25-year-old Aaqib, who has been studying at Maharishi Markandeshwar University (MMU) for the past six months, did not attend any classes on Saturday. The first thing he did in the morning was to shave his beard. “There is a looming fear here and everyone is looking at you with suspicion. I shaved my beard because of all this. We have not seen this situation before. We do not want to walk alone here anywhere. At around 2 am, people were knocking on some of our doors to create fear,”
A day after the sarpanch of Mullana, a village in Haryana’s Ambala district, gave local residents a 24-hour “ultimatum” to “throw out” Kashmiri students living on rent while citing the Pulwama attack, panic spread in and around the MMU campus.
Meanwhile, around 110 Kashmiri students living in Mullana and nearby villages began to frantically search for alternative accomodation, while around 400 more housed within campus skipped classes and refused to get out of the hostels.
By late Saturday evening, around 50 armed police personnel stood guard outside the university’s hostels while the situation remained tense. Kashmiri students told The Indian Express that ever since the Pulwama attack had taken place, they had been afraid to step out. However, around 20 of them moved out and went to stay with their friends in Rajpura, Punjab.
While university authorities were not available for comment, officials were seen accommodating the affected students in various hostels on campus.
On Friday, Mullana sarpanch Naresh Chauhan had said, “Throw out the Kashmiri boys and girls living in Mullana on rent within 24 hours. Don’t forget you are sitting on a powder keg. Their activities have been found to be suspicious. Three boys among them are younger brothers of bigger terrorists. When our jawans were martyred in Kashmir, they partied and distributed sweets in MMU’s classrooms. It is a shame. Those who give them shelter will be declared traitors of the village and country.”
Soon after the rally, around a 110 Kashmiri students including women living as tenant were asked by their landlords to leave. On Saturday, Kashmiri students said many local youths landlords to throw them out. Sources said some students were assaulted as well.
“Some gave an hour’s deadline while it was six hours for others. We all decided to reach the campus and have been here since then. Some of us want to return to the Valley because our families are worried,” said Aqeel Ahmad, an undergraduate student.
On Saturday afternoon, a police team alongwith sarpanch Chauhan held a meeting with students. “You all our brothers and our intention in saying that was not wrong. We were only talking about those indulging in wrong activities. Wherever you live, you will be safe. I was only talking about those living in rented accommodations without giving their identity cards,” said Chauhan. Speaking to The Indian Express, he claimed that everything is normal.
Ambala SP Astha Modi said police personnel have been deployed in the area to avoid any untoward situation. “The situation is normal there. Yes, some misdirected comments were made yesterday but we have held a meeting with the students and everything is under control,” Modi said.
However, a woman student, who had shifted to the MMU hostel Saturday evening, said, “We were not asked to leave by anybody directly, but after the video went viral and rallies were taken out, we decided to reach campus as early as we could. We could not sleep at night out of fear.”