Tension on; outstation students seek shifting out of NIT

Srinagar: Tension prevailed at NIT here with outstation students today making a slew of demands, including shifting the institute out of Kashmir and action against the policemen involved in lathicharge yesterday, as an HRD team rushed here from Delhi to resolve the crisis being witnessed since last six days.

The developments at the prestigious engineering institute also triggered politicking even as the state government assured that safety will be ensured for the students hailing from other states at the campus where CRPF has been deployed to instill a sense of security.

A day after lathicharge by local police on the agitating non-local students at the campus, the Union HRD Ministry rushed a three-member team -- Sanjeev Sharma, Director (Technical Education) in the ministry, Deputy Director Finance Fazal Mehmood and Chairman of Board of Governors of NIT M J Zarabi -- here this morning.

The team interacted with the outstation students who have been expressing a sense of insecurity at the campus. "Our first demand is that the NIT be shifted from here. We want to go home first and we will go wherever you shift us," the students told the HRD Ministry team at the campus.

The students said the police had taken away national flag from them during a clash on Friday last and demanded that it be returned to them. The students, who had assembled in a hall inside the NIT campus, also demanded strict action against police personnel including Deputy Superintendent of Police who resorted to lathicharge on them yesterday.

"What J&K police has done, you have seen the videos. We want strict action be taken against them including the DySP Sajad. We also demand the DySP change his statement in which he has said that students hurled stones at police," said a student, who was speaking on behalf of the rest.

They said some of the staff members of NIT should resign so that "they do not play with anyone student's career." "We are not going to take any names here but we will provide a list in writing. They have to resign," the student leader said.

He also sought directions from the HRD ministry to allow the media inside the campus for interaction with the students. In Surat, HRD Minister Smriti Irani said she had spoken to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti who assured her that safety of all students will be ensured.

"My officers are in touch with the agitating students and their family members. One or two students said they wanted to go back home for which my ministry is making arrangements," she said.

"HRD officers are present in the campus. We have interacted with around 800 students. We have asked that all students who are worried should tell us, so that we can assist them," Irani said.

"Students have expressed concerns regarding marking and marksheets. A couple of them have expressed wish to go back to their homes," the Union HRD Minister said, adding that her ministry is extending help to them.

Seeking to allay apprehensions of the students who feared that the agitation will have a bearing on their academic performance as exams are due, the Union Minister said the HRD team will stay at NIT Srinagar till exams, which begin on April 11, are not over.

"I only want to say that CM of J&K has assured that no injustice will be done," Irani said, adding Mehbooba has assured her that an enquiry has been ordered into the clashes inside the the NIT campus.

The state's Education Minister Naeem Akhtar said the outstation students are "like our own children" and proper security arrangements will be made for them. He said SP himself is camping there to oversee security measures.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, campaigning in West Bengal for assembly polls, said he had spoken to Mehbooba who gave an assurance that all students are safe and she would enquire how the incident happened and fix responsibility.

Earlier, in a letter to the HRD ministry through NIT administration, the students had demanded hoisting of national flag, action against staff involved in anti-national activities and replacing Jammu and Kashmir Police by CRPF for security of the NIT campus, which has been gripped by tension following clashes in the wake of India's loss to West Indies in the World T20 Cup.

"Due to the anti-national activities rising in campus premises, students not local to Srinagar have faced serious problems as well as life threats. Due to the cold situation here, students are eager to reach their homes," the outstation students have written in a letter to the management of the NIT Srinagar on April 4.

The students listed five demands that, they feel, would enable them to peacefully reside at the campus and concentrate on their studies. "National Flag should be hoisted at main gate/fountain (The state flag may be hoisted as well)," reads the first condition.

The students said the Jammu and Kashmir Police has not been able to provide security and safe passage to leave the campus. "(It) rather has lathicharged the students and shot tear gas shells on them. Therefore, central forces should be engaged for the security of the students of NIT Srinagar," the students demanded.

They also demanded "equality and transparency" during all examinations, events and activities held at the institute. "There should be no academic harassmnent by the faculty". The students said action should be taken "against faculty and administration members who are involved in anti-national activities and violence. They have even threatened the students.

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