Kashmiri students face police brutality at Desh Bhagat University in Punjab

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kashmiri students protesting against unapporved college at DBU entrance gate.

University staff, including Zora Singh, BDU chancellor, booked for cheating and criminal breach of trust

Fatehgarh Sahib: In a shocking incident, Kashmiri nursing students of Desh Bhagat University (DBU) in Punjab have been subjected to physical assault, character assassination, intimidation, and even life threats by the university’s staff. The young scholars, who have been protesting for over a week, received another blow when they were informed of a First Information Report (FIR) filed against them— 56 in total.

The FIR, a copy of which lies with Free Press Kashmir, mentions the names of the 16 Kashmir students for allegedly clashing with cops.

One of the aggrieved students, who wished to remain anonymous due to fear of further reprisals from the university’s administration, described how their protest began on September 8 against university’s failure to teach them in a recognised institution rather than shifting to another campus, Sardar Lal Singh Memorial College, which is within the university but lacks the official registration.

Sardar Lal Singh Memorial College, operates under the umbrella of DBU Punjab but is not affiliated with the Indian Nursing Council (INC)

Students who spoke to Free Press Kashmir said that despite their genuine demands, the university responded with brute force, resorting to physical assault and baton-charges to evict them from the premises.

“Majority of us have received injuries when the university staff, both men and women, hurled blows and dragged many of us from the protesting site only because we are demanding education under registered institution,” said another student who fears any worst action from the varsity in future.

She said the university assured the students that the matter will be resolved, it has not been addressed in the past one year— the first time when they came to know about their campus not being registered with INC.

The heart of the issue lies in the university’s blatant disregard for the prescribed seat allocation by the Indian Nursing Council (INC), which had designated only 100 seats for their nursing courses. Despite the students repeatedly voicing their concerns regarding the admission of additional students, the university staff dismissed the matter, asserting that it was merely a minor concern and fell within the purview of the university’s management.

The issue began during the 2020 academic session when all students were admitted to Desh Bhagat Institute of Nursing following the proper admission process. First-year classes and clinical training were conducted for both male and female students together. However, after the completion of the first annual exams, the university administration decided to separate the female students from that batch and transfer them to another college Sardar Lal Singh Institute of Nursing, which was not included in the INC’s suitability list for the 2020 session. This decision was made without the consent of the students or their parents.

The university lied to the students saying that it was a separation of sections and not institutions, a violation of the rules set by the state nursing council Punjab Nurses Registration Council (PNRC) and INC.

In 2022, they established Sardar Lal Singh Memorial College and transferred all the female students from their batch except for two Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSSS) students. The administration changed the student records from the original university to the one temporraray established one and prepared new admission files without informing the students, even forging their signatures.

Frustrated and feeling cheated, the nursing students embarked on a four-day protest, seeking resolution. The university administration remained unresponsive until Punjab police and Sub-District Magistrate Amloh became involved. They then presented documents prepared by the DBU administration itself, including INC registration, PNRC registration, and college IDs.

However, during the third day of the protest, they unveiled a fake notification claiming that DBU had been blacklisted by the Jammu and Kashmir Paramedical Council.

In addition to threats to delay the students’ degrees and tarnish their characters, the administration warned that they would misguide the students’ parents if they brought them to the protest.

After four days of protesting, an understanding was reached with the DBU administration and SDM Amloh, but it did not satisfy the protesting students, as DBU later claimed that “INC has no role in recognizing the institute and allotting the seats.”

Despite their persistent struggle, the students were promised INC suitability for the 2020 session, which has yet to be granted for Sardar Lal Singh College. When the students approached the administration again, they were told to pray for their INC recognition and take whatever action they deemed necessary. Subsequently, they filed a complaint against the DBU administration at Amloh police station.

Multiple meetings were held, but the DBU administration continued to push for a compromise, leaving the students with no choice but to start a peaceful protest against the university.

On September 14, the students exercised their legal right to protest against the varsity staff, whom they felt had cheated them. Their peaceful demonstration was met with excessive force, with university authorities calling upon local goons and bouncers to suppress the students, another student informed Free Press Kashmir.

The local police intervention further exacerbated the situation, as they sided with the university authorities and treated the students as criminals, the student said.

During the protest, the entire DBU administration, including the Chancellor and Pro Chancellor, took part in the assault, brutally attacking the students with the assistance of the police.

“The district Fatehgarh Sahib Police, including SHO Amloh, DSP Amloh (Harpinder Kaur Gill), and SP Fatehgarh Sahib (Ramesh Yadav), conducted a harsh lathi charge on both male and female students,” the student said.

The students have identified the individuals involved in the administration’s violent response and request a thorough investigation into the matter. They call for strict action against the police officers involved, as well as the DBU administration and the local bouncers hired by the university.

“In the face of adversity, we the nursing students of the 2020 batch, particularly the female students, continue our fight for justice, determined to see our  grievances addressed and futures secured,” said another student who faced the assault.

Last week, the Jammu and Kashmir Students Association wrote to Dileep Kumar, president of Indian Nursing Council (INC) regarding the transfer of Kashmiri students enrolled in various paramedical courses from Desh Bhagat University (DBU) Punjab to Sardar Lal Singh College without their consent and the physical assault they faced on the hands of the university staff.

On Saturday, after details were verified, police booked the chancellor of DBU on various charges, including cheating and criminal breach of trust, following a complaint by the students, reads an FIR copy in possession of Free Press Kashmir.

Deputy Superintendent of Police G S Bains said the case was registered against Zora Singh, chancellor of the Desh Bhagat University, Amloh in Fatehgarh Sahib and seven others.

The case was registered against the university authorities under relevant sections including 420 (cheating) and 406 (criminal breach of trust) of the Indian Penal Code, police said.

Police also assured the protesting students that a case, which was registered against many protesting students a few days back, would be withdrawn.

Police had earlier booked several students following a clash between them and the university security personnel.

Meanwhile, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, has strongly condemned the lathi charging and assault on the students. She emphasized that such actions are entirely uncalled for and called upon the Chief Minister of Punjab to take immediate notice of the situation and conduct a thorough investigation.

Mehbooba expressed concern that such incidents only serve to alienate the Kashmiri community further. Additionally, she used social media to tag Punjab’s police officers, urging them to take decisive action against those responsible for the misconduct, while also seeking justice for the affected students.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) also demanded strict action against the university authorities for launching a physical attack on the students.

SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal even spoke to one of the protesting students on a video call and said if the state police failed to take action in the matter, the SAD would assist the cause of the aggrieved students and approach the high court to secure justice for them.

Several videos have appeared on social media sites showing Kashmiri students being beaten up, dragged and verbally abused by the people associated with the university.

With the Jammu and Kashmir Students Association (JKSA) writing to India’s Minister for Health and Medical Education Mansukh Mandaviya and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, the state government of Punjab has also set up a committee comprising of administration officials, police, and university members.

JKSA convenor, Nasir Khuehami told Free Press Kashmir that the students were enrolled to Sardar Lal Singh College without their permission or consent.

This unilateral move by the university has been ongoing since last year when around 500 students from Jammu and Kashmir, pursuing various paramedical courses at DBU found themselves caught in a situation beyond their control, Khuehami said.

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