J&K hostel mess named after Laden
10 May 2000
New Delhi: Nearly 250 non-Kashmiri students of the Regional Engineering College of Srinagar are battling insurgency on the campus. They claim they are harassed by local students and college staff. The students, who are all from outside the Valley and include Muslims, say the college has become a hub of anti-India activity with even the hostel mess named after the Saudi Arabian fugitive billionaire Osama bin Laden, wanted by the US for the bombings of US missions in Africa. “Our mess is named Osama bin Laden mess. Anti-India slogans appear on our classroom walls. We are forced to watch Pakistan television. A cricket match between India and any other country decides our fate for the coming few days. If India wins the match, we are beaten up. Any confrontation between two students, a local and one from outside the Valley, is dubbed as a confrontation between Indians and anti-Indians,” said a student. Some senior students, who are locals, have displayed photographs of Maulana Masood Azhar, one of the three terrorists released in exchange for the hostages on board the hijacked Indian Airlines Flight IC-814 in Kandahar. They said every time a militant organisation calls a bandh in the Valley the college has to be shut down. Any cultural activity by students from outside the Valley is dubbed anti-Islamic. On one occasion, the stage was set on fire and the participants beaten up. Not only are the non-Kashmiri students humiliated, man-handled and described as “Indians (used as a derogatory term by local students),” their studies are suffering as the session is running late and is inadequately staffed, claimed a group of the students, who have been camping at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi for almost a month now. About 30 agitating students, who do not want to be identified, told The Asian Age on Wednesday that “things have come to a pass where they have pleaded with the human resources development minister, Union home minister and defence minister to transfer them to one of the 17 regional engineering colleges in the country.” The students are disappointed as they claim that though they met Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah and other Union ministers, they have got nothing but assurances. Defence minister George Fernandes visited the students on Wednesday afternoon and asked how he could help. “I’m going to see HRD minister Murli Manohar Joshi during the Parliament session and I will speak to him about your problem,” he told the students. The students had joined the REC in Srinagar in 1987 after the college decided to admit non-Kashmiri students. But they claim that during these two-and-a-half years, only a course of one year has been completed. “With this standard, we would take around eight years to complete our course, which is normally completed in four years’ time,” one of the students said. They attended only seven classes from March 1 to April 17.