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By Harjeet Singh & Gangandeep Singh Dhillon
Five students from Jammu and Kashmir quit their engineering college near Lalru and headed home following a clash between two groups of students in the hostel, allegedly over “cheering” the Pakistan cricket team while watching a match on TV on Tuesday night.
After closing the institute till September 8 to defuse the tension, the authorities of Swami Parmanand College of Engineering and Technology asked all the students to vacate the hostel. The college authorities denied the clash had anything to do with alleged “pro-Pakistan slogans”, and blamed outsiders, local workers of a political party and mediapersons for blowing the issue out of proportion.
Eyewitnesses said the incident took place when around 50 students were watching the Pakistan-Sri Lanka one-dayer in the hostel common room. When one group of students allegedly cheered the Pakistan team, another group started “hooting” in response. An argument started, and soon the two groups got into a fight. Many other students joined in and some of them also vandalised hostel property. Twelve students from both groups were injured in the clash.
The college has students from J&K, Bihar, UP and Uttarakhand. A student from Bihar said, “It was a minor altercation which soon turned nasty. On Wednesday, the issue was politicised by outsiders who blocked the highway.”
A student from J&K said, “It wasn’t about any support to the Pakistani team. It happened while we were watching TV but the reason for the argument is not clear yet. The issue was politicised the next day by anti-social elements.”
The strength of the boys’ hostel is 500. There are two blocks, one mostly occupied by J&K students and the other by students from other states.
Roshan, a B tech student from Bihar who stays outside the campus, said, “Most of us living outside got to know about the clash in the morning. Our seniors in the hostel told us they were fed up with the attitude of the J&K students.”
A J&K student, however, said there was no rift among the hostel inmates. “It is the students living outside the campus who are giving illogical reasons for the clash.”
On Wednesday, many “students” protested outside the college and were joined by a local BJP leader, Dhami Sharma, who was later booked along with 30-40 unidentified persons for blocking the Chandigarh-Ambala highway.
Principal T D Sharma said, “We’ve formed a five-member committee to inquire into the cause of the clash. The incident was over by the time college authorities and police reached there. We have given a complaint to the police without naming any student. But one thing is certain: it wasn’t due to ‘pro-Pakistan’ or ‘anti-India’ slogans. This was stated next morning by local party leaders who brought outsiders to protest. Not a single protester was from the hostel. The issue was sorted out that very night and on Wednesday, the police escorted all J&K students till Chandigarh, from where they departed for their homes.”
“Five J&K students collected their documents and said they were not coming back, However, parents of some of them called and requested us to take them back. We told them they are welcome,” said the principal.