Soldiers mutilated: India sends back 50 Pakistani students as tension mounts
Pakistani forces killed two Indian soldiers and mutilated their bodies along the Line of Control on Monday morning, the army’s Northern Command said, vowing to “appropriately respond” to the “despicable act”.Updated: May 28, 2017 10:46 IST
A Delhi-based NGO has sent back 50 Pakistani school students, who were here on a five-day trip, in view of fresh escalation of tension between the two countries since Monday.
Routes2Roots (R2R) co-founder Rakesh Gupta said the Pakistani students were brought to India as part of their Student Exchange for Change programme. However, the educational trip was cut short after the Centre issued an advisory in the wake of two Indian jawans being beheaded allegedly at the hands of Pakistani soldiers.
“Work on the student-exchange programme had been launched about three months ago. We applied for visas and relevant permissions before planning the event. The students arrived in India on May 1, and were supposed to be around till May 5. However, on May 2, we decided to send them back the very next morning,” said Gupta.
A similar student-exchange event organised by the NGO last year had also come a cropper due to similar reasons. “Back then, the programme was fixed for October 2016. That was when the surgical strikes happened, and we stopped them before they could enter India,” the R2R co-founder said.
“However, on this occasion, they were already en route to Delhi when the beheadings were reported. They crossed the India-Pakistan border around 9.30 am on May 1, and we received the news only by 12 noon,” he added.
Their trip, however, wasn’t a complete loss. The NGO said that the children, aged between 10 and 15 years, dropped by the Golden Temple and toured several areas of Delhi after reaching India. “They visited the Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Jantar Mantar, Connaught Place and Janpath through Tuesday. They had come with shopping lists to buy gifts for relatives and friends back home. However, I had to tell them later in the evening that they will not be able to meet their pen friends in Indian schools. It was extremely sad to see them heartbroken,” said Tina Vachani, the other co-founder of R2R.
The students were supposed to travel to Agra to see the Taj Mahal on May 3, and end their trip with a programme at the Pakistan Embassy the following day.
Gupta said the NGO cut short the educational trip with the dual intention of honouring the martyred soldiers and ensuring the security of the students under their care. “We are Indians first – there’s no doubt about that,” he told HT. “But, at the same time, we feel saddened when such programmes are cancelled or shortened. These children are not involved in any decision-making process right now, but they are also the leaders of tomorrow. By organising programmes such as these, we hope to turn them into sensitive people who will adopt a humane stance when the time comes for them to take the helm of affairs.”
The government had advised the NGO against hosting the students because it did not believe the general mood was “appropriate” for such exchanges. “An NGO had invited Pakistani school students here. They came to India on the same day of the barbaric killing and mutilation of our soldiers,” PTI quoted foreign ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay as saying earlier in the day.