After being denied non-vegetarian food and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) objecting to those from Kerala studying at Central University of Jammu, students of the varsity are now being labelled as ‘anti-national,’ Indian Express reported.
The ABVP had on September 21 made an attempt to prevent a performance by a group of students from Kerala before a visiting delegation. The student organisation claimed it could have “anti-national” elements.
Ashok Aima, the vice chancellor of the university, confirmed to the Indian Express that a faculty member had expressed apprehension over the likelihood of students speaking about “Lal Salaam.” The university, however, gave a go-ahead to the performance.
According to Aima, the performance had “nothing objectionable.”
“It was malicious, false propaganda. I will look into the matter and initiate action.”
In early September, a Malayali student wrote to Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan about the “highly volatile situation” at the campus, urging him to intervene.
According to the Indian Express report, a teachers’ delegation led by the ABVP state president had earlier met Union home minister Rajnath Singh during his visit to the state to express their disapproval of “anti-national activities on the campus.”
The varsity is spread over two campuses – at Sainik Colony in Jammu and Bagla in Samba district – and has nearly 1,360 students. The current controversy is limited to the latter campus, which has four hostels with nearly 300 students – 10% of whom are from Kerala.
Tension has been building for long at the campus in Samba district and can be traced back to the university’s denial of non-vegetarian food and Wi-Fi facility to students. The situation heated up further when students who held a condolence meeting for journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh – who was killed at her residence in Bengaluru – were summoned by the authorities and told to concentrate on their studies.
A group of students from Kerala had in February raised the issue of the deteriorating quality of food and hygiene, and the lack of Wi-Fi. Since a majority of them are non-vegetarian, they had demanded meat be served twice a week. Several from Kashmir too wanted the same but were afraid to ask for it for fear of their demands being misconstrued, students claim.
“We contacted the hostel warden and proctor, but when nothing happened, we went on a hunger strike. The VC assured us that everything would be taken care of,” a student told Indian Express.
Soon after, rumors began circulating in a section of the media and on WhatsApp groups that students from Kerala along with some Left-orientated teachers, ‘in view of their association with JNU’, were organising close-door beef parties, a student from Kerala said.
“We were accused of links to Rohingyas, Kashmir separatists and a pro-Pakistan think tank.”
According to proctor N.K. Tripathi, the authorities have been wary of the issues – including “beef rumors” that are likely to surface once non-vegetarian food is allowed to be served on campus.
“We live in an area predominantly inhabited by ex-servicemen. If they come [drawn by such rumours], how we will protect the students? Police take time to reach a spot.”
Tripathi said that concerns surrounding the Wi-Fi facility were also similar.
“Every day we read about students from Kashmir facing problems in some part of the country… What if anyone uploads some objectionable post?” he demanded.
Aima added: “We try to avoid contentious issues which may lead to tension.”
Parvinder Singh, the ABVP’s Jammu and Kashmir head, has, however, dismissed any claims of attempts to control food habits and protests.
“Beef is not an issue, but anti-national activities on the campus are, ” he said. “Convening a condolence meeting and paying homage to Gauri Lankesh are okay, but how can some people link the Sangh parivar with her murder?”