Kashmiri students flee Ambala fearing violence despite police assurance in aftermath of Pulwama terror attack

Ambala: Reports of harassment of Kashmiri students in Uttarakhand haven’t stopped pouring in; amid that, there is more bad news, this time from Haryana.

Kashmiri students from a university in Ambala’s Mallana village are the latest to follow their Dehradun peers and return home as the aftermath of the 14 February Pulwama terror attack continues to worsen.

Kashmiri students flee Ambala fearing violence despite police assurance in aftermath of Pulwama terror attack

DSP Sudhir Taneja talks to Kashmiri students at Ambala. 101Reporters/Manoj Kumar

Tired of being heckled and threatened by “right-wing fundamentalists”, around 200 Kashmiri students studying in MM University, Ambala, are making their way home.

Ground reality

A student said, “Our family members are worried about us since the terror attack. We plan to return to college within 10 days, but right now, it’s imperative that we leave. The situation is extremely precarious.”

So far, more than 148 students have left for safer places while those staying put are not stepping out alone and moving around in groups.

The local administration, however, tried to downplay the exodus and said students have been going home for regular visits and that it has nothing to do with any threats being issued to them.

After the blast last week, which killed 42 CRPF personnel, security was beefed up across the country, especially in places where Kashmiris are studying or working. However, in spite of the local police’s claims about a tight vigil, students in Ambala are far from feeling safe. It’s true that additional personnel have been deployed on the ground; yet, the students continue to live in fear of being attacked.

In Ambala, many Kashmiri students stay in hostels, while others have taken up PG or rented accommodations.

Blame game

Ever since the attack, Hindu organisations have become active in areas with a dense Kashmiri population, be it students or shopkeepers or traders. It seems every Kashmiri is on their hit list; also, these “hardliners” have even threatened locals of dire consequences if they entertain anyone belonging to Jammu and Kashmir. This includes sub-letting accommodation to Kashmiris as well as giving them shelter in their own homes.

On Monday night, some youths descended at the flats of some Kashmiri students and not only threatened them but also beat them up and recorded a video of the assault. Scared Kashmiris say this is just one of the many such incidents that make the police’s claims of extra security arrangements sound completely hollow.

Members of Hindu organisations, however, have justified their actions on the grounds that Kashmiri students have been rejoicing after the tragic attack, thereby displaying an “anti-national” sentiment. The students, on the other hand, have vehemently denied this allegation.

Police bandobast

After being alerted about the assault video, which went viral, the Ambala police registered two different cases in the matter.

Station Officer, Mullana, Harbhajan Singh said, “Two different cases — one of the students being assaulted and the other on shooting the video — have been registered. We have taken cognisance of the intensity of the incident and are carrying out a thorough investigation. We are doing our level best to identify the culprits and will arrest all of them at the earliest.”

“The overall situation is peaceful. In fact, district administration officials camped here for the whole night. Those who are leaving are just going to visit their families,” said Sudhir Taneja, DSP, Ambala police.

According to Mullana sarpanch Naresh Chauhan, “We have made public announcements about ensuring the security of Kashmiri students in and around the entire university area. We have made sure to protect each and every pupil. Not just this, we have even met all of them and assured them of the best possible protection.”

As per the data available from police records, there are around 490 Kashmiri residents in this district. In the 11 educational institutions here, there are 146 Kashmiri students in Yamuna Institute, 103 in Ganpati Institute, 57 in Galaxy Global Institute, 46 in Haryana Engineering College, 34 in Maharishi Ved Vyas Engineering College, 20 in nursing college, 14 in JMIT, 10 in JP College, six in DAV Dental College, four in National Polytechnic and one in Khalsa college.

A student from Ganpati Institute, Bilaspur, said, “All hailing from Kashmir have left, only those from Jammu are left at the moment. We don’t know when they will come back. A friend of mine spoke to some of them, and they all said they will return only after things normalise and there is no threat for them. It’s for the best; they will be safe with their families.”

Chairman of the institute Manish Bindra seconded the student and blamed social media for fuelling more negativity and fear. “The sad part is that their studies are getting affected. They will definitely come back, but no one knows when,” he said.

According to the police, all police stations in the district have prepared a list of Kashmiri students studying in their respective areas. While the police are increasing vigil to protect youngsters from the Valley, it’s a fact that most of them have already left.

The author is a Chandigarh-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com.

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Updated Date: Feb 20, 2019 13:58:17 IST

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