A day after 12 students from Kashmir were beaten up by members of Hindutva outfits including Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the situation worsened Saturday with Kashmiri students locking themselves inside their hostel rooms and rented houses fearing angry mobs.
Following the terror attack in Pulwama which killed 40 CRPF personnel, Hindutva groups in the city allegedly called the Kashmiris “traitors” and demanded that all Kashmiri students leave the city “within 24 hours”. Several students The Sunday Express spoke to said
On Saturday afternoon, 20 girl students from the valley locked themselves inside a hostel room after a mob surrounded the hostel. A 24-year-old girl student amongst them, who is studying MSc Zoology in the Dolphin Institute and is from the valley, told The Sunday Express, “We are up to 20 girls and we have locked ourselves inside our hostel rooms. Hundreds of people have surrounded our hostel. Many of them have lathis and stones. We have switched off the lights.”
Requesting not to name her, the girl said, “We asked the police for help and they came here, but they are asking us to face the mob and apologise. What should we apologise for? They are calling us traitors, but we haven’t done anything to be called that. We can’t open the door. We are very scared. We have no one to ask for help.”
Up to 3,000 Kashmiri students are currently studying in various colleges and institutes in Dehradun. The five institutes in Dehradun where most Kashmiri students are currently studying are Baba Farid Institute of Technology (BFIT), Dev Bhoomi Institute of Technology (DBIT), Dolphin Institute, Alpine Institute of Management and Technology, and Ras Bihari Bose Subharti University.
The Dehradun police denied any incident of violence against the Kashmiri students, but videos of the students being beaten up in front of the police went viral over social media on Saturday.
Another 23-year-old male from Kashmir’s Baramulla studying MSc Geology at BFIT who did not wish to be named, said, “A mob thrashed two Kashmiri students in front of BFIT yesterday (on Friday). Later, three people reached our rented room, thumping on the door asking us to come out. They asked us whether we were Kashmiris and later came back with over 100 people. They were repeating slogans like ‘Hindustan ke gaddaron ko goli maro (Shoot the traitors of the country)’. We are trapped in the house. The owner is asking us to leave for home, but how do we even enter the streets. The mob is everywhere. We are very scared.”
When contacted, Uttarakhand BJP Minister and state government spokesperson Madan Kaushik said, “We have not got any complaint yet of Kashmiri students being beaten up or threatened to leave Dehradun. The atmosphere is tense (due to the recent terror attack), so Kashmiri students should refrain from making anti-national comments on social media. Their comments on social media are fueling the public against them.”
A senior police official also said the students were “making a big deal out of nothing”. DG (law & order) Ashok Kumar told The Sunday Express, “Since yesterday (Friday) police have been deployed near all institutes in Dehradun where Kashmiri students study. The students are making a big deal out of nothing. They are completely safe. Any student who is scared of any mob can directly contact the police and we will provide all the required help.”
Kumar further said that the police had spoken to the heads of all the institutes in Dehradun. “None of the institutes will let go of any Kashmiri student because of the prevailing conditions, the institute authorities have assured us,” Kumar said.
Nasir Khuehami, the spokesperson of Jammu and Kashmir Students’ Organisation, which has as its members all Kashmiri students studying in colleges and institutes in North India, said, “I have spoken to the police regarding the safety of the Kashmiri students and they have assured me that they will ensure the safety of the students.”
“We have rented 20 rooms in Chandigarh so that the students who feel unsafe in Dehradun can leave the city (temporarily) and reside in Chandigarh, but the situation is so bad that the students are unable to even step out of their residences,” Khuehami said.