Tension prevailed at NIT Srinagar with outstation students making a slew of demands, including shifting the institute out of Kashmir and action against the policemen involved in lathicharge on April 5, even as an HRD team rushed to the institute from Delhi to resolve the crisis being witnessed since last six days.
The developments at the prestigious engineering institute also triggered politicking even as the state government assured that safety will be ensured for the students hailing from other states at the campus where CRPF has been deployed to instill a sense of security.
A day after lathicharge by local police on the agitating non-local students at the campus, the Union HRD Ministry rushed a three-member team — Sanjeev Sharma, Director (Technical Education) in the ministry, Deputy Director Finance Fazal Mehmood and Chairman of Board of Governors of NIT M. J. Zarabi — on April 6 morning.
The team interacted with the outstation students who have been expressing a sense of insecurity at the campus.
“Our first demand is that the NIT be shifted from here. We want to go home first and we will go wherever you shift us,” the students told the HRD Ministry team at the campus.
The students said the police had taken away the national flag from them during a clash on Friday last and demanded that it be returned to them.
The students, who had assembled in a hall inside the NIT campus, also demanded strict action against police personnel including Deputy Superintendent of Police who resorted to lathicharge on them yesterday.
“What J&K police has done, you have seen the videos. We want strict action to be taken against them including the DySP Sajad. We also demand the DySP change his statement in which he has said that students hurled stones at police,” said a student, who was speaking on behalf of the rest.
They said some of the staff members of NIT should resign so that “they do not play with anyone student’s career.”
“We are not going to take any names here but we will provide a list in writing. They have to resign,” the student leader said.
He also sought directions from the HRD ministry to allow the media inside the campus for interaction with the students.
In Surat, HRD Minister Smriti Irani said she had spoken to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti who assured her that safety of all students will be ensured.
“My officers are in touch with the agitating students and their family members. One or two students said they wanted to go back home for which my ministry is making arrangements,” she said.
“HRD officers are present in the campus. We have interacted with around 800 students. We have asked that all students who are worried should tell us, so that we can assist them,” Irani said.
Even as the HRD team arrived in Srinagar, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said the matter needs “tactful handling” and the state government should look into it “without back seat drivers”
“Rushing in a team from HRD ministry coupled with the CRPF replacing J&K police speaks volumes about Delhi’s confidence in Mehbooba Mufti,” Omar wrote on Twitter
On Friday last, the campus had witnessed clashes between local and outstation students over India’s defeat in the semi-final match in the World T20 tournament.
After the clashes, the NIT authorities had shut down the institute which was reopened on Tuesday.
Unrest was witnessed again on Tuesday at the campus, with outstation students expressing a sense of insecurity and attempting to leave the campus, leading to a confrontation with police which resorted to lathicharge in which some were injured
In a letter to the management of NIT Srinagar dated April 4, the outstation students had listed five demands that, they felt, would enable them to peacefully reside at the campus and concentrate on their studies
“Due to the anti-national activities rising in campus premises, students not local to Srinagar have faced serious problems as well as life threats. Due to the cold situation here, students are eager to reach their homes,” the letter said.
The Times of India reported earlier that a Kashmiri teacher was also allegedly assaulted by non-Kashmiri students.
According to a report in a local publication Rising Kashmir, the agitating students are more miffed with the NIT and the J&K police. Incidentally, the report adds that the students want discussions on their demands to be held only in New Delhi.
Expressing concern over restrictions imposed on media by the authorities of National Institute of Technology in Srinagar and Hyderabad Central University, the Press Council of India (PCI) also released a statement on 7th April and sought to know the reasons behind the move.
The PCI said imposing such restrictions on media impinges on the freedom of the press.
“The Chairman (PCI chief justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad) felt that prima facie, the action of the HCU impinge on the freedom of the press. Taking suo-motu cognisance of the issue, the Hon’ble Chairman ordered for immediately calling a report in the matter from the Vice Chancellor, Hyderabad Central University,” the statement said.