Is more than just university level politics involved in frequent violence against non-local students? Mohammad Raafi tries to find out
Located at the foothills of Pir Panjal range in Rajouri, Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University (BGSBU) is in news for all reasons, other than academics.
Be it student brawls making headlines in mainland Indian media, officials indulging in scams, internal politics etc. BGSBU has done it all, seen it all.
The recent one is result of heated argument between locals (Poonch and Rajouri) and non-local students (Kashmiris). But there is more to it than meets the eye: the external angle. “It was a small issue that was blown out of proportion by vested interests,” says Waseem Andrabi, a Kashmiri student at BGSBU.
The present confrontation, between locals and Kashmiris erupted when students from Rajouri and Poonch left for home to enjoy three consecutive holidays: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The university was to resume normal work from Saturday. “But local students decided to skip classes on Saturday as well and join back on Sunday,” says Andrabi.
However, Kashmiri students, who make almost 30 percent of the total roll, joined their classes on Saturday as per the official circular. When the local students came back on Sunday and learned about Kashmiris attending classes on Saturday, it irked them. “Some local students misbehaved with a Kashmiri. They pulled his beard, then attacked him and beat him ruthlessly,” says Andrabi. “He received some serious injuries.”
Disturbed, Kashmiri students rushed to Police Station, Rajouri to file an FIR against the culprits. “But police refused,” says Andrabi. To defuse the tension inside the campus, Registrar and Dean Students Welfare (DSW), called both locals and Kashmiri students to sort out the matter. “There was compromise after that,” says Andrabi.
However, minor scuffle between the two groups continued throughout the day, forcing registrar and DSW to visit the hostel and sort things out again.
On Monday, when classes resumed, local students stayed away and did not attend their lectures. Instead, they started beating Kashmiri students again. “A Kashmiri student was left with a fractured arm,” says Burhan, another student. It enraged Kashmiris, resulting in a fight between the two groups. “Locals then attacked Kashmiri students residing outside the campus,” says Burhan.
What happened next surprised even the locals: students from Rajouri and Poonch went on a rampage; they burned motorcycles, destroyed college property and thrashed everybody whosoever tried to stop them?
“They were not students who attacked Kashmiris, they are local goons from RSS, Shiv Sena and BJP,” says Ameer-e-Shams, a local leader from Rajouri.
Shams knows most of the goons by their names: The gang was led by Karan Thakur, Satpal alias Satta, Varun Chadha and Radesh, all outsiders, who are activists of RSS, Shiv Sena and BJP. “They took opportunity and added fuel to fire to give it a different twist,” says Shams.
In order to fan communal tensions, they beat up Kashmiri students residing outside the campus. They alleged Kashmiri students of unfurling a Pakistani flag inside the campus, and shouting anti-India slogans. “It is completely baseless allegation,” says Shams.
Another external element that fanned the tension in BGSBU was Delhi based media. “They (Delhi media) talked to these goons, who had their faces covered, to play with the facts,” alleged Shams. “None of them was student of BGSBU. That is why they had their faces covered. Still media talked to them and ran their concocted stories.”
Shams felt vindicated when District Magistrate, during a meeting, concluded that no Pakistani flag was raised inside the campus, as reported by Delhi based media. “These RSS, Shiv Sena and BJP goons are actual trouble mongers both outside and inside the campus,” says Shams. “They specially target Kashmiri students.”
Supporting Shams’ claim Choudhary Liyakat, a local member of anti-drug organisation, Rajouri, says “These political goons are often caught peddling drugs from Jammu to Rajouri.”
Liyakat revels that these RSS, Shiv Sena and BJP activists are from same gang who recently attacked Muslim truckers plying on Jammu-Rajouri route.
The fear among Kashmiri students residing both inside and outside the campus, is palpable. “It is a well planned strategy of BJP to communalize entire Pir Panjal belt on religion and regional lines,” says Shams. “There is an ethnic conflict as well.”
Meanwhile, vice chancellor, BGSBU, has constituted a five member enquiry team to ascertain the facts that lead to violence. “All the trouble makers will be identified soon.”
Enquiry notwithstanding, students and faculty members, believe that timely intervention from local police could have averted damages. “But they didn’t act. Their silence raises many questions,” feels Burhan.
Note: Some names in the story have been changed on request.