Srinagar, Sept. 24: President Pranab Mukherjee’s scheduled visit to Kashmir University this week has raised the spectre of a face-off between pro-independence students and the state government, with a black-flag protest looming.
Mukherjee will arrive on Wednesday on his maiden trip to the Valley since assuming office. He will be the chief guest at the university convocation on Thursday and will hand over medals and certificates to distinguished students.
Student activists are set against the visit by the “head of the Indian armed forces” and have decided to boycott the convocation and observe a “black week” from today.
The state government has pulled out the stops to ensure an incident-free event. Pro-independence activists claimed the university had suspended classes from Tuesday till Thursday to prevent students from entering the campus.
University officials said only those students who will receive certificates and a few select officials would be allowed into the convocation hall. “The police are verifying the antecedents of the participants, particularly those who will sit close to the President,” an official said.
He said the university was not expecting violence in the hall but feared that some students might shout provocative slogans or dishonour the national anthem by remaining seated when it was sung.
Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani has called a Kashmir bandh on Thursday against the President’s visit.
The boycott and “black week” decisions were taken at yesterday’s meeting of the banned Kashmir University Students Union. Its spokesperson said student activists would wear black armbands and hoist black flags on the campus.
“The President of India is the head of the Indian armed forces who have perpetrated gruesome war crimes against the Kashmiris, from killings to rape to torture. In view of this stark reality, it is highly gross and pathetic on the part of the university authorities to have the President of India as chief guest at the event,” the spokesperson said.
A university official said: “Students who do not have invitation cards will not be allowed to get close to the convocation hall.”
Because of student activism and the volatile situation in the Valley, the university has been able to hold only four convocations in the past 20 years. Two of them were held outside the campus in high-security zones.
The first time the convocation was held on the campus in the past two decades was in 2009, when Vice-President Hamid Ansari graced the occasion.