The Supreme Court is likely to hear Friday a petition highlighting the alleged targeting of Kashmiri students in the country following the Pulwama terror attack on February 14.
A bench, comprising Chief Justice Rajan Gogoi and Justices L N Rao and Sanjiv Khanna, took note of senior advocate Colin Gonsalves’ submission that the hearing is urgent as it relates to the safety and security of students. The plea alleged that students from Kashmir Valley are being attacked at different educational institutions in different parts of the country after the Pulwama terror attack and authorities concerned should be directed to take actions to stop such assaults.
Since the attack, in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed after a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden Scorpio SUV into a bus carrying the personnel, several incidents of Kashmiri students being harassed in parts of the country have been reported.
At least 10 Kashmiri students have been booked and 24 suspended or rusticated from colleges across the country for what officials called “anti-national” social media posts. Several Kashmiri students, migrants, traders and professionals living in many northern states, particularly Uttarakhand and Haryana, have had to pack up and leave.
In Dehradun, Kashmiri students were forced to flee back to their home state, while the administrators of their colleges have been made to pledge that they will admit no Kashmiris in the future. In at least one case, a senior faculty member of Kashmiri origin was dismissed from his post. An estimated 3,000 students from Kashmir currently attend colleges and institutes in Dehradun.
However, Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar Wednesday dismissed reports of alleged harassment of Kashmiri students outside their state and said, “There is massive anger in the country against the Pulwama terror attack. However, I want to clarify that what you are trying to say (about Kashmiri students being attacked) is not true. We are in touch with all institutes and no such incident has happened.”
This week, the Uttarakhand Police arrested over 20 students for demanding expulsion of Kashmiri students from Dehradun. In Uttarakhand alone, 11 students were suspended or rusticated in the last week under pressure from fellow students for their social media posts. At least 800 Kashmiri students have left the hill state, according to Nasir Khuehami, spokesperson of Jammu and Kashmir Students’ Organisation.
Of the 11 suspended, seven were from a university in Roorkee studying computer science, radiology, and commerce. College students alleged that one of them, a 19-year-old girl from Pulwama in Kashmir, had an Instagram account where she posted content in “praise” of Pakistan. College authorities said while the Instagram account belonged to the student, six of her “close friends” were also rusticated because other college students demanded so.
In Bhopal, six Kashmiri students of Kushabhau Thakre Nursing College were expelled by the college management under pressure from Bajrang Dal activists who cited alleged “anti-India” Facebook posts by two of them. Chairman of the college Tajwar Khan said the college had no option because there were protests by a right-wing organization and other students.
In Ambala, at the Maharishi Markandeshwar University (MMU)’s Mullana campus, around 110 students were forced out of their rented accommodation by locals.
In Karnataka as well, four Kashmiri students of a university were booked after allegations by VHP activists that they had posted “praise” of the bomber. A member of the Kashmiri association in Bangalore, who did not want to be named, said the group has arranged for lawyers to represent the students arrested in East Bangalore.
A series of attacks were reported against Kashmiris living in various parts of West Bengal as well. In the latest incident, a group of shawl traders from Kashmir were targeted in Kolkata on Sunday night.
In fact, the issue of safety of Kashmiri students was raised by former J&K Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh last week. Hours after an all-party meeting on the matter on February 16, the Home Ministry issued an advisory nationwide to ensure safety and security of students and people from Jammu and Kashmir.