More than 1,000 non-Kashmiri students have left the National Institute of Technology in Srinagar following days of tensions between local and outstation pupils over nationalism, sources said on Monday.
Around 600 students left the campus on Monday, a day after actor and BJP sympathiser Anupam Kher was forced to return from the Srinagar airport. Another 500 plan to leave on Tuesday, the human resource development (HRD) ministry was told.
Exams were scheduled for Monday but the students left the 3000-people-strong campus after HRD minister Smriti Irani told them they could take the tests after the holidays, possibly by the third week of April.
“We feel suffocated here as we are not allowed to go outside or talk to media. We want to get out of campus and do not want to risk our lives to continue with studies,” said Srikant Rajwar, a third-year electronics student from Ramgarh in Jharkhand.
Sources said many students were taking time off to visit their families and will be back after tensions die down on campus.
Sources said the HRD ministry circulated an email id, asking students who wanted to leave to inform authorities so that preparations for their examinations later could be done.
The campus has been on the boil since March 31, when local students clashed with their Kashmiri counterparts, who were allegedly celebrating India’s loss against West Indies in the WorldT20 semifinals.
Since then, the situation on campus has deteriorated with outstation students demanding the campus be shifted out of Srinagar after police allegedly thrashed hundreds of non-Kashmiri pupils chanting Bharat Mata ki Jai and waving the Tricolour.
The nationalism row has spread to other parts of the country with a group of Kashmiri students beaten up at a Rajasthan college.
VHP’s international working president Pravin Togadia has demanded action against the perpetrators of violence at NIT-Srinagar, and said the courage of students who tried to hoist the Tricolour was admirable.
“The VHP will not tolerate violent attacks against those who respect the Tricolour,” he said.
The incident comes months after a similar controversy at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, where students were charged with sedition for shouting “anti-national” slogans.
“What happened in NIT Srinagar is totally unacceptable... I pity pseudo-secularists for their silence on it,” tweeted Union minister Venkaiah Naidu.
Union HRD minister Smriti Irani has also initiated steps to address the issue of faculty at several NITs using outdated teaching methods and tools – a concern flagged by students at NIT, Srinagar to the HRD ministry team.
The ministry will approach Stanford University to seek help, sources said.
“Srinagar students informed the HRD ministry team that faculty is using redundant methods. The ministry wants to revamp it by introducing better teaching methods – putting greater emphasis on visual teaching, more interaction between students and the faculty, and better use of technology,” said a senior HRD ministry official.
The ministry also plans to improve the current syllabus by getting inputs from world-class technical institutions.
(with inputs from HTC, Jharkhand)