Pulwama aftermath: Trolls, right-wing groups target Kashmiri students across country over 'anti-India' posts

Jaipur/Ambala/Aligarh/Dehradun: The air is thick with anger, and understandably so; just four days ago, last Thursday, over 40 CRPF personnel lost their lives in one of the worst terror attacks on Indian security forces in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir.

This anger, however, is leading to more mindless violence, and those bearing the brunt of it are innocent Kashmiris. In the past 72 hours over 30 people, mostly Kashmiri students studying in different parts of the country, have been booked for 'anti-India' comments on the Pulwama terror attack.

The major chunk of the arrests came from Uttar Pradesh's Aligarh where eight students were held and booked for objectionable posts on social media. Four students were arrested from National Institute of Medical Science of Jaipur, where as other parts of the country like Ambala, Chandigarh and Patna also reported the cases of Kashmiris being targeted.

Kashmiri students of Maharishi Markandeshwar University in Ambala were forced to leave their rented accommodations after protests by the villagers on Monday. The police said the students have been shifted to university hostel for safety purposes and security in the area was tightened. The Haryana Police has registered two separate FIRs for thrashing Kashmiri students in Ambala of Haryana.

One FIR (FIR number 0030) was registered at the Mullana police station in Ambala at 8.38 p.m. on Sunday. Another FIR (FIR number 0031) was registered at the same police station at 10.02 p.m. on the same day. The first FIR was filed under Sections 148, 149, 323 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code for offences of unlawful assembly, rioting, voluntarily causing hurt and criminal intimidation. The second FIR was filed under Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 452 of the the IPC (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrong­ful restraint.)

In Rajasthan, Kashmiri students from two colleges were suspended for “celebratory” posts on social media after the Pulwama attack.

On Saturday, four paramedical students of NIMS University in Jaipur were suspended for posting an “anti-national” WhatsApp status allegedly supporting the attack. They have been identified as Talveen Manzoor, Iqra, Zohra Nazir, and Uzma Nazir; all of them were sent back to Kashmir on Sunday.

The suspension order stated: “In respect of the severe terrorist attack… you have pos[t]ed anti-national message on your whatsApp… NIMS University Rajasthan will not tolerate and strictly condemn such activities. (sic)”

Pulwama aftermath: Trolls, right-wing groups target Kashmiri students across country over anti-India posts

Security and Indian Army personnel around the blast site in Kashmir's Pulwama. Reuters

“The college administration did not lodge a complaint... We did not disclose this earlier due to the heated atmosphere on campus,” said Rajat Bishnoi, deputy superintendent of police, Chandwaji Police Station. He revealed that the status in question was a picture of them holding kulhad cups with the caption: ‘Here’s an answer to the outrage outside’.

Hostel warden at NIMS, Sushila Chettri said, “The matter first came to light on Saturday morning; by afternoon, students and outsiders were demanding action against them.”

In the other case, Aryan Shakir, an alumnus of Pacific College, Udaipur, posted a picture of Adil Ahmad Dar and wrote ‘Salute’. As it spread, several students gathered and chanted slogans against him. They were further incensed when a current student allegedly supported Shakir.

“There’s extra security on campus now. Students have been forbidden from going outside, and no classes are being held,” said a student.

Bhagwat Singh Hingar, circle officer, City East, Udaipur, said, “An FIR has been filed against Shakir and the student who supported him. The latter has been suspended.”

Scared students in Dehradun want to return home

Kashmiri students across Dehradun were also targeted after a medical student studying there allegedly put up an objectionable comment on a WhatsApp group on the attack. Naushad Sultan, a Kashmiri student, who lives in rented accomodation in Bhauwala in Dehradun district, said he and his friends are so scared that they haven’t stepped out of their homes for two days, not even for buying essentials.

“There’s a group of nearly 100 people roaming in the area and shouting and urging the locals to send all Kashmiri students back,” he added, saying he and his friends are ready to go back but the government should at least help them return. Sultan said eight to 10 students took shelter in the police station on Friday night after some ruckus started; later, they left for Delhi by road. He further said the police had to take 38 Kashmiri students to a safer place on Saturday night.

Dehradun senior superintendent of police (SSP) Nivedita Kukreti said, “Personnel have been deployed in sensitive areas... We are providing all possible assistance to Kashmiri students. Several rumours are doing the rounds on social media, but law and order in the city is under control. I appeal to everyone to not pay heed to rumours.”

In AMU campus, trapped for tweeting

The Aligarh Muslim University issued an advisory on Sunday asking students from Kashmir not to venture out of the university campus due to volatile situation around the campus due to the Pulwama attack. What led to the ‘unrest’ was a tweet from Basim Hilal, a first-year BSc Mathematics student at AMU. Hilal is now facing a huge backlash and threats for putting up a controversial tweet right after the terror attack.

Hilal, who is from the Beerwah town of Budgam district in Jammu and Kashmir, had posted on Twitter: “How’s the Jaish? Great Sir. #Kashmir #Pulwama”, punning on a line from the recently released Bollywood movie Uri.

While the AMU suspended Hilal on Friday, he maintained that his tweet had been misinterpreted by everyone, including the media. “I was only questioning the government over the rise of militancy in Kashmir, especially because it has been claiming that militancy in the Valley has come to an end. My tweet has been taken in the wrong way,” he said. He added that he got a lot of threats through messages, calls and social media after the post. “I have deleted that tweet and deactivated all my social media accounts. But, ironically, before doing that, I found out about my suspension through social media itself. I am now consulting my seniors on what I should do next.” Hilal said he is yet to receive an official notice in this regard from the varsity.

He also said his parents, too, have been very scared after the tweet went viral, and hence, he has shifted to his senior’s room, fearing attacks.

Aligarh SSP Akash Kulhari said a case has been registered against Hilal under section 153A of the Indian Penal Code and section 67A of the IT Act.

Divided they stand

Sajjad Subhan Rather, a PhD scholar and former vice-president of AMU Student Union, however, defended Hilal and said the youngster did nothing wrong. “He just raised questions against our government, trying to show that our own people are being killed every day. It’s possible that all this hate coming his way is because the elections are nearing; but he, in no way, endorsed the militant outfit,” Rather said.

“The government has failed to protect Kashmiris. We aren’t safe anywhere, neither in our hometowns nor outside them. We will soon hold a press conference and a protest in Delhi, demanding security for Kashmiri students across the country; and we also demand a solution for Kashmir.”

University spokesperson Omar Peerzada, on the other hand, has taken a stricter stance. Speaking to the media, he said the institute will not tolerate such statements. “The university has a zero-tolerance policy [for such things] and we will take stringent action. As of now, as per university rules and students’ code of conduct, we have suspended him. The proctorial board is probing the case and will take appropriate action once the investigation is complete,” he added, reiterating, “We will not allow the university’s name to be tarnished in any way.”

The authors are members of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters

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Updated Date: Feb 19, 2019 14:34:17 IST

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