Handling of NIT Crisis : Acid test for Mehbooba as CM

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SRINAGAR: The crisis at the National Institute of Technology, Srinagar — a college of national importance — is the first major challenge for the new chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti. 

Although, the controversy has, so far, refuses to die down, her handling of the crisis will not just set the tone for her tenure, but will also define her relationship with her alliance partner, the BJP.

The non-local students of this premier institute of state are now demanding the relocation of the college to a safer place, most of them want it to be shifted to Jammu. 

When a team from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) met the agitated students on Wednesday afternoon, a student on the stage demanded the relocation of the NIT Campus to a “safer location”. Surprisingly enough, many in the crowd shouted that it should be relocated to the Hindu majority region of the state, Jammu.

The team that interacted with the students included Sanjeev Sharma, director (technical education) in the HRD ministry, deputy director (finance) Fazal Mehmood and chairman of the board of governors of NIT, MJ Zarabi. They gave the students a patient hearing and tried to persuade them that their genuine demands would be looked into. The team is staying back in Srinagar, according to sources, till 11 April.

Zarabi, told reporters that the NIT administration was ready to fulfil all genuine demands from outstation students.

“There was no serious or unnecessary demand by the students and we are trying to look at them (the demands) with an open mind so that their academics won’t suffer. The action taken by the police was necessary as they had to stop students from becoming violent. If the police had allowed the students to move outside the campus, the situation would have taken an ugly turn,” he said.

“Whatever happened was unfortunate and shouldn’t have happened as it affects the academic atmosphere. We will raise the issue of excesses by police, if any, with the state government,” Zarabi told reporters.

But after the meeting, the voices demanding the relocation of the institute have begun to grow louder. With the agitated students emphasising that they would like to be “escorted outside the state, and when they come back, they would like to go to another campus in a safer place.”

“If Kashmiri students don’t want to celebrate the Indian team’s victory and choose instead to celebrate the Indian defeat, then we don’t want to remain here. We are demanding the National Flag be hoisted at the main gate,” a student, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

“For the moment, we want to leave the institution and come join back only when the campus is shifted to a safer location preferably in Jammu,” he added.

Normal classes continued on Wednesday and Thursday morning, but the attendance of the students remained abysmal. The unfortunate part is the NIT has been turned into a garrison now.

If the students remain adamant on the relocation of the campus, can the state government give in to the demands and what would be the political impact on Mehbooba’s core constituency? This will be a decision that could split wide open the politics of regionalism in the already fragile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

While Kashmiri students studying at the institute maintain the issue is not local versus the non-locals, but about the “freedom of speech” and respecting each others’ viewpoint. Nevertheless, they blame non-local students for blowing things out of proportion and under the “garb of nationalism, hatching a conspiracy to relocate the institute.”

“It started with a cricket match, there has been a difference of opinion but why take it so far? It is not Kashmir versus India. There are some elements in the protesting crowd who are not allowing the protests to die down because they want to get moved from this institution to one in their home states. Someone is instigating them,” Tariq Ahmad, a student said.

“But the reservation that is on paper should be implemented, which for sure, will lead to a balance in the institution,” he added.

On its part, the state government says action against will be taken against the errant police officers if found guilty of misconduct while dispensing their duties.

“A team is already there. They have listened to the students. Their genuine concerns will be addressed. We want to assure them they are safe like in any other part of the country and should live like they used to live,” Priya Sethi, minister of state for technical education, said.

If the relocation demand starts picking up it will be a litmus test for Mehbooba’s leadership and how she deals with it. But in Kashmir, anger is slowly growing against the Centre for intervening into a matter that could have been handled by the state government. 

“16 Kashmiri students were suspended till 25 April in Rajasthan. Nine students and a hostel warden from Kashmir were arrested over the Indian cricket team’s loss against West Indies. They were released on bail, but did any one talk about that? Did the Centre send a team to that university to find out what happened?” asked Suhail Ahmad Kar, whose son studies in NIT Srinagar.

“But even then, every non-local Kashmiri is welcome to Kashmir to study. No one touched the five lakh pilgrims in the 2008 Kashmir unrest. My son, along with his friends, risked his life to save his classmates in the floods. So how come these saviours have become terrorists so suddenly? There is sheer politics behind this controversy,” he added.

The seeds of the current controversy were perhaps laid in August 2009 when the NIT transferred 26 additional seats of the state quota to the Central quota. The institute had 26 seats for the Bachelors of Technology course left vacant in its home state quota that year. It allotted these seats to the Central quota leaving students from the state deprived. These 26 seats had fallen vacant from the state’s 50 percent quota.

At that time, the students from the state had urged the Central Counselling Board to allot the 26 seats to local students as per the 50 percent reserved quota to state subjects. These 26 seats were later merged by the Central Counselling Board to the Central quota, according to a source at the institution.

