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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Nirmal, Naeem hold meeting with 7 NIT students

Ministers don’t face Press; media barred from entering fortified NIT; students take out candle march

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


JAMMU, April 8: Two Ministers of Mehbooba Mufti’s government---Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh of BJP and Education Minister Naeem Akhtar of PDP---on Friday held their first meeting with the restive students of the National Institute of Technology (NIT) even as they were advised by the Government against visiting the campus and a small group of seven students was ferried for the meeting all the way from Hazratbal to Civil Lines in the summer capital of Srinagar.

A number of the leaders of the BJP leaders, including Ministers, had planned to visit Srinagar while as the union Minister of Human Resource Development Smriti Irani was still assessing the situation when top J&K government functionaries pleaded with the Centre on Thursday that such visits could “vitiate the atmosphere further”, well-placed sources said. They said that J&K Director General of Police, K Rajendra Kumar, spoke to senior officials of the union Ministry of Home Affairs and made it clear that the politicians’ visits and potentially rhetorical speeches and statement could delay return of peace at the campus.

The DGP, according to the sources, warned the Central authorities that the politicians’ statements could evoke reactions from the momentarily mute Kashmir valley and the trouble could spill over to the nearby University of Kashmir and several colleges. As a consequence of New Delhi’s directives, Deputy Chief Minister, who had by then arrived in Srinagar, was diverted to an unscheduled meeting with officers of Power Development Department. Besides, two BJP MLCs, Ramesh Arora and Sunil Ambardar, were directed to cancel their programme.

According to sources, J&K Police provided video footage of the students purportedly assaulting the officers and resorting to heavy stone pelting on Police besides damaging the College properties.

Mehbooba Mufti’s Government also succeeded in convincing the Centre that the students’ interaction with media could multiply the tension. Consequently, none of the mediapersons, not even the crews flown in from New Delhi, were permitted to meet the students.

On the campus, the students from different Indian States, who have boycotted the classes, gathered in the evening and they staged a march while carrying candles to press their demands. Their demands included withdrawal of the two FIRs registered against them at Police Station Nigeen, permitting them to meet with the Press, restoration of Internet and wi-fi facilities at the campus besides action against the Policemen involved in the April 5th lathi charge on them, replacement of J&K Police with CRPF, migration of the students to other NITs and an assurance that the faculty would not harass them or reduce their ratings in the examinations.

In the wake of hectic developments, authorities decided to ferry a group of six male students and a female student in a CRPF-protected vehicle to Dy CM’s residence at Bunglaow No: 5, Maulana Azad Road. The meeting with Dr Singh and Naeem Akhtar was also joined by Chairman Board of Governors M.J. Zarabi and Director NIT Rajesh Gupta.

After the two-hour-long meeting concluded, the students were taken out from the Banquet Hall exit so as to ensure that they were not spotted by the media outside. Naeem Akhar drove straight to his official residence, Bungalow M-I, Gupkar Road while as Zarabi and Gupta left for NIT. None of them slowed down for an interaction with media.

Since the Government continued to remain tightlipped, nobody had inkling as to what transpired in the meeting.


[Published in today's STATE TIMES]

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