They are threatening us with rape and molestation: Outstation girls at NIT
Yesterday, a group of Kashmiri students walked up to me and said: ‘Ek ke saath rape hoga to sab thande pad jaoge’ (If one of you gets raped, the rest will fall silent),” said the student.
She broke down over phone, scared for her life and honour in NIT Srinagar hundreds of kilometers away from the safety of her home in Uttar Pradesh.
“Local Kashmiri students are threatening us – outstation girl students – with rape and molestation. Yesterday, a group of Kashmiri students walked up to me and said: ‘Ek ke saath rape hoga to sab thande pad jaoge’ (If one of you gets raped, the rest will fall silent),” said the student, whose name we are withholding so that she does not face reprisals.
“God was kind and Kashmir (J&K) Police brutally assaulted the non-Kashmiri male students on Monday. Had there been girls, they too would have been thrashed like the boys. Why did the police and the college administration treat us like animals?”
This is perhaps the first time the Modi government is facing intense criticism from many of its own avid supporters. Angry online campaigns raged throughout the day; the students posted videos of police action on Facebook and Twitter, and Modi’s opponents like Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal asked if the BJP government had different standards for patriots in the rest of India and the ones in Kashmir.
The BJP-ruled Centre and PDP-BJPruled state officials downplayed the matter. “The students are overreacting. Their parents have requested the government to not let their children venture out of the campus as the situation is sensitive and tense. But they don’t want to listen. God forbid if something untoward happens to any student, things may go from bad to worse, not just here but across the country,” said a central government source.
Emotions on the campus seem very different. “I have no confidence in the state government as well as the Narendra Modi government and the HRD ministry. If it happened once, it will happen again. They have failed to protect us. They are trying to portray that all is normal when it is not,” another NIT girl student told Mail Today.
And while government officials say that the students pushed around senior police officials before the cops acted, a final-year BTech student of NIT Srinagar from Delhi said there was no provocation. “The police thrashed us like dogs. Pakistani flags were flown all over the campus even as non-J&K students are in majority. This is nothing new; this had been happening since long. This time it has come out in the open, thanks to social media. There are two hostels adjoining the boundary of the college, beyond which lies a local neighbourhood. The night we objected to celebrations of India’s defeat in T20 World Cup semifinal, these people from beyond the wall started pelting stones at the hostel,” he said.
Students claimed that the college administration had severed the internet connection to the campus after the post-match incident on Friday, cutting off students’ online activities. “Mobile phones were the only way we have been organising our protest and showing India what happened here. The internet connection was restored only when the MHRD team landed here,” a student said, requesting anonymity.
He said that while they convinced the college administration that they needed to buy essential commodities from outside, the real intent was to contact the media camped outside the main gate. “We were beaten not because we did anything wrong; the J&K Police feared that the truth will come out. Not that it mattered, because the local media is now portraying us as villains,” he said.
“Lathi charge is to break violence. Our students were staging a silent sit-in at the gate. They were hit in the head. A student who suffered a lathi blow to his ear is now unable to hear. He has not told this to his parents out of fear and shame,” a girl student said.
The non-Kashmiri students are also blaming the college administration for condoning anti-national activities on campus. “While outstation students are in majority, the college officials and the teaching staff have been encouraging such antinational activities,” the Delhi student said.
Social networks, meanwhile, have turned into a battleground. “We are being threatened on Facebook and Twitter. Kashmiris are daring us to come out of the college gate with the Indian flag,” said a student. The affected students have also formed an FB page ‘Save the students of NIT Srinagar’ and are posting photos and videos of the incidents, the authenticity of which could not be verified, though they claim several fake pages too have been formed to post misleading news.
Several videos of supposed police overreaction that this FB page hosts show indiscriminate caning of students and injuries sustained by them.
The MHRD rushed a twomember team to review the situation and engage with the students. Union home minister Rajnath Singh also took stock of the situation. He called up J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
“My main concern is that there should not be any physical harm to the students and they should not face academic disadvantage because of a shutdown,” said Singh. He said he had spoken to police chief K Rajendra Kumar. “I believe there should not be use of force by police against students under any circumstances. I will appeal to the students to maintain peace. The government is seized of the entire incident. A report has been sought by the MHA. We want to assure students’ parents that we are as concerned as they are,” the home minister said.
Deputy chief minister and BJP leader Nirmal Singh’s statement about “mild lathicharge” met with widespread outrage. He said later: “We take responsibility of all the students studying in this NIT. We have put in place all possible safety measures.” The CRPF was deployed on Monday night outside the campus.
In Surat, HRD Minister Smriti Irani said she had spoken to the J&K CM who assured her that safety of all students would be ensured. “My officers are in touch with the agitating students and their families,” she said.
Jammu Kashmir Study Circle (JKSC), an RSS-supported body active in the region, claimed that it was not a Kashmiri versus non-Kashmiri issue. “Not all Kashmiri students are against those who come from outside to study here. Not all Kashmiris rejoice at India’s defeat in cricket. The NIT incident shows that separatist elements have made their way concertedly to top educational institutes and they must be weeded out,” said a JKSC spokesperson.