Srinagar: 1200 students from Jammu and Kashmir, studying at Aligarh Muslim University on Saturday wrote a letter to the university Administration demanding revocation of sedition charges against two Kashmiri scholars who were suspended on the day Manan Wani, an AMU scholar turned militant, was killed in a gunfight in Kashmir.
A 13-second unverified video shot in the campus showing a gathering with slogans of ‘Azadi’ reverberating, went viral on social media. While an FIR has been lodged against the students, they say all the charges against them are false.
On basis of the video, the students say “some Right-Wing members have lodged the FIR.
“Two students have been suspended and a show cause notice has been issued to 7 other Kashmiri students. Also, sedition charges have been filed against two students, Waseem Ayoub Malik and Abdul Haseeb Mir, both doctoral students at AMU.
Manan Wani, a Kashmiri pursuing his doctorate in geology at AMU joined Hizbul Mujahideen on January 10, this year. The news about the commander’s killing spread like wildfire on October 11. Fearing that his killing might trigger another ‘2016 like situation’, Kashmiri students say that they had gathered to ‘discuss the situation’.
“I belong to Kashmir. I am pursuing my PhD in Political and Social developments in Kashmir from 1963 to 75. When Manan Wani, a former doctoral student from AMU was killed in Kashmir, internet was snapped in Kashmir, schools and colleges were shut. Kashmiri students here got anxious as it reminded us of the 2016 situation when Burhan Wani was killed ,” says Abdul Haseeb, Indian Council for Historical Research Fellow at Centre for Advanced Studies of History, AMU who has been booked under sedition charges along with Waseem Ayoub Malik, a scholar in Biochemistry, pursuing PhD in Metagenomics.
Narrating the incident, he says, “For 5 to 6 months, Kashmir was shut in 2016. We sat together to discuss what we should do in this situation. We were sitting in front of Kennedy Hall which is around 400 steps away from the main street. Keeping the situation in India in our minds, we discussed not to do any protests.”
“Vice President, AMUSU, Sajad Subhan Rather sent us there to normalise the situation. All the students including seniors were there,” says Haseeb.
In a jiffy, he says, the University Proctor “with around 100 security guards” had arrived and stopped the students from doing anything regarding this matter. “There was a discussion with AMU proctorial team as to if we would or would not do it. Then, some were saying we should perform funeral prayers for Manan Wani, some were saying, we should not and some were saying we should not do anything about it,” says Haseeb who has been sitting in his hostel after he was booked with sedition charges, suspension and an FIR.
He says, while the discussion was going on, some students had arrived with Lathis about which the Registrar of the University has said in a video, “AMU proctorial team along with students ‘ne university ke Kashmiri bachun ko khadeda” (roughed them up). It was a complicit effort from the state, university administration and the local students,” he says adding, “They got Lathis and began hitting us. On that, Kashmiri students became defensive. There was a lot of noise there. They are saying we raised Azadi slogans but in that noise, we could not hear or understand anything.”
He further narrates that the Kashmiri students had left the spot immediately without performing absentia prayers for Wani “or anything else.”
In the evening, the students had read news about AMU students performing prayers for Wani.
“Although, he was once an AMU student. He was killed but no funeral prayers were held for him here. According to us, it all falls under the domain of Article 19 Freedom of Speech Act. In any way, it does not qualify for the sedition charges. These are fabricated, false, frivolous charges. We strongly refute these,” says Haseeb.
“On behalf of us, other Kashmiri students have said that if the charges are not revoked by October 17, all Kashmiri students here will fly back to Kashmir,” he says adding that the students were told that the university had not lodged an FIR against the students.
“The fact is that it is a central university and no FIR can be lodged without its permission. We want the Vice Chancellor to approach the District Administration and take the side of university students and revoke our sedition charges. We have not performed any such act that calls for a sedition charge on us,” he says.
“We don’t have the copy of FIR but as per the details we have, we have been booked under Section 144, 147, 148, 153 (a), 153 (b), 354, 124 (a). These include rioting, rioting with weapons, enmity, provocation with intention of riot and sedition etc,” says Haseeb adding that he along with Malik have always been law-abiding students.
“Whatever is happening is politically motivated and AMU is becoming subservient to the pressures and acting against its own students,” says Haseeb.
Meanwhile, Students of Jammu and Kashmir, studying at AMU, Aligarh have forwarded a letter through Vice President, AMUSU, Sajad Subhan Rather “ On Vilification of Kashmiri students at AMU and imposition of legal sections against bonafide students at the University.”
While talking to Free Press Kashmir, Mashkoor Usmani, President Aligarh Muslim University Students’ Union said that the students were holding a condolence meeting that was condemned by the proctorial team.
“They had asked them not to have any sort of condolence meeting in the university. Because Manan Wani had left the university, joined militancy long back. We have not spoken to the university Administration so far as the issue is still burning. Once it calms down, we will talk to them. Let them verify the video and if they don’t find anything against the students, the charges must be revoked,” says Usmani.
Some students also say that around 5 students who have been asked to respond to a show cause notice are not enrolled in the university.
“Who had given the students right to hit Kashmiris? Had the proctorial team not supported them, it would not have happened. Around 250 Kashmiri students were there. Around 100 local students with around 20 professors. Nothing of the sort happened that would have qualified for sedition charges,” says an AMU student, on condition of anonymity.
The students also said that when they went to the proctor with the letter, he had admitted that they are not able to locate 5 students.