Local Youths, Not Hostelites, Behind Attack on International Students at Gujarat University

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Local Youths, Not Hostelites, Behind Attack on International Students at Gujarat University

| Updated: March 18, 2024 18:48

Those who attacked international Muslim students on Gujarat University campus were not hostelites but local youth who barged into the A block which housed these foreign students.

Surprisingly, what began as an internal hostel clash between two groups is now snowballing into a case of Islamophobia.

So far five youths have been arrested by the crime branch of Ahmedabad police. This includes Hitesh Mewada, Bharat Patel, Kshitj Pandey, Jitendra Patel and Sahil Dudhtiuva. The police have not confirmed the affiliation of these youngsters but at least one of them was in close contact with the local Bajrang Dal group, sources claim.

About 300 foreign students live in Ahmedabad as students of Gujarat University. There is a special hostel allocated for them. Not all students are Muslims. There are Christians, Buddhists and Hindus too from Central Asia, Africa and South Asian countries of Bangladesh and Srilanka.

On Saturday night, an evening brawl between 15 international students and about 40 Gujaratis snowballed into a major physical assault. Vibes of India can confirm that at least six international students from Africa, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Srilanka and Bangladesh were attacked with knives and lathis (thick sticks) by zealous mobs who shouted Jai Shree Ram as they assaulted the students and destroyed their belonging including laptops and cell phones. They had a spat earlier in the evening when a group of Gujarat students confronted the international students who were offering Tavarih, special Ramzan prayers. Naeem, a student from Afghanistan maintains that they were offering the prayers at a place designated for prayers by Gujarat university authorities.

A prominent Muslim leader associated with the BJP confirmed with Vibes of India that the international Muslim students were indeed praying in an area which has been earmarked for these prayers for two and half decades. According to Naeem, the Gujarat students pelted stones when they(the international Muslim students) continued their prayers and did not heed to the Gujarat students who asked why they were not offering Namaz in a mosque. “After this, they pelted stones”. According to Gujarat students, they simply asked but one international Muslim student who they identify as a Harun from Afghanistan, got agitated, rushed towards them and slapped a Gujarati youth.

While Vibes of India could confirm that a Gujarat student was indeed slapped, there is no evidence available with Vibes of India (Vo!) about stone pelting in the evening. However, there was stone pelting in the night.

Also Read: Int’l Muslim Students Of Gujarat University Attacked By Hindutva Mob Over Namaz, Several Hurt

The real trouble began in the night when a mob of nearly 250 students entered the hostel block of international students and assaulted them. One international student was stabbed, others beaten up with sticks (laathis). While these students were being attacked by an armed group, others in the crowd shouted Jai Shree Ram and pelted stones. This is the version given to Vo! by international students.

The police were informed of the incident at 10.51 pm and they reached the spot within five minutes. However, according to another student from Afghanistan, “the police just remained mute spectators. We kept on pleading for help and action. We shouted that India is a democratic country, India is a secular country. Why are you not arresting these people? Why are you just standing and watching”. 

Gujarat University vice-chancellor Dr Neerja Gupta

Gujarat University vice-chancellor Dr Neerja Gupta’s earlier statement that foreign students would be given a cultural sensitivity drill drew flak. The Ahmedabad police commissioner G S Malik gauged the sensitivity of the situation as he understood the international implications of this incident. The Ministry of External Affairs was compelled to intervene and speak to the Gujarat government.

The local sentiments have been predictable with all blame being pointed towards the international students and their action of performing Namaz in public. However, as University authorities assert, the students were offering their prayers at a pre-designated place. The place has been used for religious activities of minorities for over two and half decades.

It must be noted that much of the blame of the incident that has embarrassed India rests with Rakesh Raval, the co-ordinator of the Study Abroad Programme. Before this incident also, Muslim students had approached Raval complaining about threats that he had received. However, Raval did not take any action. Now, Raval has been replaced along with the NRI hostel warden. A woman professor, Nilam Panchal has been deputed to look into issues of the foreign students.

On Monday evening, six foreign students said they were satisfied with the changes made by the University but maintained that they still fear for their lives.

“In the incident that took place in the Gujarat University Saturday at 10.30 pm, an FIR was registered against a group of 20-25 people. Nine teams were formed to nab the accused…,” Zone 7 Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Tarun Duggal said in a statement.

“The state government is taking strict action against the perpetrators and two foreign students were injured in the clash,” the MEA said in a post on X.

“An incident of violence took place at Gujarat University in Ahmedabad yesterday. The state government is taking strict action against the perpetrators. Two foreign students were injured in the clash. One of them has been discharged from hospital after receiving medical attention. MEA is in touch with the Gujarat Government,” the MEA’s official spokesperson, Randhir Jaiswal had posted on X.

Meanwhile, the victims claimed city police gave a free passage to rioters after they attacked them and resorted to vandalism. They also released a video of the Saturday night incident, which shows some people leaving the campus in the presence of PCR vans and cops in front of the A block of the boys’ hostel in Navrangpura. It is this video, posted on X by Vibes of India where foreign students are heard saying India is a secular country, India is a democratic country and why the police was not arresting the culprits who were running away from the spot after the attack.

After Saturday’s incident, no Tarawih was offered on Sunday night, said students. Around six to eight cops and 10 security guards were deployed at the hostel to deal with any untoward incident. Police protection continues.

Navid Siddique of Afghanistan said what began as an argument with three Gujaratis ended up with a dozen and half Gujaratis coming in to fight. Later, the mob size crossed 200, he said.

According to Navid, the mob also attacked Mario Fernando from Srilanka a Christian student who was requesting the mob not to attack the Muslim students.

Asaduddin Owaisi, a member of parliament from the southern city of Hyderabad, called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah seeking intervention.

“What a shame. When your devotion and religious slogans only come out when Muslims peacefully practice their religion,” he posted on X. “Domestic anti-Muslim hatred is destroying India’s goodwill,” he wrote tagging S Jaishankar, India’s external affairs minister.

The student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party that is the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad(ABVP) strongly condemned the attack on foreign students. State Secretary Samarth Bhatt said the hostel and university administration prima facie seems at fault.

This incident has tarnished the image of India and police should also look into the role of local Congress leaders in this case. Interestingly, a Congress student leader said that if the Muslim students were actually at fault and began the violence, why has the police arrested five Hindus. The police should release them immediately and not indulge in such vanity just because the Central Government intervened. 

Also Read: Ahmedabad Police Nab Three More in GU Students’ Assault Case

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