Kashmir University witnessed noisy scenes on Monday morning when students boycotted classes to protest against the alleged demolition of Kashmir University Students Union’s (KUSU) office. The varsity made it clear once again that “no students’ politics will be allowed on the campus and it’s banned”.
At around 11 pm, a team of KU authorities, led by chief proctor Afzal Zargar and deputy proctor Nasir Iqbal, confronted dozens of angry students near Iqbal Library, who raised anti-authorities slogans and booed the decision to demolish the KUSU office. The students alleged they were thrashed and threatened by the heavily-armed police and the authorities. The students organized a three-hour sit-in against the incident.
“The authorities started demolishing the office on Saturday evening when the students had left the campus. On Sunday, they razed it to ground,” said Amir Bashir, a students’ representative from Media Education Research Centre (MERC) and also a member of the KUSU.
The students alleged the authorities did not take them into confidence before demolishing the structure. “We were not taken into confidence before demolishing our office. We had recently started a membership drive. Many identity cards and other papers were lying in the building.”
The authorities, however, said they do not recognize KUSU as students’ body. “We are not going to allow any students union on the campus. Besides academic and amenities issue, no politics will be allowed,” chief proctor Afzal Zargar told the Hindustan Times.
He denied that the authorities demolished the structure deliberately. “There are four-five old and dilapidated structures in Naseem Bagh, which we are developing as a heritage park. We are demolishing all the buildings, many 50 year old, in Naseem Bagh, including some residential barracks,” said Zargar.
Zargar, however, confirmed that the KUSU was allowed to function in 2008 by the authorities and used the Dean Social Welfare building as its office.
“The KUSU was allowed to function for two to three moths but later it was banned. We have decided to only have students’ welfare body, which will address students’ issues,” said Zargar.
The students also alleged that students were thrashed and threatened by the police and the authorities. Kashmir University is among very few universities in the country where students’ politics is banned.
“All we are demanding is allowing the KUSU to function on the campus and to be recognized by the authorities. The university should also provide us with an alternative space to function…This is against the freedom of expression and against basic principles of society. They can cow us down like this,” said a KUSU leader pleading anonymity.
The KU authorities, however, are hell bent to take tough action against the KUSU representatives. “We cannot allow anybody to vitiate the atmosphere here. Those who do will not be allowed to stay here.
Vice-Chancellor Riyaz Punjabi, a former head of department of Jawahar Lal Nehru, New Delhi, also a hub of students’ activities, did allow students politics on the KU campus. But, for unknown reasons, the authorities have decided to clamp down in it again. Ironically, the sister concern of KU, Jammu University (JU), allows students politics --- which has students bodies openly supporting BSP, BJP, ABVP and other mainstream political parties.
“They (authorities) do not want us to have opinion on issues or one voice. They want us to be like cattle, which has no opinion on issues,” said a student on the condition of anonymity.
Sources said the ruling National Conference has also roped in students and backed the Kashmir University Students Welfare Association. “Yes, we have reports of the NC backing students and many other political groups too trying to spread on the campus. But no political patronage, whatsoever, will be allowed,” the chief proctor told the Hindustan Times.