Bhubaneswar, Feb. 10: Five students, including three from Afghanistan, suffered injuries in a clash late last night at the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Rourkela, which coincided with their annual festival.
All the five injured students were admitted to Ispat General Hospital. An Indian student, who had been left with a major head injury, was declared out of danger after a CT scan.
Institute officials remained tight-lipped about the sequence of events that led to the campus brawl and the identity of those involved in it. However, sources said a group of 10 Afghan students, who were allegedly drunk, hurled abuse at local students, which led to a heated exchange and ultimately, fisticuffs.
They apparently made some remarks about the controversial hanging of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, the source said. He added that the clash was the fallout of a previous argument between the two groups over a football match.
The situation was brought under control following the intervention of NIT-Rourkela director Sunil Sarangi and other faculty members. Apprehending a possible backlash, the authorities shifted the entire group of 23 Afghan students, besides one Israeli national, to a hostel of Rourkela Steel Plant. Nearly 4,500 Indian students are studying at this premier engineering institute.
“When I reached the spot yesterday, the tension was so palpable that my first concern was to provide security to the Afghan students as they are in a minority here. At this moment, we are inquiring into the whole incident. After the internal inquiry is over, we will lodge a formal complaint with the police,” said Sarangi. He said the campus ambience had been calm throughout the day.
“The foreign students have been shifted to a secure place. We are keeping a close watch on the developments,” said Rourkela sub-divisional police officer S. Sethi.
Three months ago, Ravenshaw University, Cuttack, had decided against admitting students from Afghanistan from the next academic session, a fallout of the campus tension involving students from that country.
Authorities said the decision had been taken in view of a major clash between Afghan and local students at Ravenshaw in January 2011 after which 59 students from that country had decided to quit the varsity. However, they had returned to Cuttack following the intervention of the Odisha government, officials of the Afghan embassy and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), which facilitates their education in Odisha.
ICCR regional director Meenakshi Mishra said: “The NIT officials have given me the assurance that they were taking proper care for the security of Afghan students and they have also communicated with the appropriate authorities at Delhi.”