How a Cricket Match Brought About a Crisis in NIT Srinagar

The NIT crisis brought J&K to a tipping point, barely two days after the PDP-BJP government was sworn into office.

Published
Politics
4 min read
Students of Jammu University shout slogans during a protest rally against the police action on non-Kashmiri students in NIT Srinagar, in Jammu on Wednesday. (Photo: PTI)
Snapshot
  • Several local students at NIT Srinagar were allegedly celebrating when West Indies defeated India in the semifinal of the World T20.
  • Complaint was filed against Kashmiri “West Indies supporters” the next day after which the non-local NIT students took out a rally.
  • Fearing clashes, the administration closed the institute for the weekend and ordered the students to vacate the hostel.
  • Further clashes erupted when non-local students attempted to take out a rally on 5 April and were stopped.
  • Crisis brought the state to a tipping point, two days after the PDP-BJP coalition government was sworn into office.

Hours before the fact-finding team from union HRD ministry arrived at the National Institute of Technology in Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar city, dozens of students had assembled in a lawn on the campus, shouting, among other slogans, ‘Kashmir Police Pakistan Police, CRPF Zindabad’.

The slogan was a manifestation of the clashes on Tuesday when a group of non-local students, mostly from the B. Tech background, tried to take out a rally towards the main road outside the campus which connects Kashmir Valley with Ladakh region. Fearing a law and order problem, the J&K police were asked to take control of the situation.

A police constable deployed outside the campus on Wednesday said a non-local student grabbed the collar of his superior officer who was convincing them not to rally on the road. Seething with rage, his subordinates, including the constable, pounced on the students.

Witnesses said that in the ensuing clashes, teargas shells were burst as cops charged with batons, leaving many students with cuts and bruises. A grainy photo shows nearly half dozen cops waving batons on two students, one of them lying on the ground.

As the HRD delegation sat with students in the common hall of the institute, a non-local student demanded,

Allow us to go home and then you can decide where we should study. We want new faculty and the NIT shifted immediately. Also, the J&K Police should change their statement that it was a mild lathicharge or that we pelted stones at them. They have also taken away a national flag which should be returned to us.

Strangely, the demand for action against Kashmiri students who supported West Indies in the World T20 clash, was muted.

 Police and CRPF personnel at National Institute of Technology (NIT) following tensions between the local and non-local students of the institute in Srinagar on Wednesday, 6 April 2016. (Photo: PTI)
Police and CRPF personnel at National Institute of Technology (NIT) following tensions between the local and non-local students of the institute in Srinagar on Wednesday, 6 April 2016. (Photo: PTI)

Genesis of the Crisis

Several local students at NIT Srinagar were allegedly celebrating when West Indies defeated India in the semifinal of the World T20. The students shouted slogans in favour of West Indies, sparking a row which is now threatening to snowball into a major controversy.

The next day, a complaint was filed against the Kashmiri students – allegedly “West Indies supporters” – after which non-local students took out a rally. A courier boy, who had come to deliver books for one student, said he was stopped by a large crowd of sloganeering students as he stepped on the campus on Friday afternoon.

They asked me to chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ but I refused. Then they beat me up black and blue. I remember their faces. Some of them are our customers. I know their names as well. One of them thrashed me with a bat.
Imtiyaz Sheikh, who works with E-Com Express, to The Quint

The non-local students also allegedly shouted anti-Kashmir and other inflammatory slogans, and burnt the national flag of Pakistan. Fearing clashes, the administration closed the institute for the weekend and ordered students to vacate the hostel. The vacation order was however revoked in the evening.

On Monday, the institute opened normally as calm returned and classes resumed. However, a group of non-local students, seeking action against Kashmiri students, organised a protest, shouting inflammatory slogans, and keeping the campus on the edge. Clashes erupted again when they tried to take out a rally on Tuesday and were stopped.

A student, who didn’t want to be named, told The Quint,

It is no secret that most Kashmiris associate themselves with any cricket team that plays against India. When West Indies defeated India, Kashmir erupted in celebrations. NIT was no different.
Activists of Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) burn an effigy of PDP-BJP government over the NIT Srinagar issue in Jammu on Wednesday. (Photo: PTI) 
Activists of Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) burn an effigy of PDP-BJP government over the NIT Srinagar issue in Jammu on Wednesday. (Photo: PTI) 

A Tipping Point

The crisis has also brought the state to a tipping point, barely two days after the PDP-BJP coalition government was sworn into office.

Several steps are being taken to normalise the situation whose results will be visible on campus in the coming days. It is an administrative issue and not a security issue.
Naeem Akhtar, Spokesperson, J&K Government

Local students have asked the NIT administration to act against the “miscreants involved in vandalisation and petrifying” Kashmiri students and “ensure the safety of minority Kashmiri students” at NIT Srinagar.

Almost on cue, non-local students issued an undersigned statement, “We request the authorities to take stern action against the communal bigots residing within the campus who attempt to disturb the peaceful atmosphere at NIT Srinagar. It is surprising that the outcome of a gentleman’s game was made as a basis for transforming an educational institution into a platform for political melodrama.”

As the state government tries to firefight, the issue is assuming political colours. The Jammu Bar Association calling for a strike in the Hindu belt of the Muslim majority state on Thursday. Former CM Omar Abdullah said that the Centre lacks trust in the chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.

On Wednesday, a steady trickle of students walked out of the barricaded campus in ones and twos after attending classes. All of them were aware of the crisis but didn’t seem bothered.

We have nothing to do with it. I have several Hindu friends, but this is a group of students who are seeking refuge under ‘Bharat Mata’ to cover up their misdeeds.
Local Civil Engineering Student

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