New Delhi/Yavatmal/Chandigarh, Feb 22 (IANS) Four Kashmiri students in Maharahstra have been assaulted while a Kashmiri teacher in a private university in Punjab said he was asked to quit on Thursday even as the Supreme Court said it may take up Friday a PIL seeking security for students from the Valley in wake of the Pulwama terror attack.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Congress for their silence over attacks on Kashmiri students, while senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad appealed to people to not push Kashmiris "back into quagmire" by boycotting or beating them up.
In Yavatmal, Kashmiri students of Dayabhai Patel College of Physical Education were pounced upon near their rented home in Waghapur Road area on Wednesday night.
Two of the students - Umar Rashid Dar and Umar Nazir Ganai, both from Kashmir's Kupwara - and their friends were intercepted outside their home by activists allegedly from the Yuva Sena, the youth wing of the Shiv Sena.
The dozen strong mob demanded to know where they hailed from. When the students replied Kashmir, they were slapped, kicked, punched and threatened with "dire consequences".
The mob also demanded to know whether their relatives were "terrorists" and forced them to raise slogans of "Bharat Mata ki Jai," "Hindustan Zindabad" and "Vande Mataram".
The visibly-scared boys told media persons that "it was difficult for us to pursue education in our home state and now even here. We don't know what to do or where to go."
However, they said the police and college authorities have assured them full protection and support especially since their final exams were starting next week.
College Principal, Sandeep Chawak, told IANS that the entire college stands "unitedly" with the four students, three of whom are here for three years and one for the past one year.
Amidst all round condemnation, Yuva Sena President Aditya Uddhav Thackeray attempted damage control by appealing "not to vent anger against Pakistan" against people living in our own country, while the organisation's Secretary Varun Sardesai assured action against the culprits if they were found to be the party's activists.
In another related incident. Salman Shaheen, an Assistant Professor of English at Lovely Professional University (LPU) near Punjab's Jalandhar city said that he was "forced" to resign after a social media post linking him to comments regarding the Pulwama terror attack.
Alleging that a photo of his Facebook status was distorted to create an impression that he had written something objectionable, he said he was also confronted at his rented accommodation outside the university campus.
University sources confirmed the resignation but said that the teacher "realized his mistake and decided to quit".
In wake of the attacks by right-wing groups, particularly in Uttarakhand, which have led to a large number of Kashmiri students leaving the state, Omar Abdullah warned that such attacks "will result in further alienation of Kashmiris".
"Kashmiri boys and girls pursuing studies outside the state have nothing to do either with politics or the Kashmir issue. They are simply trying to build their careers.
"These students have somehow managed to contact us saying that they have been harassed and threatened to leave different colleges and universities outside the state," he told media persons in Srinagar.
Abdullah said it appeared that those targeting Kashmiris had the blessings of the establishment, pointing out that the Meghalaya Governor had called for a boycott of the Kashmiri community.
He criticized Modi for his silence over the attacks on Kashmiri students and traders outside the state.
"...If he (Modi) was busy, the Home Minister could have said something. Even the Congress has not said anything comforting. We need a statesman, not a politician," he said.
Azad, who is also a former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, said the Kashmiri youth who are studying at various universities across India are the ones who have shunned the lure of militancy and are for joining the national mainstream.
"It means they feel safer among their countrymen. If they will be beaten up here, and persecuted by militants back home, where would they go," he said at a press conference in the capital.
He said mere advisories would not do and the state government officials must visit educational institutes and colleges and assure them. "Let them (Kashmiris) come into the mainstream. Don't push them back into the mire, these students want to escape," Azad said.
A Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Sanjiv Khanna indicated that it may hear on Friday a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking direction to the Centre and the state governments to protect Kashmiri students after senior counsel Colin Gonsalves mentioned it for an urgent hearing.
PIL petitioner Tariq Adeeb referred to a dozen media reports of attack on Kashmiri students across the country after the Pulwama attack, while citing the apex court's July 17, 2018 judgment on the issue of curbing of activities of vigilante groups and mob lynching.