SRINAGAR: “We were given a samosa each at the railway station, and then the large contingent of police ‘escorting’ us ordered us to head home. Home was miles away, and most of us didn’t even have a penny. They treated us like cattle,” says a B Tech second year student (identity withheld) who has arrived home after being suspended from the Swami Vivekanand Subharti University (SVSU).
The university, based in Meerut town of Uttar Pradesh state, has expelled from its hostels at least 67 Kashmiri students who, it alleges, celebrated the victory of Pakistan in the cricket match against India on Sunday last.
Many among them are learned to have arrived home in the Valley after barely managing the travel expenses in absence of any financial assistance from the varsity authorities.
Speaking to Kashmir Reader on Wednesday, the student, hailing from a south Kashmir township, says all Kashmiri boys were forced to vacate hostels within half an hour on Monday evening amidst heavy presence of police.
“We heard knock on our hostel rooms at around 5: 15 pm. Outside, there was a heavy presence of police officials. It was very unnerving for all of us,” he said.
“The Warden asked us to vacate the hostel within half an hour. We were told to only carry along our laptops, mobile phones, and wallets; they didn’t provide us time to pack our belongings. We were bundled into two vehicles and driven to Old Delhi railway station,” he adds.
Not given the chance to explain, the students, he says, refused to leave the hostels, but the authorities threatened them with police action. Most students didn’t have the money to travel home, and the varsity authorities didn’t provide them with the financial help, he says, adding no one was allowed to even talk on phone to parents.
“A student was talking to his father on phone when we were boarding the bus, but police officials snatched his phone and harassed him,” says the student.
“To our demand for travel expenses, the varsity initially agreed to give us Rs 300 per head and then enhanced it to a collective sum of Rs 10, 000 for all of us. But at the railway station, they backtracked.
“The two buses we were boarded into were taken to two different platforms at the railway station. And students in each bus were told that the money is with students in the other bus. The SP, DSP, and SHO of local police present there said they had no brief from the varsity about travel expenses. Believe me, we managed to buy tickets with the extra cash that anyone of us carried,” he added.
According to the ‘suspended’ students, the varsity has officially expelled them for three days with a fine of Rs 5000 imposed on each of them. However, informally they have been asked to contact the varsity after a week to check for their status.
The varsity has reportedly alleged that the Kashmiri students raised pro-Pakistan slogans after Pakistan defeated India in the cricket match. However, the students refute the allegations as baseless.
“We were watching the cricket match in a hostel where a TV set had been placed specially for the event. After the match finished, the local students started abusing us, and they went to the extent of abusing our sisters,” says another B Tech student from the varsity.
“Realising that things could go out of control, we shifted to our rooms. The locals broke the chairs and tried to hit some of us. There was a lot of noise, but no one among us raised any slogans,” he adds.
The Kashmiri students, says the student, had complained to the Warden, who had promised to calm the things down.
“Half an hour later, the local students starting pelting stones at our windowpanes. And hurled a barrage of abuses at us,” he says. “To our surprise, the next day all local students staged a protest sit-in and accused us of raising slogans and celebrating the victory. And administration listened to them. We were not given a chance to explain.”
The students are hopeful of being allowed to continue their studies after the suspension period ends. They say they would contact the university after a week to see the status of their suspension.
The issue has created uproar in the just-concluded session of the J&K Legislative Assembly. The opposition parties staged walk out over the issue, but the government is yet to come up with an official response to the matter.