The Madhya Pradesh government has found itself embroiled in a controversy after being accused of trying to keep Kashmiri students out of higher educational institutions in the State.

The most vocal has been Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who expressed concern over discrimination against Kashmiri students in Madhya Pradesh after the State government notified changes in the guidelines of admission to higher education institutions in the State.

Mr. Abdullah expressed disappointment over the issue. “Disgraceful: Hindutva groups campaign to keep Kashmiri students out of M.P.,” he stated on the social networking site Twitter

The latest “admission guidelines/guiding principles for admissions” notified by the State's Higher Education Department make Kashmiri students ineligible for admission to the State's public as well as private higher education institutions.

While under the older guidelines, “Kashmiri displaced/students” were eligible for admission, the new guidelines omit the term ‘students' leaving only “Kashmiri displaced”— implying Kashmiri Pandits — eligible for admission.

ABVP demand

The change has reportedly come about after demands from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

“Look, out of 400 post-graduate students at Bhopal's Barkatullah University, 175 are from the Kashmir valley. The benefits entitled to Kashmiri displaced are being received by students from the valley,” ABVP general secretary B.D. Sharma told The Hindu.

“These students get mass admissions based on fake documents through the admission mafia and do all kinds of weird activities on the campus creating an atmosphere of insecurity among other students. They have even built a mosque on the campus premises. The situation is true of almost all universities of Madhya Pradesh,” Mr. Sharma said. “It is not our demand, but that of troubled students from all over Madhya Pradesh,” he added.

The Jammu and Kashmir government has reportedly asked for a detailed report from its police chief.

Following Mr. Abdullah's tweet, State Culture and Higher Education Minister Laxmikant Sharma in a statement condemned Mr. Abdullah's remarks.

“There is no question of discrimination against any student of Jammu & Kashmir or any other State, for that matter. Admissions in Madhya Pradesh colleges are conducted as per rules,” Mr. Sharma has stated.

“Remarks uncalled for”

Mr. Sharma termed Mr. Abdullah's remarks “unnecessary and uncalled for” and said the Madhya Pradesh government had granted special concessions in the admission rules to the wards of people displaced from Kashmir.

The government statement, however, was silent on why the word “student” was removed retaining only the expression “Kashmiri displaced.”

“This is not a new development. The ABVP has been running this campaign for the last one year. Jammu and Kashmir is a conflict-ridden State and education has suffered because of that.

“Now if students from the State come to study in other States, should they be encouraged or victimised?” asked Ibrahim Quereshi, former Chairman of the State Minority Commission.

Recently, two Kashmiri students of Barkatullah University emailed Mr. Omar Abdullah about alleged discrimination against them in the university hostels. However, the State government has clarified that the matter had been enquired into and no discrimination was found.

‘Not an isolated case'

Shujaat Bukhari reports from Srinagar:

People's Democratic Party leader Naeem Akthar criticised the BJP-led government and said the State government should take up the issue with M.P. to prevent harassment of Kashmiri students.

“It is the responsibility of the Jammu and Kashmir government to protect its people. This is not an isolated case, the trend of persecution of Kashmiris in other States has to be curbed,” he said.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) State secretary M.Y. Tarigami said that Kashmiris have a right to study in Madhya Pradesh or other States of India. “M.P. is not the fiefdom of the BJP or the ABVP and we will resist their designs with like-minded secular and progressive friends there,” he said.