Jammu & Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh said on Saturday that the demand by the protesting non-Kashmiri students at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) was “not worth raising, let alone worth hearing”, and that the state government was taking all steps to ensure the security of the students.
Nirmal Singh told The Sunday Express in an interview that ultimately, it was the J&K Police that would continue to have the responsibility for maintaining security at NIT, and that the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) were temporary measures taken immediately after the police lathicharge on campus.
The deputy chief minister along with Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar, a specially deputed two-member team of the union HRD Ministry, and senior police officials held a marathon six-hour meeting with 11 NIT students on Friday evening.
Nirmal Singh, whose BJP is in coalition with the PDP in the state, said the students had “built-up” grievances over the years, which had burst out during the India-West Indies World T20 semifinal on March 31. He described the incidents, where some Kashmiri students and others were beaten up for supporting the winning West Indies team, and the subsequent lathicharge on campus as “unfortunate”.
The students had no wi-fi on campus, curfew hours were strict, the buildings were not being maintained properly, and there were frequent power cuts. Singh said steps were being taken to address these issues, and expressed hope that things would return to normal soon.
The deputy chief minister said the students’ demand that they be “evacuated” from the campus, and that the NIT be shifted out of the Valley were not under consideration.
“I don’t know from where this word evacuated has come, as if the place has come under floods. As far as shifting the institute out of the Valley is concerned, I have made it clear that this is not a demand worth raising, let alone worth hearing. I have told them this demand is out of line. Second, the HRD team has categorically conveyed that there is no chance of migration [to any other institute]. Whatever other issues there are, including security concerns, are the state government’s responsibility. I have taken personal responsibility. I have given them my word, they have my personal phone number, they can call me anytime,” Nirmal Singh said.
He said the students’ complaint about the J&K Police being “anti-national” was not valid, and that this had been conveyed to them in unequivocal terms.
“We told [the students] that just like it’s your flag, it is also our flag and the flag of J&K Police. Our DIG was sitting there, he told them that 3,000 policemen have laid down their lives, become shaheed for this same flag. Three thousand is not a small number. J&K Police is fighting for the national cause. Just for one incident, giving the J&K police a bad name is not on. The Tricolour is respected here by policemen and others. They salute the flag,” Nirmal Singh said.