October 2017 News

Rajnath Gesture For Kashmiri Students

1 October 2017
The Telegraph (Kolkata)
Imran Ahmed Siddiqui

Srinagar: A Kashmiri student of the same institute called up the Union home ministry's helpline and complained the police had targeted the six as they were from the Valley and were refusing to release them despite intervention from the institute's director. Senior home ministry officials then sent an SOS to minister Rajnath Singh at midnight. The minister immediately rang up Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje and the students were freed in the wee hours of the morning. Another group of Kashmiri students studying in a Jaipur university called up the helpline and complained that they were not receiving funds from the Prime Minister's Special Scholarship Scheme and would be forced to leave their studies midway. The funds were released after Rajnath personally took up the matter with the BJP-led state government. New Delhi, Oct. 1: The Rajnath Singh-led home ministry has been quietly reaching out to nearly 3,500 Kashmiri students studying in various colleges and universities in north India and officials said the minister himself played a 'good Samaritan' in some of the cases that required immediate intervention. The Centre had set up the 24x7 grievance redress helpline for Kashmiris last September. The move was part of the government's outreach programme following cases of harassment some Valley students studying in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana had faced in the aftermath of the violent unrest in the Valley last year. The ministry has a nodal officer, Sanjay Roy, who is in charge of receiving complaints of harassment and co-ordinating with the states concerned to ensure that grievances are addressed. Sources in the ministry told The Telegraph that on average, the ministry's helpline receives 10 to 14 calls daily. Most of the complaints relate to issues ranging from admissions, abrupt withholding of scholarship funds, harassment in hostels from fellow students, non-cooperation from police, non-availability of non-vegetarian food, difficulty in renting flats for those who do not get hostel accommodation and racial comments from local people. 'Soon after getting complaints we get in touch with the agency concerned and request them to resolve the issue immediately. In some cases we forward the complaint to top ministry officials, including the home minister's office, depending on the urgency,' said a senior official attached to the ministry's Jammu and Kashmir division. He cited the August incident when the six Valley students were picked up by Jaipur police at night. 'It needed urgent redress as we got reports that police unnecessarily targeted the students as a rival group of students had passed comments at them leading to a heated altercation between the two groups. It was late at night and senior police officials could not be contacted. We had no option but to intimate top ministry officials who alerted Rajnathji at midnight. He immediately called up the chief minister and the students were let off and allowed to go to their hostel,' the official said, adding the incident was not reported in the media as the matter was settled at the highest level. It was the then UPA government that had first announced a Rs 1,200-crore Prime Minister's Special Scholarship Scheme to bring alienated Kashmiri students into the mainstream in the aftermath of violent clashes between stone-throwers and security forces in 2010 that left more than 100 Kashmiri youths dead. Under the scheme, 5,000 economically disadvantaged students are enlisted for college scholarships every year. In July 2016, the Valley erupted again after militant poster boy Burhan Wani was shot dead in an encounter with security forces. The cycle of violence that followed claimed nearly 100 lives and maimed hundreds. But the impact of the violence stretched beyond the Valley as students from Kashmir faced harassment elsewhere in the country. This led to the round-the-clock redress helpline. Some students pursuing engineering, management and medical courses in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh rued the climate of hate in the country while speaking to this newspaper. But they appeared satisfied with the home ministry's initiative to reach out to Kashmiri youths and address their problems. 'Not all our grievances are addressed through this helpline, but we still think it's a positive move. At least we have got something to fall back upon in emergency situations. So far the home minister has been very forthcoming and always speak of resolving the crisis in Kashmir,' Aslam Dhar, who is doing his MBA from Meerut, said. Aslam said Kashmiri students have been living in fear and cited incidents when some of them had been targeted over the past few years. He recalled that Valley students were beaten up at a private college in Haryana in December 2014 for objecting to a student jumping a canteen queue. In Meerut, he said, some Kashmiri students were attacked in 2015 after they had cheered for Pakistan during a cricket match against India. The university had slapped some of them with sedition charges, which were later dropped following an outcry. 'Fellow students taunt us and pass remarks that we are anti-national. The situation has become so hostile for people from Kashmir,' said another student. Others spoke of the cloud of mistrust that always hangs over them, with even local people and shopkeepers suspecting them of being 'terrorists'. 'We find it difficult to get local SIM cards once we provide our identity cards,' said a student studying in Noida. In April this year, six Kashmiri students were attacked in Rajasthan and were thrashed in Chittorgarh following a scuffle with local youths in a market. In the same month, posters in parts of Uttar Pradesh had come up asking Kashmiri students to leave the state or 'face the consequences', in what appeared to be a reaction to the stone-throwing by Kashmiri youths at security forces in the Valley. Following the incidents, Rajnath had written to all chief ministers asking them to ensure the safety of Kashmiris living in their states, becoming the first Union minister to speak out against the victimisation of Kashmiris outside their home state. In early September, Rajnath had visited Jammu and Kashmir to take forward Prime Minister Narendra Modi's promise to embrace Kashmiris to try and find a solution to the state's problems. The visit had come in the backdrop of Modi's Independence Day speech where he had said the Kashmir problem could not be solved either with abuse or bullets but by embracing every Kashmiri.