Crescent Kashmir

Kashmir cops ‘questioning’ students enrolled in Pakistan colleges, cite radicalisation fear

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Srinagar: Several Kashmiri students enrolled in Pakistani institutions have alleged that they have been summoned by police over the past month.

Speaking to ThePrint, the students said they were asked multiple questions — where they studied, how they got admission, etc — when they visited the police stations. Parents claim the questioning has left students “frightened”.

Two senior superintendents of police (SSPs), however, sought to deny the allegations, while a third told ThePrint they wouldn’t be able to respond unless presented with a specific name.

However, off the record, sources in Kashmir police admitted students were being summoned as part of a “verification process”, although it was not made clear why or at whose directions it was being conducted.

They said there “were concerns that the students may willfully or through coercion indulge in activities considered anti-national”.

The students’ allegations came a day after the Medical Council of India (MCI), the country’s apex regulator for medical education, said those who pursue degrees from colleges in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) will not be allowed to practice in India.

“Pakistan is in illegal and forcible occupation of a part of the territory… Accordingly, any medical institution in Pakistan occupied Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh (PoJKL) requires permission /recognition under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956. Such permission has not been granted to any medical college in PoJKL,” the MCI notice said in a notice.

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The notice followed an announcement by the Imran Khan government in Pakistan that it would offer 1,600 scholarships to Kashmiri students, a development that has reportedly raised concerns among India’s security agencies.

‘Gotten worse’

Over the past few decades, Kashmiri students have travelled to various countries to pursue higher education, especially medical degrees. Pakistan, government officials say, has emerged as a popular choice because it offers Kashmiri students many scholarships.

According to official sources, there are around 700 Kashmiri students enrolled in universities across Pakistan, most of whom pursue MBBS degrees. Many students studying abroad would currently be back in Kashmir as a result of restrictions imposed in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Local students say studying in Pakistan has never been “an easy affair” — claiming phone interrogations are a routine matter — but claim the situation has “worsened since last year”.

Most of the students who spoke to ThePrint were aged between 19 and 23 years. They said they had been summoned to local police stations multiple times, with some claiming they were “questioned in detail” over phone interviews.

“Previously, too, police used to call us or our families on mobile phones whenever we returned to Kashmir. The questioning would be routine,” said a resident of Budgam. “It was inconvenient but we would not feel threatened. Since last year, and especially the past two months, the questioning has worsened. We were never summoned to the police station.”

A student from Baramulla said he took his father along when he was summoned. “I know of another female student who was asked to come to the station along with a family member. We were questioned about where we study and how we got admitted,” the student added. “I just told police that I am pursuing a career in medicine and that’s all. I don’t want to get into the politics part of this.”

A Srinagar resident, who has a child enrolled in a Pakistan university, said the summons had left them worried “about both the safety and the future of their children”. “Imagine boys and girls as young as 19 and 20 being questioned by police. We are afraid for their safety and future. Our children are frightened too,” said the parent.

ThePrint reached the SSPs of all the three areas where people have made these allegations.

Budgam SSP Amod Nagpure said he would only be able to comment if “you give me a specific case under my jurisdiction”.

Baramulla SSP Abdul Qayoom denied police in the district had questioned students.

Their Srinagar counterpart, Haseeb Mughal, said even his office had not issued any orders to question students. If some official is calling students at the “police station level”, Mughal said, the matter should be brought to his notice “as no such direction has been issued in Srinagar at least”.

Official sources, however, said the “informal interviews are part of a verification process”.

“There were concerns about the credentials of the foreign universities the students are studying at and how they got admitted. There is also concern that the students may willfully or through coercion indulge in activities considered anti-national,” said a source. “So, the exercise is just to ensure that proper discipline is maintained among students pursuing education abroad.”

In 2017, the MCI had refused to allow the first batch of Kashmiri students passing out of newly established medical colleges in PoK to appear for the Indian medical certification test.

Pakistan subsequently transferred other students who could be affected to mainland colleges, or handed out alternative affiliations to medical colleges in PoK. This means, most Kashmiri students studying in Pakistan may not be affected by the latest MCI notice.

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