not talk to us.

Some people are trying to communalise the issue saying that we are demanding that a mosque on campus be shifted out. We have made no such demand.

April 3, we continued to sit on strike. April 4, our strike continued. We wanted answers to these questions:

  • Who asked the police to enter the campus?
  • Who told them to use tear gas?
  • Who ordered the lathi-charge?

Classes continued with local students only. We never went to class. Very few students attended.

April, 5, our strike continued. The media was not allowed inside the campus. At 2 pm we went to the gate to meet the media. To stop us, the police used tear gas and lathi-charged us. They fired thrice in the air. We could not meet the media.

Over 100 students were injured. Three have been admitted to the ICU. The police also attacked a disabled student inside the hostel.

April, 6, a team from the HRD ministry, Delhi came and met us. We told them our demands.

  • Shift the NIT out of Kashmir as we are not safe here. We do not feel secure. Even with the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) on the campus we are not safe as we cannot leave the campus.
  • We cannot study at gunpoint. We don't want to fight with the locals. We are like prisoners here.
  • Exam dates should be delayed as we cannot study in this atmosphere.
  • The faculty should be changed as they support local students.

Security is our biggest concern. The central team noted our demands and left.

April 7, we don't know their response yet. We are not going to classes. We have been told that J&K Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh is coming to meet us. We are waiting for him.

*Name changed to protect the student's identity

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A Ganesh Nadar /