Non-issue being highlighted: Mehbooba

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti dismissed trouble between local and outside students in a Kashmir college as a “non-issue”, being highlighted by certain people as a “communal incident”.

In an interview to private news channel, Mehbooba, who heads PDP-BJP ruling combine, said that she had expressed same view to central Human Resources Development (HRD) Minister Smriti Irani after violent protests erupted at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Srinagar following India’s loss to West Indies in a T20 cricket match last week.

Non-local students in the college had objected to and carried out demonstrations against celebrations over the victory of the Caribbeans that saw India out of the T20 world championship. Mehbooba said that she informed Irani that a handful of non-resident students at the college were “keen to migrate” to other colleges outside the state.

The parents of NIT Srinagar students in Jammu have condemned her statement. A parent on the condition of anonymity told , “Our children have been beaten with sticks. They have bled and the CM calls it a non issue? Does this mean that our children will have to study in the same life-threatening conditions?”

Mehbooba, who took over as the first woman chief minister of the state early this week, also appreciated the “bold public statement” by hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani who had appealed for calm at the college. Geelani had asked Kashmiri students at the college to take care of the safety of outsiders as “guests of Kashmir”.

She said she had in her first meeting with her Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministerial colleagues stressed on the need to “underplay some unfortunate and uncalled for incidents like NIT”. “Ultimately, we have to run a coalition government in the state,” she said. The chief minister hoped that normalcy will be restored soon at the college where classwork has been hit amid deployment of paramilitary forces in the campus.

Mehbooba said that her priorities were “communal harmony, peace and development” in the state to “restore the confidence of the people” in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-BJP alliance.  She also expressed her faith in the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who, she said, “wants to change the development face of the valley”.

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