“It was just a few minutes of ruckus, then things returned to normalcy the minute the cops set foot.”Recounts Arvind Gupta, Chairman Dolphin College, Dehradun to The Quint
On 16 February, Dehradun found itself embroiled in an unlikely situation. Students from its institutes started demanding the removal of Kashmiri muslim students studying in their colleges. Their crime was in their name.
Minutes after the Pulwama terror attack on 14 February, Kashmiri students from across the country were being slapped with sedition charges for ‘celebrating’ it. In Dehradun, however, the situation was taking an unexpected turn, the next few days were out of a crime thriller, no less. Especially for the street that boasts of two of its best private colleges, BFIT and Dolphin Institute.
Threats, Fear and Evacuation
“My phone started buzzing since 16 February and has not stopped still. There were distress calls coming from Kashmiri students who were being targeted, they wanted to be rescued and sent back home. The first few calls came from a bunch of girls who were in Girls Nest Hostel in Dehradun’s Sudhowala area. They were so scared that they wanted to be airlifted! We alerted everyone and set things into motion.”Javid Parsa, Volunteer to The Quint
Within hours, several such calls started pouring in from more Kashmiris studying in Dehradun, they wanted to be moved out.
“We were feeling very unsafe, we had heard stories from our friends about the threats that our community was receiving. Suddenly the safe haven that Dehradun was, turned violent against us. This was something that we could have never expected.”Nazia*, a first year student from a private college in Dehradun who chose to stay anonymous
Fearing a backlash, colleges started to put out notices saying that they will not admit Kashmiri students anymore.
“Yes, the situation was tense, but we as an institute are not against a particular community, we are against the mindset that is anti-national. That mindset could be from any state or religion. We will not give admission to such a mindset.”Arvind Gupta, Chairman Dolphin Institute to The Quint
In the heat of the moment, the Dr Aslam Siddiqui, principal of BFIT college said they wouldn’t admit Kashmiri students.
“No, that is not the case, we will, of course admit them, albeit in accordance with the state government’s directives.”Dr Aslam Siddiqui, principal of BFIT to The Quint
When asked how many students from his institute have left the campus already, he said:
“There are many here still, and don’t you see, thing have resumed. Everything is normal, college is working smoothly, things are happening at its normal pace.”
Except that almost 1,000 students have fled from the city amidst fear of an impending attack, according to ground reports.
What Next, Now?
“When I came to Dehradun to assess the situation, I was very satisfied. Our students were being protected by the administration well. However, the first few days were tense, there was sloganeering that pushed the college authorities to the extreme. Later, things subsided.”Aijaz Mir, PDP MLA to The Quint
After the news about Kashmiri students spread up north, Aijaz Mir came down to town to help the students. The ones who wanted to move back home went with him, some, however, have stayed back.
“Kashmiris are very much a part of India, if they are isolated then there is very little that they would be able to do with their lives. Although the administration and the cops were very helpful, we really hope that the students can return soon and resume college life.”
When The Quint spoke to the warden at the Girls Nest hostel, she denied any incidents of provocation that lead to the ‘exodus’.
“The girls were scared that something might happen. But, there was no provocation. They left on their own, we don’t know when they will come back.”
Even some locals around the hostel ‘saw nothing, heard nothing’.
“The Kashmiri girls have to pay for their groceries, I hope they come back soon. We heard that they left because of some anti-national slogans that they raised, but I personally heard nothing.”Raju*, a fruitseller near the hostel
Almost 1,000 Kashmiris have left their college mid-semester, mid-classes. Will the colleges assist them in any way?
“We assured them of complete support, we also will ensure that we hold extra classes when they are back.”Arvind Gupta, Chairman Dolphin institute
‘Verify Kashmiri Students Before Admission’
The state government has been fairly mum on this issue. However, Uttarakhand’s Higher Education Minister Dhan Singh Rawat, told News 18 that from the next session, institutes must do a police verification for Kashmiri students. He said,
“We will seek full details from the Jammu and Kashmir authorities about the prospective students – their past and family history etc. It will be compulsory for the concerning colleges to get the students’ verification done by the local police.”
Apart from this the government has neither acknowledged nor condemned the forced fleeing of the Kashmiri students.
Khalsa Aid along with a J&K-based NGO have been proactive in helping the students reach home safely. Khalsa Aid has also paid for all the bus expenses as well as the lodging of students in Chandigarh, which had become a transit place.
“Khalsa Aid has been organising buses round the clock for the students. If there is any student stuck and needs immediate help via air, business people have been sponsoring them. Help has poured in from everywhere for us.”Javid Parsa, Volunteer to The Quint
The colleges and hostels bear a deserted look in the absence of the students. Yet it is the street that saw everything but nothing.
Dehradun has been a preferred place for Kashmiris due to its welcoming vibe, its culture and the conducive weather. Hope the students come back to the same idyll that they initially thought it was.