Srinagar: National Institute of Technology (Srinagar) chairman Board of Governors Dr M J Zarabi said on Monday that the row at the institution was “very much an issue”, which appears to be a jibe at chief minister Mehbooba Mufti who had dismissed the agitation as “a non-issue”.
Zarabi, who has been handling the crisis, also termed the police action against non-Kashmiri students as “unfortunate”.
In an interview with Kashmir Reader, Zarabi also dismissed the allegations that non-Kashmiri girl students were threatened with rape
What’s the situation at the campus now?
Most of the demands of outstation students have been met, except the demand for shifting the NIT out of Kashmir, which has been rejected out rightly. Outstation students are going home and will write their examination after 10 days. By then, normalcy will be restored at the campus. Also, a two-member fact-finding team of officials from the Ministry of Human Resource Development is on job.
Does the row point to a deep divide among the student community?
I will not call it a divide. You won’t have to tell students don’t support this or that team. That’s trivial. I will not use my energy on that. I will rather focus on academics. The fact-finding team will find out the reason and can also make some recommendations. Let us see what they come up with. Our focus is to improve standard of the institute. We can work for betterment of facilities such as lab and other amenities.
Were the students’ demands genuine?
Some of the demands were genuine. We set up a four-member committee, two-members are from outside, which will address the apprehensions of the students. The committee, which will be monitored, assured that students’ grievances will be addressed.
Media reported non-local girl students were threatened with rape. Is it true?
No. It is absolutely false. If they will have been threatened, girl students will have been sitting inside the hostel. They were very much active in the campus along with other students. So much so, girl students complained about restrictions in their movement and wanted relaxation. We have given them relaxation and simplified the norms.
Do some faculty members discriminate against non-Kashmiri students?
People should appreciate us because it is the best among the rest of the NITs now. In the recent past, the college has been redeveloped and reconstructed. Earlier, funds were neither being sought nor utilised. But development cannot be done overnight but whatever we can we will do it overnight too and restore normalcy.
Will students’ demand of replacing JK police with paramilitary forces accepted?
We have to ask whether they are needed at all. Central forces will be there for a short while, not permanently. I think it was a matter of tactics to pull out JK police, which provided security to the college from outside. Jammu and Kashmir police unfortunately lathicharged students.
Police action has been widely criticised. Do they deserve such criticism?
State government has ordered a magisterial inquiry and you will have to wait for it. The police action against students was unfortunate. Nobody could have thought about it. It is true students wanted to move out of the campus but the police were trying to prevent them for students own good. Police knew the situation could have turned ugly if the students had moved out of the campus. On the whole, it is unfortunate. It can’t be undone. We can debate whether police action was needed but nobody wanted students to be beaten up. Students were injured and a couple of them had to be plastered for fractures. Another student was operated upon in SKIMS.
J&K government termed the entire episode a non-issue?
I don’t see it was a non-issue. Chief Minister spoke to me about it and I would say it was an issue. Deputy CM met me and had a long meeting about the overall situation and the steps being taken by us. So by implications it was an issue.
Was MHRD handling the issue directly?
No, ministry did not tell us anything.