regular-article-logo Friday, 23 February 2024

National Institute of Technology closed in protest-hit Valley, no offline classes in Kashmir colleges 

Government, too, in a surprising move ordered the closure of classes at all colleges, saying all classes will be held online from December 1 to 31 or until winter vacation is announced

Muzaffar Raina Srinagar Published 01.12.23, 05:38 AM
National Institute of Technology, Srinagar.

National Institute of Technology, Srinagar. File picture

The National Institute of Technology, Srinagar, on Thursday prematurely declared winter vacation and asked students to leave their hostels immediately, trying to douse the protests over an allegedly blasphemous post that has threatened the fragile peace at perhaps the lone “microcosm of the country” in Kashmir.

The government, too, in a surprising move ordered the closure of offline classes at all colleges in Kashmir, saying all classes will be held online from December 1 to 31 or until winter vacation is announced.


An order said the decision had been taken because students were finding it difficult to commute owing to the early onset of winter, with the situation worsened by inadequate heating arrangements at the colleges. But the decision is widely believed to have been taken to avert protests.

The NIT witnessed protests since a non-local student shared a video critical of Prophet Muhammad. The protests soon spread to other institutions here.

Srinagar’s Islamia College of Science and Commerce, which had — along with the Amar Singh College — witnessed heavy protests on Wednesday, had suspended all classes and internal exams scheduled for Thursday even before the government issued its order.

Jammu and Kashmir police chief Rashmi Ranjan Swain warned of severe action against anyone trying to disrupt peace. He said the administration was bringing in a law under 144 CrPC that would make the sharing of sensitive content on social media an offence. He suggested action also against those who receive such content unless they inform the police.

The NIT has been closed amid a busy exam season, with the scheduled winter vacation a fortnight away.

Institute sources said that dozens of non-local students had been provided with transport to Jammu for their onward journey to their home states.

“The rest will leave in a day or two. The students will now take their exams after the winter vacation,” a source said.

The institute, however, said the winter vacation had been “preponed only by 10 days” and there would be no academic loss to the students.

Sources said the protests had begun a few days ago after the police delayed action against the non-local student who had shared the video. The student was later rusticated for a year while the police booked him on the charge of promoting hate.

Things came to a boil on Wednesday evening after non-local students held a rally in his support and chanted nationalist slogans.

“Thankfully, there were no clashes but things could have gone out of control -- the reason the NIT has been shut ahead of schedule. There was a large presence of policemen on and around the campus today (Thursday),” the NIT source said.

A former NIT professor said the institute had emerged as a “microcosm of India” in Kashmir.

“Thousands of students from different parts of the country study there. This is the only institution in the whole of Kashmir that has a massive presence of non-local students and academics,” he told The Telegraph, requesting anonymity.

“The grapevine has it that the Right-wing ecosystem want Kashmir to be like the NIT someday.”

Many in Kashmir believe that the BJP-led government at the Centre has scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir to try and change its Muslim-majority demography.

“The institute is well protected and witnesses yearlong development activities, like no other educational institute in the Valley,” the academic said.

“Lots of construction is going on, although it (the institute) is on the banks of the Dal Lake (where permission for construction is very difficult to obtain). Earlier, there were lots of restrictions on non-local students moving out but they were later eased. The students mingled well and you have this kind of tension for the first time after years.”

In 2016, the campus witnessed clashes between non-local and local students following India’s loss in the World T20 semi-final against the West Indies.

But in 2019, it was the first educational institution to reopen after the scrapping of the special status, emerging virtually as an oasis in a desert with other campuses remaining shut for months.

Swain said the authorities had the utmost respect for Prophet Muhammad and would allow nobody to hurt his honour but, at the same time, nobody would be allowed to disturb peace.

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