Hindu hardliners storm Indian university after Kashmir flood appeal

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Hardliners were apparently angry that such appeals had not been issued for victims of past deadly floods elsewhere in India, including in Uttarakhand last year

Hardline Hindu nationalists went on the rampage at a university in central India over an aid appeal for victims of devastating floods in Indian-held Kashmir, the vice chancellor said Tuesday.

The mob of young men stormed the Vikram University campus in Ujjain city on Monday, breaking windows, throwing furniture and trying to smash ceiling fans with wooden sticks, footage aired on national television showed.

Jawaharlal Kaul said the attack occurred after the university issued an appeal to help any Kashmiri students affected by the floods that have claimed several hundred lives and devastated the region’s main city of Srinagar.

“There was an appeal issued by us for helping Kashmiri boys who are studying here…there was an appeal by the state government as well,” the vice-chancellor told the NDTV network.

“[The attackers] said they were from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal,” said Kaul, referring to right-wing militant outfits linked to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi stormed to power in May over his centre-left rivals, sparking fears among religious minorities of a rise of hardline Hindu grassroots groups in officially secular but Hindu-majority India.

Kaul said he had appealed through a local newspaper in Madhya Pradesh state for help to aid students whose families were thought caught in Kashmir’s worst floods in a century.

“Particularly the landlords [of the students] were requested by me not to ask for rent for a couple of months until the situation is over,” Kaul said.

The mob stormed Kaul’s office, demanding an explanation for wanting to help Kashmiri students, before the violence broke out, he said.

“In about 10-15 minutes they broke all the office furniture,” said Kaul who was taken to hospital after being shaken by the ordeal.

The Hindu hardliners were apparently angry that such appeals had not been issued for victims of past deadly floods elsewhere in India, including in Uttarakhand last year, the Press Trust of India news agency said.