DESPITE REPORTS of several incidents of attacks on Kashmiri students in various places, in the wake of February 14 Pulwama terror attack, the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) took at least a week to act on a University Grants Commission (UGC) order directing all universities and colleges to beef up security and ensure peaceful environment on the campuses.
In a letter, dated February 22, UGC secretary Rajnish Jain had directed vice-chancellors of universities across the country to immediately initiate steps to ensure safety of students from Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) studying at their respective institutions. The UGC secretary had even suggested that universities could seek help from the local police and other machinery, in case of any untoward incidents.
Pune safe, Kashmiri students have said
Pune has been home to students from all over India and abroad for several decades. It also hosts hundreds of students from J&K. In the wake of the Pulwama incident, many of these students had come out and said that they had always been made to feel welcome in Pune, and that the city was like a second home for them. These students had, at that time, said that they had managed to convince fellow Kashmiris, who were new to the city, and were feeling insecure in the wake of some reports of attacks on Kashmiri students elsewhere, not to leave Pune and go back.
The SPPU, however, issued a letter to all its 705 affiliated colleges, 234 recognised institutes and 71 research institutes in Pune, Nashik and Ahmednagar, only on March 1 — almost a week later. In the letter, the SPPU urged the colleges to arrange for meetings with the Kashmiri students and provide them with all kinds of assistance, which would give them confidence in such sensitive times. The University also urged all colleges to take steps to maintain peaceful and harmonious academic environment on their campuses.
Around 300 to 500 students from J&K are studying in several colleges and some deemed universities in Pune — the highest in Maharashtra, followed by Mumbai and parts of Vidarbha.
Soon after the Pulwama terror attack — which left 40 CRPF personnel dead — several incidents of attacks on Kashmiri students were reported from Dehradun, Jaipur, Indore, Kolkata and even Yavatmal (in Maharashtra).
On February 20, two Kashmiri students studying at a college in Yavatmal city were allegedly assaulted by a group of youths. The victims were both studying physical education at Dahyabhai Patel Sharirik Shikshan Mahavidyalaya. Following the incident, nearly 30 students from the area had returned to their home state. When The Indian Express had contacted SPPU officials after the attack was reported, a senior University official had said that security on the Pune University campus had been stepped up.
When The Indian Express had contacted SPPU officials after the Yavatmal attack, a senior University official had said: “The security on the SPPU campus has been stepped up. We do so on all occasions when there are such possible threats to the students. However, there are no special steps initiated with regards to security.”
Attempts to reach the SPPU authorities on phone over its one-week delay to issue a notification in response to the UGC order, went unanswered. Earlier, several students from J&K studying in various Pune institutions had claimed that they had not faced any problem here.