Rahat Abrar is busy these days. Along with his academic responsibilities at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), he is playing host to Kashmiri students at home to make them comfortable on the university campus.
Abrar is one among many professors at the university who are making an extra effort to soothe the concerns of students from Kashmir post the abolition of Article 370 and the subsequent communication restrictions in the valley.
Some Kashmiri students have expressed their concerns though they are not willing to speak publicly against the Indian government. “Article 370 gave us a different identity and that has gone now. It’s an emotional issue and universities cannot help us get over this," said a Kashmiri student studying in Delhi.
“After the Pulwama attack in February, we faced difficulties as fellow students looked at us with suspicion. We are trying to keep a low profile and are staying away from protests this time because it will alienate us further and create friction with our fellow students from other states," said the student who declined to be named.
The message coming from some political activists are disturbing, said another student from Kashmir. “In social media they are talking about revenge, action against Kashmiri women, forceful marriage. These are disturbing to read," she said.
Abrar, the director of the Urdu Academy at AMU, said they are asking Kashmir students to stay calm, come home, and have a chat over food. “We can understand the emotions of young students who are facing trouble because of communication restrictions. As academics we have to keep in mind the welfare of our students," said Abrar. Some of the students celebrated Eid last week at his house, he said. At AMU, Kashmiri students are the largest students’ community after those from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Abrar is not the only one. As the trust deficit widens between Kashmir and heartland India, several universities are making an extra effort to reach out to Kashmir students on their respective campuses. From organizing group lunches, to conducting counselling sessions, helping them personally, academically and financially, educational institutions are trying to make them feel at ease.
“We have told Kashmiri students two important things. There is no security threat to you on the campus and you are as important as any other students in the university," said Renuka Salwan, communications officer of Panjab University in Chandigarh. The dean of students’ welfare, Emanuel Nahar, has been in touch with students, Salwan said.