Non-Kashmiri students of the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Srinagar, have said that they raised the national flag in the aftermath of an India-West Indies cricket match as a symbolic gesture against the “discrimination and harassment” faced at the establishment over the years.
“For the last three years, we were being harassed by the local faculty and administration every day. It was a pent-up feeling that was released when we saw local students celebrating India’s loss against the West Indies in the T20 semi-finals. The national flag was a symbolic reflection that we are studying in India, not an alien land,” said one of the students, who are currently protesting in Jammu.
About 400 non-Kashmiri students arrived in Jammu from NIT Srinagar on Monday night, and stayed over at a local gurdwara. They staged a demonstration outside the gurdwara on Tuesday, but were prevented from proceeding towards Jammu University by the police.
The protesting students said that if the institute couldn’t be shifted from Srinagar, its faculty must be replaced with those brought in from other NITs across the country. They also demanded revoking of the ‘false’ FIRs filed against them, and an inquiry into the alleged financial irregularities at the institute.
The protesters, however, seemed reluctant to speak to the media or name individuals in the matter.
Accusing the institute faculty of discrimination, a student said: “Local Kashmiri students are pampered. We are not given good grades, and even silly mistakes on our part draw career threats. It was becoming way too suffocating and unacceptable.”
A team from the human resources department (HRD) that visited NIT Srinagar ruled out any possibility of shifting its location.
Deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh earlier said that most of the demands of the students had been met. The examinations also started as per schedule, although non-Kashmiri students were allowed to appear for them later.
Clashes erupted on the NIT campus when local students celebrated India’s loss to the West Indies in the T20 semi-finals on March 31. The non-Kashmiri students responded by raising the national flag – much to the chagrin of the others.
A police crackdown on non-local NIT students followed, creating a major controversy. Non-Kashmiri students alleged that police entered the institute hostel and ‘mercilessly’ assaulted around 150 of them, some of whom were not even provided first-aid by faculty members.
“When nothing can happen inside the campus without the administration’s approval, how did the police enter? Probably they wanted to teach us a lesson for raising the national flag. But we are not scared anymore,” said a student agitator. “The administration has asked us to sign a declaration form that absolves them from any repercussions arising from our activities. It just goes to show their general mindset. They didn’t even bother to find out what we have been going through over the last few weeks.”
Delhi minister Kapil Mishra also stood by the agitating students, demanding to know why they were beaten up for raising the national flag. “When the HRD minister says that the national flag should be hoisted at every educational institute, why can’t she start with NIT Srinagar?” he asked.
The student agitators have threatened to take up an indefinite hunger strike outside the HRD ministry if their demands were not met.