A day after he described the assault on students at the NIT campus in Srinagar as “a mild lathi charge”, Nirmal Singh, the Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, told NDTV he had been misinformed of the facts.
“Police officers who were involved in lathi charge will be punished. I was told it was a ‘mild’ lathi charge which is why I used that term earlier,” he said in an interview amid much online anger both against him and the developments at NIT, a science and engineering college.
Last night, students who are not from the state- nearly 500, according to the police – tried to march to the main gate, carrying the national flag. The police, armed with batons or lathis, hit out at them, and took away the flag. Mr Singh promised that flag will be returned to them.
“Every student has the right to hoist the national flag, raise the slogans of Bharat Mata ki Jai, but the question is whether such situation should be allowed to occur when there is a clash between the students…when students go out and there is a clash with the local population… because you know that all these sensitivities are there due to unfortunate campaigning by our opposition parties especially the separatists,” said Mr Singh. Kashmir has its own flag, which is used with the tricolour on government buildings and other public places.
The students -who say some a few of them were hit so hard that they need surgeries- claim they were stopped from leaving the campus by policemen. Across the country, whether the patriotic chant is secular has become a national controversy over the past few weeks, with the BJP suggesting it is not a religious slogan, and some Muslim leaders refusing to say it because they claim it violates the Islamic tenet against idol worship.
NIT’s latest round of violence came just days after out-of-state students fought with local classmates who celebrated India’s defeat in the T20 World Cup semi-finals.
Paramilitary forces are on the campus now and will remain there till exams conclude,Education Minister Smriti Irani said, adding that the safety of all students has been assured by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti who took office as recently as Monday.