The National Institute of Technology in Srinagar is the latest site of a fierce campus confrontation, with the Union Human Resources Development Ministry (HRD) — like in the controversies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Hyderabad Central University (HCU) — stepping into the crisis.
One week after the first incident of conflict, agitations at the NIT campus erupted again on Tuesday, with non-locals at the campus saying that they feel unsafe and are attempting to leave the campus.
Speaking to the media, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday said that he has spoken to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti about the tensions at the campus. He added that Mehbooba has taken all the necessary measures to protect the students and gave him an assurance in this regard. HRD Minister Smriti Irani addressed the media on the issue, saying, "Mufti ji has also told me that an inquiry has also been constituted to ascertain what happened". Irani also said that she asked students to approach her ministry with their problems.
"Till the exams start, an HRD team will remain in the campus," Irani said and assured that there will be 'no injustice' to the students, as reported by CNN-IBN.
A three-member team of Human Resources Development (HRD) Ministry, which arrived here this morning, held talks with the agitating students to defuse the tension.
The team included Sanjeev Sharma, Director(Technical Education) in the HRD ministry, Deputy Director Finance Fazal Mehmood and Chairman of Board of Governors of NIT M J Zarabi. The team was rushed by the ministry to take stock of the situation and look into the grievances of the outstation students studying at the NIT Srinagar.
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Rajnath Singh further said "I also had a word with the HRD Secretary and directed him to send 2 Director-level officials to hold talks with students at NIT"
Expressing concern over the clash Jammu and Kashmir MP Jitendra Singh said, "HRD Ministry will look into NIT Srinagar matter; I spoke to CM Mehbooba Mufti as well,” Singh said, adding that force should not be used against students, reported Zee News.
“Students should maintain peace otherwise external elements will come in to gain political mileage,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, who is under fire for playing down the unrest at the NIT campus, told NDTV that he "was misinformed" about the incident. Singh, on Monday, had described the assault against the students as "mild lathicharge."
"Police officers who were involved in lathi charge will be punished. I was told it was a 'mild' lathi charge which is why I used that term earlier," the deputy CM told NDTV in an interview.
The tensions at the NIT campus began after an India-West Indies cricket match on 31 March. Local Kashmiri students were said to have been celebrating India's defeat against West Indies, which was met with aggression from non-locals at the NIT campus, said a Hindustan Times report.
The agitating students demanded that some of the NIT officials should be transferred and action taken against them for their alleged "anti-national" activities and that they be allowed to daily hoist national tricolour at the main gate. They also demanded shifting of the campus to Jammu and building of a temple inside campus.
Agitation at the campus increased after the police used tear gas and batons to disperse the protesting groups. The authorities at NIT even shut down engineering classes, but resumed them on Monday. Non-local students have been boycotting classes in protest since.
The CRPF has now been deployed at the NIT Srinagar campus and the HRD Ministry is sending a two-member team to the campus which has been gripped by tension following clashes among students over the Indian cricket team's loss against West Indies in the T20 World Cup last week.
With inputs from PTI