The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a public interest litigation seeking protection for Kashmiri students being targeted following the Pulwama terror attack in different parts of the country over which the National Conference leader Omar Abdullah accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of remaining 'silent'.
The National Human Rights Commission, meanwhile, issued notice to the Union ministries of home and human resource development seeking a report over the reported ill-treatment of Kashmiri people in the aftermath of the attack.
41 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on February 14 when a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into their bus.
An apex court bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices L N Rao and Sanjiv Khanna took note of senior advocate Colin Gonsalves' submission that the plea for protection needed to be heard urgently as it relates to the safety and security of students.
The bench, which refused to list the plea for hearing on Thursday, however, assured Gonsalves that it will be listed for consideration on Friday.
The petitioner Tariq Adeeb, a lawyer, alleged in his plea that students from the Kashmir Valley 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.
The petition, filed through advocate Satya Mitra, sought direction to the Centre for taking steps to prevent 'threats, assaults, violent attacks, social boycotts, ostracism, evictions and other coercive acts' committed by groups and mobs against 'Kashmiris and other minorities'.
"There is a sudden rise in the incidents of crimes against Muslims and Kashmiris after the Pulwama attack....," it alleged.
Addressing a press conference in Srinagar, Abdullah, a former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, hit out at both the prime minister and the opposition Congress for not speaking out against the 'systematic targeting of Kashmiris' in various parts of the country.
The NC leader said he had been looking for a statesman but only found politicians, and asserted that the country needs an alternative to the Bharatiya Janata Party, not BJP's B-team.
"We didn't have much expectation from the BJP but we had expectations from the prime minister. We had hoped he would keep politics aside and say something," he said.
"While the PM is silent, it is sad the country's largest opposition party's leadership also remained silent," Abdullah added.
Abdullah also asked J and K Governor Satya Pal Malik to ensure the security of Kashmiri students who were forced to return home.
"There is need to ensure the safety of Kashmiri students who have returned home fearing attacks on them," he said, adding that arrangements should be made so they don't suffer academic losses.
The people of Kashmir, Abdullah said, were expecting to hear two words of sympathy and moral support from the Congress.
"Today, they had a press conference where everything was talked about. But they should have talked about the systematic targeting as well.
"These are the very forces that Congress is fighting with words and want to defeat... We regret the Congress has not raised its voice against these forces effectively."
Abdullah also criticised Meghalaya Governor Tathagatha Roy for backing the boycott of 'everything Kashmiri' and said it was unfortunate.
'... Why are we being punished? Just because we are the only Muslim majority state in the country?' Abdullah asked.
Incidents of selective targeting of Kashmiris will lead to further alienation of people in the state, he warned.
The NHRC said even though there is an atmosphere of grief and anger across the country after the terror attack, violence by people against their fellow countrymen cannot be accepted in a civilised society.
Stating that such incidents will destroy the democratic fabric of the country and also tarnish its image of a rich tolerant culture, the Commission, in a statement, asserted that the Central government should take action against the miscreants.
It also highlighted the need for sensitization of local authorities, police agencies and the general public to maintain law and order.
Former home and finance minister P Chidambaram said some people want Kashmir to be part of India but don't want Kashmiris to be part of Indians, asserting that the 'irony of the situation is depressing'.
"The irony of the situation is depressing. We want Kashmir to be part of India, but we do not want Kashmiris to be part of Indians," the senior Congress leader said.
In a series of tweets, Chidambaram also took a dig at Tathagata Roy's statement and Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar's remarks that students from the Kashmir Valley faced no threats.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad appealed to state governments to ensure that students from the Valley are treated well and their efforts to join the mainstream encouraged.
Addressing a press conference at the All India Congress Committee headquarters in New Delhi, Azad said as a representative of Jammu and Kashmir in Parliament and belonging to that state, he was saddened by reports that in Agra a hotel put up a board saying Kashmiris are not allowed to stay.
"This used to happen during the British rule. But this has happened for the first time in Independent India," he said, adding, people from all regions and religions are standing with the Army following the Pulwama terror attack.
"I want that no political party, individual or section taking advantage of the terror attack, indulges in politics of religion," Azad said.
He appealed to people to treat Kashmiris who come for trade, business or for studies, well as they want to be a part of the mainstream.
"Those students who have come from Kashmir for studies, it means that they don't want to be part of terrorism, it means that they don't want to become terrorists, they want to study and join the country's mainstream. It means that they condemn terrorism, they reject the appeal and money of terrorists," the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha said.
"I would appeal state governments that in their educational institutions they should not just issue advisories, but send people to colleges and explain to students to help Kashmiris join the mainstream," he said.