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‘A Kashmiri cannot move freely anyway’

Adil Ashraf Akhoon was in the final year of his journalism course in 2014 when he was told to leave. He never went back to college

Written by Sofi Ahsan |
Updated: October 23, 2016 1:33:44 am
kashmir, kashmir unrest, india pakistan, kashmiri students, Swami Vivekanand Subharti University, Baramulla, pakistan asia cup win, india pakistan cricket, india news Adil says alternative colleges he tried told him to start undergraduate course afresh.

Adil Ashraf Akhoon had been the only student in his class, at a government school in north Kashmir, to choose “a different career path”. But a cricket match in 2014 would derail his dreams of becoming a video editor. Since then, the 22-year-old says, he has been left to lead a “restless life” at home in Baramulla’s Kreeri village, with little hope of entering a university again.

His day begins in the confines of his house and ends there. Sometime he goes out with his childhood friends, but mostly he spends his time “doing nothing” or helping out with household chores, he says.

Adil was among the nine students expelled by the administration of Swami Vivekanand Subharti University in Meerut in 2014 for celebrating Pakistan’s win over India in an Asia Cup cricket tie. The administration held that “their behaviour was not conducive to peace on the campus”, after Pakistan’s win sparked violence at the university.

A total of 67 Kashmiri students were suspended and sent home after the furore, but 58 of them were later allowed to resume studies. While the sedition charge against the Valley students was dropped in the absence of any evidence, a disciplinary committee found them guilty of misconduct.

Six of the nine who were eventually expelled secured admission at other universities, while two of them had to start their undergraduate degrees afresh. Adil was the only one whose career stalled.

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The universities that offered him re-admission, such as AP Goyal Shimla University, wanted him to start his
undergraduate course once again, and he wasn’t ready to take the option. Adil had been in the final year of his
Bachelor’s in Journalism and Mass Communications course when he was expelled from the Meerut university.

“I cannot do anything now. I tried to get admission in many colleges and universities, but I faced rejection
everywhere,” says Adil. “A Kashmiri cannot move freely any way. My life is blemished forever. I think about it all the time and how much it has cost me.”

This year, there have been several attacks on Kashmiri students across the country, while some of them have also been arrested over social media posts. Earlier this month, four students were injured in a clash between Kashmiri students and others at a Ludhiana college, following tension that had been building over India-Pakistan sports matches, which came to a head after the Uri attack.

Adil says he had joined the journalism course with the desire to do something different, and had taken a chance with the decision to study outside J&K. “I couldn’t just shift from that and start studying something else. I went to the Meerut university too twice, and called the administration many times.”

Every time he hears or reads about the harassment faced by Kashmiri students in educational institutes outside the state, Adil says, he remembers that day of March 2, 2014, when his life changed.

“Everyone was watching the match on television silently that day, but when it became certain that Pakistan would
win, students supporting India began saying all kinds of things. We continued to remain silent, but at one point,
the abuses became intolerable and we had to react,” Adil says. “We asked the warden to switch off the television set to avoid tension, but he did not listen, and when Pakistan won, a fight broke out.”

The next day, the students were dropped at the Ghaziabad railway station and sent to Delhi, from where they travelled home. “We managed the travel cost somehow. There was not much money in our pockets. My family wouldn’t allow me to leave home for days after I returned,” he says.

Adil had been interning with a local television channel in Meerut when the cricket controversy broke, getting trained as a video editor. Two months after the episode, he was allowed to sit for his fourth-semester exam, but with a rider: he and the eight other expelled students were told that they would have to collect their migration certificates at the end of the examinations.

He cleared all the exams, he says.

Adil’s four siblings are all younger than him. One brother is an undergraduate student, while the other three are
in school. His father, who works as an embroider, and his mother want him to continue his education too. But, he
says, “my dreams have been killed”.

Adil is still in touch with his former classmates at the Meerut university, who were from the area. He says he
often visits them too, and stays at their homes. “It may have changed my life, but I still have my friends in
Meerut,” he says.

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