Although no one was willing to speak on the record, many students in the Valley felt the action taken by authorities was “too harsh’
On Wednesday night, Showkat Ahmad, a 21-year-old Kashmiri student Agra’s RBS Engineering College, finally called his family. His message? They needed to relax. Nothing worse could happen. Ahmad is one among the three Kashmiri students booked for sedition by Agra police for posting “congratulatory status on WhatsApp.”
The other students are Arshid Yusuf (in his fourth semester) and Inayat Ahmad (a third year student). All of them were booked under IPC sections 153A (promoting enmity b/w different groups) and 505(1)(B) (Intent to cause, fear or alarm to public). Section 153A and 505 (1) (B) of IPC is a cognizable offence and the punishment for the same “may extend to three years, or with a fine, or with both.”
Parveez Ahmad Ganie, 26, said his brother Ahmad is the only of the siblings to have gotten a higher education. Ahmad, who lives in Bandipora, was in 2018 selected under Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme(PMSS). Every year, students in Jammu and Kashmir are granted fresh scholarships under this scheme (which began in 2011) to pursue undergraduate studies outside the Union Territory.
“When he got a scholarship, we encouraged him. We knew he was good at studies. Besides, we wouldn’t have been able to afford sending him to any other place,” Parveez said. The family, who had been eagerly waiting for Ahmad to get a job, are extremely worried about his future.
“I am a carpenter and the sole breadwinner,” Parveez said. “Our mother hadn’t eaten anything because she couldn’t speak to him.”
Manzoor Ahmad, a research fellow in Agra, who is also a mentor of these students, said that Yuva morcha leaders, including other people from right-wing group Hindu Vishwa Parishad (HVP) protested outside the campus when India lost a match against Pakistan in T20 World Cup. The group demanded the suspension of the students, who they claimed had posted a status message on their WhatsApp in favour of the Pakistan team.
Manzoor said that the WhatsApp status was in favour of Babar Azam and was not “not anti-India.” “Someone from the campus sent the morcha leaders a screenshot of their WhatsApp statuses which became the trigger for all this,” a source said.
All three students were suspended by college authorities on 25 October. The reason cited was “indiscipline act of posting status in favour of Pakistan.” Sources said that these right-wing youths are “pressuring” management to rusticate these students.
One of the students from the college, speaking anonymously, said that college authorities came to their hostel and told them to “leave the city.” “We arranged money from friends and family. We had to book an emergency flight,” he said.
There are almost 11 students from Jammu and Kashmir studying at this college. Dr Ashish Shukla, Chief Proctor of college, said, “The students’ behaviour in the college has overall been good, but police will do their own investigation into this.” He said the students were suspended after the college management received the complaint of posting the WhatsApp status in Pakistan team’s favour.
A student said the three Kashmiri students had written an apology letter to the college.
Meanwhile, the Kashmiri students who were at the Agra court for the sedition case, were assaulted by goons, a video on social media showed. All three students were remanded to judicial custody for 14 days. None of the parents of the students have reached Agra or met their children. Ahmad’s brother said the family doesn’t have the money to book a ticket.
Nasir Kheuhami, a national spokesperson of Jammu and Kashmir student association said, “This is a worry development for students and parents alike. We demand punishment for the elements involved in roughing up the students.”
Kheuhami said that these incidents could increase the sense of insecurity and anxiety among Kashmiri students studying outside the Union Territory as well as among their parents and relatives back home.
Students on tenterhooks in Valley
Kashmiri students have been on tenterhooks since the India-Pakistan match. In Kashmir, police on Monday registered two separate FIRs against students of two medical colleges in Srinagar for allegedly celebrating the Pakistani cricket team’s victory in Sunday’s T-20 World Cup match and raising “pro-Pakistan slogans.”
Authorities in one college suspended all classes till 6 November “on request of the students.” “We were not feeling secure enough to attend college,” a student said.
“We cannot read or sleep properly. All we can think about is what if an FIR is registered against us,” said another. He said one FIR can destroy a career. “We worked so hard for a medical seat,” he added.
Although no one was willing to speak on the record, many students felt the action taken was “too harsh.” “We are forced to think we were wrong. And if we were wrong, we need counselling, not a terror charge against us,” a final year SKIMS student said.
Students think a few people on social media are trying to spread enmity. “It was not a big issue. We have always stayed together but this incident is used to create trouble. Our parents are sad and afraid. They don’t want us to get in any trouble,” a woman student said.
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