As fear hung in the air over Kashmiri students being targeted in Dehradun following the Pulwama terror attack on Thursday, at least two institutes in the city have stated that they will not admit any student from Kashmir in the new academic session. The fear and open threats also prompted several Kashmiri students to temporarily leave the city.
In an “undertaking” to the students’ union of the Dehradun-based DAV PG College — which, along with members of the ABVP, VHP, and Bajrang Dal, had led the protests outside colleges on Friday — Dr Aslam Siddiqui, principal of Baba Farid Institute of Technology (BFIT), wrote on Friday, “Students’ Union president, we assure you that if any Kashmiri student is found engaged in any anti-national activity, then the student will be expelled from the institute.”
“Nae satra mein kisi bhi Kashmiri chhatra ko daakhila nahi diya jaega (no new Kashmiri student will be admitted in the upcoming session),” the letter further stated.
On being contacted by The Indian Express, Siddiqui said, “Around 400-500 people from ABVP, VHP, and Bajrang Dal protested in front of the institute between 1 pm and 5pm. They asked us to assure them that all the Kashmiri students would be expelled from BFIT. I tried explaining that expelling students mid-term would affect their careers. Finally, keeping in mind the safety of the Kashmiri students, I had to give in writing that we won’t accept any Kashmiri student from the next session.” Up to 250 students from J&K study in BFIT.
Another letter addressed to the DAV Students’ Union and signed by S K Chauhan, Director of the Dehradun-based Alpine College of Management and Technology, reproduced verbatim the contents of the BFIT letter. Chauhan too issued the letter on Friday.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Chauhan said, “I have given in writing that we won’t accept any Kashmiri student from the next session. I can’t deny that I wrote that. However, till now, only two institutes have said that they won’t give admission to any Kashmiri student in the next session. Only if all institutes in the state follow this will our institute follow it too.” He added that all decisions were taken in consultation with “higher authorities”, including institute chairman Anil Saini.
On Friday, after right-wing groups protested in front of Alpine College demanding that all its 300-odd Kashmiri students be expelled, Chauhan issued a separate declaration that no new Kashmiri student would be admitted in the new session.
Saini told The Indian Express, “We took the decision to keep the Kashmiri students in the institute safe (from right-wing groups). Further, we will follow whatever orders are issued by the state government with regard to giving admission to Kashmiri students.”
DAV Students’ Union president Jitendra Singh Bisht, who is from the ABVP, said, “We haven’t been able to approach all institutes, but we will do so and get an undertaking that they won’t take in any new Kashmiri student.”
Vikas Verma, Bajrang Dal leader in Dehradun, said, “We don’t want even one Kashmiri Muslim student in Uttarakhand because they are engaged in anti-national activities.”
Dehradun Senior Superintendent of Police Nivedita Kukreti said, “The police will uphold law and order.”
While Kashmiri students in the city have been temporarily leaving the city, Chief Minister Trivendra Rawat said, “Kashmiri students in Uttarakhand need not worry. However, action will be taken any student, Kashmiri or non-Kashmiri, in case of violation of law.”
Over 120-odd students from Kashmir, mostly residing in and around the Turner Road, have been packing their bags for Chandigarh. Over a 100 students had left on Saturday while another 64 are waiting in the city’s Rampur area, hoping the Uttarakhand or J&K government would arrange for some transportation so that they can leave the city for now.
Inside a rented house in Turner Road, a 23-year-old student from the Uttaranchal PG College of Bio-Medical Sciences and Hospital, who is from Kupwara in Kashmir, said, “We have been going to the bus station in small groups so that we can leave the town unnoticed.”
While the local police have been helpful, he says, “its unfortunate that we are facing such a situation in Dehradun. In Kashmir, the situation is always tense. We came here to get the education that we couldn’t in Kashmir, but the past three days have changed everything. People (locals) look at us as if we have wronged them,” he says.
About 17 km away, in Sudhowala locality, police booked four men for assaulting two Afghan students, whom they had mistaken for Kashmiri. This correspondent witnessed the men stopping their vehicle in front of the two Afghan youths and asking them to chant “Hindustan zindabad” and “Pakistan murdabad”. When they didn’t, the men assaulted the two youths.