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Srinagar: Protesting NIT students want Tricolour back, campus shifted

The incident has become the first major test for the CM Mehbooba Mufti .

india Updated: Apr 07, 2016 02:31 IST
HT Correspondents
Students walk past the vehicles of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Srinagar.
Students walk past the vehicles of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Srinagar.(Waseem Andrabi / HT Photo)

Tensions mounted at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Srinagar on Wednesday as the Centre rushed a probe team to the campus amid widespread condemnation of alleged police brutality against hundreds of non-Kashmiri students a day before.

Authorities cordoned off the campus that adjoins the Dal Lake and stationed paramilitary forces inside as home minister Rajnath Singh assured the safety of outstation students, who demanded the campus be shifted out of the Valley and opposed the “anti-national” Kashmiri students.

“Mehbooba ji assured that all students will be safe. She said an inquiry will be conducted to find out how the incident happened and also fix responsibility,” he said, referring to Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.

Human resource development minister Smriti Irani said she spoke to Mehbooba and that thetwo-member team will remain on campus until exams begin on April 11.

The incident has become the first major test for the CM as allegations of violence against non-Kashmiris can potentially pitch the Hindu-majority Jammu region of the state against the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley.

This is a problem for Mehbooba – whose father and then CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed died earlier this year – as the alliance between her Peoples Democratic Party and the BJP rests on a promise of bringing these two hostile regions closer.

Read | Mehbooba assures Irani of students’ safety: Latest updates on NIT row

Police men outside the gate of Srinagar NIT (Waseem Andrabi / HT Photo )

The campus flared up last Thursday after West Indies knocked India out of the World T20, when some Kashmiri pupils allegedly celebrated with firecrackers and shouted “anti-national” slogans.

Enraged, some non-Kashmiri students ran around campus with a Tricolour, shouting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ in protest.

Authorities shut down the campus on Saturday but re-opened it on Monday. On Tuesday evening, around 500 non-Kashmiri students tried to march out of the campus, saying they felt insecure and wanted to return to their homes.

They were blocked by police and allegedly beaten up.

“No one is questioning those who raised anti-national slogans, instead we are facing atrocities of the local police and college administration,” a student said.

Read | Srinagar: Non-Kashmiri students of NIT clash with police, CRPF deployed

The incident comes weeks after Delhi was rocked by protests following the arrest of several students of Jawaharlal Nehru University for allegedly shouting “anti-national” slogans.

“There are several demands made by the students to the central team, including one to shift the NIT out of Srinagar to Jammu, considering the security threats caused in this incident,” a final year undergraduate student told HT.

The non-Kashmiri students demanded the police return their Tricolour that was allegedly taken from them during Tuesday’s protests.

Of the 2400-odd students in undergraduate courses, 50% come from state quota. But in post-graduate courses, admissions are open and based on entrance test scores.

State education minister Naeem Akhtar said the incident was not a local-versus non-local issue but an administrative one that was being sorted out.

The police maintained they “chased the mob of students” after officers were assaulted.

The Congress joined the BJP, chamber of commerce, and Hindu organisations against the alleged lathicharge.

“It is ironic. While students in Delhi are arrested on the basis of alleged fake videos, those who raise slogans for India in Kashmir are assaulted. Why this different yardsticks?” asked party spokesman Manish Tewari.

The campus flared up last Thursday after West Indies knocked India out of the World T20, when some Kashmiri pupils allegedly celebrated with firecrackers and shouted “anti-national” slogans. (Waseem Andrabi / HT Photo )

NIT trends on social media

On Wednesday, #NIT trended on social media as posts, videos and pictures of the clashes, including police allegedly firing tear gas shells at the students’ hostel, did the rounds.

“Two companies of CRPF in a campus is not normal by any stretch of imagination. Requires tact not use of force,” former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted.

First established as a Regional Engineering College in 1960 and made into an NIT in 2003, NIT-Srinagar is one of the top engineering institutes in the state. Situated near the famous Hazratbal shrine, NIT offers undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral courses in technology and sciences.

(with agency inputs)