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Aligarh, For Long a Second, Safer Home for Kashmiri Students, is Becoming as Uncertain as the First

The students smell politics ahead of 2019 polls to keep the AMU pot boiling for electoral dividends.

Sana Fazili, Eram Agha

Updated:October 21, 2018, 10:27 AM IST
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Aligarh: “Do you know why we Kashmiri students come to Aligarh? We come here to escape the insecurities prevailing back home,” says Sajad Subhan Rather, the vice-president of Aligarh Muslim University students’ union.

For Kashmiri youth, life back home is enmeshed in ‘protests’ and ‘insecurity’, in ‘funerals’ and ‘fire’. The respite for them has been this place, Aligarh, which they can call a ‘second home’.

But since October 12, a series of events have unfolded on the campus that has made life difficult for these students here too.

There was an alleged gathering of students for slain PHD scholar and Hizbul Mujahideen commander Mannan Bashir Wani’s namaz-e-janazah, which the students refuted, saying they had gathered to discuss the situation back home.

The university authorities termed the gathering unlawful and sedition charges were framed against two Kashmiri students by the district administration. They were also suspended from the university.

However, on October 16, the internal fact finding committee of the university revoked the suspension and gave the students a clean chit as they found no evidence against them. The sedition charges slapped by the police stay.

The Aligarh SSP Ajay Kumar Sahni has asked the university to provide the report as it wants to know the grounds for revoking suspension and investigate further. It has also asked for the CCTV footage from the university. The FIR was filed by two people against the event organized on campus.

The human resource development ministry, too, sent an email to university registrar Abdul Hamid, an IPS officer, for restoring normalcy on the campus. There are murmurs in the varsity that Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik requested to avoid any escalation in this matter.

AMU’s public relation officer Omar Peerzada said that he, too, had heard about the intervention made by the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir to keep things under control.

On Twitter, the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti had condemned the administration for slapping sedition charges against the Kashmiri students.

'WE THE KASHMIRIS IN ALIGARH'

Over generations, Kashmiri students have been coming to historical Aligarh Muslim University to acquire education in place where they don’t feel alienated. There are at least a thousand Kashmiri students studying in AMU. In fact, the campus in Aligarh has one of the largest presence of students from the Kashmir.

But now things seem to have changed. Rather says, “The space has shrunk because if you assemble it will be called unlawful. The message has been sent to us by the political class that if you want to talk about Kashmir, then do it on your home turf.”

The students from Kashmir believe that this is an attempt to “relegate the Kashmir discourse on campus.” They say this against the spirit of a university. “Everything should be subject to study and discussion, for instance, why is someone joining militancy,” says another Kashmir student Shafaq Maqbool Bhat.

“The second-home should not get as uncertain as home (Kashmir),” said Sajad Ahmed Dar, a Kashimiri student in AMU pursuing history in Center for Advanced Studies says.

“After this episode, we need to see how non-Kashmiris will deal with Kashmiri students. The university has been our second home but now it seems we have to think before we talk about Kashmir. The ties between the Kashmiri students and others should not be strained,” he adds.

Dar points out that everything should be seen in the larger context, how AMU has been attacked for a portrait of Jinnah and other controversies to corner the varsity for its history.

The students smell politics ahead of 2019 polls to keep the AMU pot boiling for electoral dividends. Recently, Aligarh MP Satish Gautam wrote a letter to AMU VC Tariq Mansoor saying that there should frequent checks in hostel vicinity to avoid any “anti-national” activity.

The place, however, has different memories for Kashmiri students who studied earlier. Some alumni also recall that they could even support Pakistan during cricket matches, but issues would not be created.

“AMU was the only safe place for Kashmiris. No one would question your ideology. Most of the students were accommodative to our thinking and sympathetic to us. I was never afraid to share my thoughts openly,” says Shams Irfan, a Kashmiri alumni of AMU who joined the university in 1995, when he was in class eight.

‘WHY I STOPPED THE PRAYERS FOR WANI …’

Faizul Hasan, the former leader of AMUSU, was one of the first to stop the prayers for Mannan Wani. He feared that the campus might face dire consequences for holding the prayers and said that some Kashmiri students had requested him to stop.

“For the fear of being condemned among Kashmiri students, they don’t want to reveal their identity,” adds Hasan.

“There is no problem in holding the namaz-e-janazah for the dead but it could have been done privately as well, in a hostel room. This event was politicised. It was publicised and became the talking point. That’s when the Kashmiri students felt the situation might go out of hand and should be stopped,” Hasan says.

The gathering that was termed “unlawful” happened at the Kennedy auditorium. “This was the first time that something like this was organised there,” Hasan adds.

Countering Hasan, a student named Sharjeel Usmani posted on social media against the sedition charges and demanded that the students of AMU should fight to get them dropped.

Usmani wrote: “For the first time, BJP MP Satish Gautam and AMU leaders are on the same page. Congratulations!” (sic).

The non-Kashmiri students in the varsity say that in AMU every student is an Aligarian or an Alig rather than “someone from Bengal or Kashmir.” “Last time I checked we all were Aligs,” Usmani says.

| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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