Swarajya decided to speak to some victims of the rioting on the campus of the National Institute of Technology, Srinagar, since the night of 31 March, as the business-as-usual media reports do not match the sense of outrage shared by WhatsApp users. The following is their version of the series of incidents.
Following the India-West Indies cricket match in the ICC T20 World Cup tournament on 31 March, Kashmiri Muslim students of NIT Srinagar took out processions to celebrate the Indian team’s defeat. We are using the term “Muslim” because the media’s coinage “members of a certain community” is both comical and hypocritical.
Apparently motivated by the 9 February incident at Jawaharlal Nehru University, they added the slogan “Bharat tere tukde honge, insha’Allah, insha’Allah” (India, you will be broken to pieces, God willing) to the usual list of slogans of Kashmiri separatists:
That led to some heated verbal exchanges with non-Kashmiri Hindu students—a minority in the institution as well as in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
Within hours of the verbal duels, some outsiders started pelting stones at the Indus Hostel on the campus that houses non-Kashmiri students exclusively. The stones left several students of the first year (of the NIT course) grievously injured. It was obvious that the Kashmiri students had tipped off these miscreants.
The next day, 1 April, students at the receiving end of the attacks organized a demonstration to protest the night’s happenings. Shortly after they assembled, a huge crowd from outside barged into the campus and launched a violent attack on the demonstrators. The size of this mob kept swelling as more and more locals joined it to “teach Indians a lesson” (words heard from the crowd).
The mob thrashed the “Indian” students, leaving many of them (all Hindu) bleeding or badly bruised. Several of them were rushed to doctors.
Undaunted by the physical hurt, the victims next decided to hoist the National Flag inside the campus. “Iss men ghalat kya hai? Yeh hamara desh hai, hum apna jhanda phehra sakte hain (What was wrong in this? This is our country and we have a right to hoist our flag here),” a student told me.
After hoisting the Tricolour, these students went to the Director’s office to lodge a formal complaint against the incidents of assault. They found personnel of the Jammu & Kashmir Police in front of the office—with a group of adversarial students accompanied by local residents with Pakistan’s flag in hand, raising pro-Pakistan slogans.
The non-Kashmiri students approached the spot carrying the Indian Flag and chanting “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. The Director and several professors came out of the office. The non-Kashmiri students demanded that the Director take action against the students who, along with outsiders, had assaulted them.
The police then launched a lathi charge on the demonstrating non-Kashmiri students. “Hamaare bandon ko dauda-dauda ke Jammu-Kashmir ki police ne maara (The Jammu & Kashmir policemen chased and beat us),” a student said.
“Then the police lobbed tear-gas shells at us. The campus was filled with the gas; it was so difficult to breath,” said another student, adding that many students came out of the hostel, wiping tears and coughing. The cops did not spare these non-demonstrating students, a batchmate of his said.
“Hamaare director bhi dekhte rahe aur teachers bhi dekhte rahe, (The Director and the teachers looked on as mute spectators),” said another student. Some of the teachers, in fact, threatened the demonstrators of dire consequences, implying that the students would be failed in the exams.
“‘We have your photos and videos,’ a teacher told us,” said a student about one of the teachers who were filming the demonstration using their camera phones. The teachers reportedly told the demonstrators that the latter have been well “identified” (for discriminatory treatment).
“Jin logon ne hum ko maara, unmein to ek teacher bhi shaamil thay (The assaulters included a teacher),” said a student.
NIT Srinagar’s faculty is dominated by Kashmiris, though the Director is not a Kashmiri. A few contractual teachers and visiting faculty members who are not Kashmiri stayed out of the mêlée, some of the victims reported.
While the Director has assured the non-Kashmiri students that he will proceed against the violent students, no disciplinary action has been taken so far.
The non-Kashmiri students continue to put pressure on the institution’s management for action against the assaulters.
In the meantime, these students withheld their protests on 3 April (last Sunday) to let applicants appear for the Joint Entrance Examination, which was conducted after deploying Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel on the campus.
On 4 April, the demonstrations resumed. The Director came over to meet the gathering, as did some senior officers of Jammu & Kashmir Police. Renewed assurance was given to the assaulted students.
On 5 April, even as the demonstrations continued, the Director called two students from every department to hear their grievances. However, at the meeting, the students were disappointed with his unhelpful attitude. The Director allegedly looked for faults in the record of any student who complained. He reportedly said that a committee had been formed to look into the incidents of violence and, therefore, the non-Kashmiri students now had no more reason to complain.
As the students emerged from the Director’s office, they heard that some media personnel had gathered at the gate but were not being allowed to enter the premises of NIT. The students rushed to the gate to intervene—in vain. There was no journalist found waiting there.
When these students raised slogans at the gate, the police assaulted them again. “Ek-ek bande ko paanch-paanch police waalon ne gher kar peeta (About five policemen cornered each one of us and beat us up),” a student said, adding, “You must have seen it in the videos by now.”
Several of these students are now in plasters and stitches. “I have just come back after getting a friend admitted in a hospital. He has sustained a fracture in one of his arms,” a student said.
Yesterday, two officers of the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development arrived at the campus to inquire what has transpired there so far. The assaulted students are now demanding that the NIT branch be moved out of the Kashmir Valley for their safety, security and pursuit of scholastic career in a peaceful environment. “Log humein dhamki dete hain ki baahar niklo to tumhein maar daalenge (The locals now threaten us that we will be killed if we stepped out of the campus),” a student said.
I asked each of the students I spoke to whether they were politically affiliated—in particular, whether they were members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). They all answered in the negative. However, they said that ABVP-affiliated students from different parts of the country are now reaching out to them.
The victims have launched a Facebook page to share their plight with the world.
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