Academic activities were suspended at two educational institutions in Srinagar, including the National Institute of Technology (NIT), in the wake of protests sparked by a student’s social media post allegedly targeting Prophet Mohammad.
On Thursday, officials from NIT-Srinagar announced ‘winter vacations’ and instructed students to vacate hostels with immediate effect while Islamia College of Science and Commerce suspended all classwork and internal examinations scheduled for the day.
“…all hostel boarders (Boys and Girls) are instructed to vacate the hostels with immediate effect,” the institute said in a circular.
The protests were triggered by a social media post made by a non-local student at NIT-Srinagar which ‘hurt religious sentiments’. Demanding action against the accused student, protesters blocked both gates of the institution located in the Nigeen area of the city, raising slogans within the campus premises.
The police filed a case against the student under sections 295A (Deliberate and Malicious Acts Intended to Outrage Religious Feelings),153A (Promoting Enmity between Different Groups on Grounds of Religion, Race, Place of Birth, Residence, Language, etc., and Doing Acts Prejudicial to Maintenance of Harmony),153 (Wantonly Giving Provocation with Intent to Cause Riot) of the Indian Penal Code. The student has been sent home on leave.
“The police received information about a protest by students at the NIT campus. Upon investigation, it was discovered that a student had posted objectionable content on social media, though the video was not the student’s own but taken from YouTube,” revealed Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir, V K Birdi. He said that the content of the post had hurt the religious feelings of the people.
“The police have received a written complaint from the NIT registrar urging legal action. We have taken legal action under relevant sections of the law. The investigation is ongoing,” added the IGP.
Director General of Police, RR Swain has applead appealed the “students to concentrate on their studies and don’t indulge in such (violent) activities” and appealed to the people to help maintain law and order. He also warned “elements who try to spread misinformation”
“We have enacted a law through which strictest action will be taken against those who spread misinformation on social media,” DGP RR Swain said.
“J&K Police holds the respect for Prophet Muhammad in the highest regard and under no circumstances will we let this get hurt…J&K Police will carry out its duties very responsibly…Trust us, just like we registered the case immediately, we will bring this to its logical conclusion. Don’t let other elements jump into this on the pretext of this,” he said while talking to media in Jammu.
“We have taken legal actions from all aspects. Cases have been registered and investigation is underway. We are keeping an eye on it and collecting evidence. We are also collecting evidence against and keeping an eye on those who are trying to do something else on the pretext of this protest,” he said.
On Wednesday, protests also erupted at Amar Singh College and Islamia College on Wednesday, with demonstrators expressing their dissatisfaction with the controversial post. Students carried placards which read ‘Our Prophet, Our Honor’, ‘Kill us but don’t disrespect our role model’, ‘Labayk ya Rasool Allah’ (Here I am at your service, O Messenger of Allah).
The Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulama (MMU), a conglomerate of over 30 religious bodies in the region, led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has demanded a thorough investigation into the incident.
The MMU said that “the reverence and honour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is dearer to a Muslim than his or her life and such blasphemous remarks will not be tolerated by the Muslims of the valley.”
The religious coalition expressed hope that authorities take this incident seriously and make earnest efforts to prevent such occurrences in the future.