The controversy escalated on the very first day when Mehbooba was sworn in as the chief minister.  While the Jammu-based politicians — including ministers in the PDP-BJP government — are demanding action against the police and university administration, the Peoples Democratic Party had to defend the state police by saying that if the police had allowed students to venture out of the college, there would have been chaos on the streets.

“Those people who are questioning the ability and patriotism of our police force should think thousands of time before making any ridiculous comments and stop politicising the NIT issue. 

Minister for Education Naeem Akhtar said the issue was an administrative one and not a security issue, “I assure parents of the students of NIT that their wards are safe and the state government is taking all the measures to normalise the situation on campus. It is not a local versus non-local issue as is being projected by some sections of the media, but just an administrative issue which is being sorted out,” he assured. With inputs from firstpost

 

Kashmiri students allege ‘harassment’ at Jammu College

Jammu:  At a time when Jammu observed a shutdown against the alleged police action at NIT Srinagar, the Kashmiri students enrolled in Yogananda College of Engineering and Technology Gurha Brahmana Jammu were cornered in the college and the local students there chanted anti-Kashmiri and anti-Pakistan slogans. 

The Kashmiri students who were scared alleged that it has become a routine for the people here to harass and label Kashmiri students as anti-India.

 “Scores of local students staged anti-Kashmir protest inside the campus while the authorities did nothing to stop them. They chanted slogans like, ‘Kashmiri Dogs’, ‘Pakistani Dogs’, ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, ‘Desh Ke Gadaroon Ko Joote Maro’. The protest was held to demean our position and harass us. We are anxious and feeling insecure,” Kashmiri students said.

They said that it is not the first time they are feeling insecure in the College. “Last time after the culmination of India Pakistan Cricket match, the locals here harassed us for supporting Pakistan cricket team and chanted anti-Kashmir slogans. “We appeal Government to ensure our safety,” the students said and alleged that college authorities have been giving free hand to miscreants.

When contacted an official from the College admitted that local students staged pro-India protest but maintained that no student from Kashmir was harassed. “They are safe and secure and there is nothing to worry,” he said. 

 

Kashmiri Students’ Memorandum to MHRD Team

After Union government sent its two member team to National Institute of Technology (NIT) Srinagar to know the ground facts on Wednesday after a controversy erupted post West Indies cricket match win, two groups of NIT students met the delegation.

The local students submitted a memorandum before the Union Ministry of Human Resource Delegation text of which is being produced here, verbatim.

Memorandum to The Visiting MHRD Delegation

We would like to express our thoughts on the demands made by the non-locals to the visiting team:

Their first demand, that of permanent central security to be placed in the campus.

We are all aware of the volatile nature of the Kashmir region. Presence of central security or armed security forces of any type will only make the campus (and subsequently, its students) vulnerable to disturbance owing to political events outside college.

Further, NIT Srinagar has overcome a long history of struggle to get rid of security forces on campus in the first place.

Let’s make this very clear — They are demanding the presence of armed security upon the grounds of an educational institute. This is not acceptable here, or anywhere in the world. In the past, security forces used to reside in the hostel. This set a tone of hostility and fear amongst every student and parent.

We call upon any of the representatives of the non-local brethren to cite a single incident (including and especially through the turmoil of 2008 and 2010) where a non-local student was harmed.

50% Non-Local Staff

After just a few seconds of thought, it is very clear that the onus of selecting teaching faculty is on the MHRD. There is already a set procedure in place to ensure that there is fair selection of teaching faculty.

The MHRD has the power to review the recruitment and selection procedure. This is purely an administrative issue and needs to be dealt with upon the directions of MHRD.

Academic Harassment

This demand comes as a surprise. The academic section has the award rolls of the current students and the years before. This demand is unfounded. Upon taking a look at those records, a fair number of the toppers are non-locals. This reinforces that in NIT Srinagar, the only requirement to succeed is merit and hard work. They have never been academically harassed before and will never be academically harassed in the future.

This allegation is disrespectful to our teachers and by that extension, MHRD who selects them.

Formation by Basic Student Councils

The current situation is already sensitive. There is a growing divide between different groups within the college. The formation of councils, unions, and bringing politics into the scene will only exacerbate these divides.

Religious Impositions

The local brethren celebrate and will continue to celebrate Holi, Diwali, and every occasion with them. In fact, we have a very memorable photograph of one of the local students celebrating Diwali, complete with fire-crackers.

There is no religious imposition on anybody within the campus. This demand itself comes as a shock.

In conclusion, NIT Srinagar has always been tightly-knit community. We have always been great hosts to the students who come here from outside. We do our best to make them feel at home, and can assure you without an iota of doubt, that we will continue to do so. Our hands are always extended.

 

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