Gujarat University: Afghan Students Relocated Over `Food’ Habits Get ‘Gag’ Order

Stoking a controversy, the Gujarat University administration has reportedly asked about 300 Afghan students to sign an undertaking that they will not approach media or any other agency about the living conditions in the hostels provided by the university and may get expelled if they breach the directive. The directive was issued after many South Asian students complained about unhygienic conditions in the hostels, according to media reports.

Image for representational use only.Image Courtesy : Scroll

The Afghan students, part of the Study Abroad Programme under the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Educational Consultants India Limited (EdCIL) scholarships, have been annoyed since last September when they were shifted far from the campus due to their “eating habits and culture”.

Some students claimed they do not eat non-vegetarian food, while some others said they were even ready to abandon their habit if they are shifted to a location close to the campus.

In September last year, the Gujarat University had shifted several Afghan students to a Muslim-dominated locality Lal Darwaja, 10 km away from the campus.

The latest directive stated,”engagement with any outer agency like media or police without prior permission of Gujarat University authorities shall invite immediate expulsion for violating the code of conduct from university/colleges and deportment to their country”.

Neerja Gupta, coordinator for the programme, reportedly said that all students were Muslims and were relocated after other students and neighbours complained about their eating habits. “The (Afghan) students staying at the Lal Darwaja facility are mostly, in fact, all are Muslims. So, looking at their eating habits, community and culture they are put up there. There were attempts to provide a hostel facility in the western parts of the city but we received complaints from both students and neighbours about their habits of eating non-vegetarian food. The students also complained that they do not get non-vegetarian food easily. So, these facilities were shut down,” The Indian Express quoted Neerja as saying.

When contacted by Newsclick, Gupta denied shifting the Afghan students on the basis of food habits. She said that all 35 students were part of undergraduate programme for which there is a hostel facility outside the campus. She said, “While P.G. hostels are in the campus, the U.G, hostels are outside the campus at the centre of the city.Thirty five is the number of students who are admitted this year in under-graduate courses, hence all 35, are staying in UG hostel. Other new students who are admitted to PG courses are staying in campus hostels.The location too is defined looking into the proximity of the college/ institution so that they can save time and money in travel.”

Gupta, however, side-stepped questions regarding the gag order issued by the administration, saying that “There is no such directive exclusively only for foreign students.”

However, the students of the university have a different story about the living conditions at the hostels. Talking to Newsclick, Nitish Mohan, a student of B.A Economics, said living conditions in Gujarat University hostels are deplorable and need to be addressed immediately.

He said,” the DRI Hostel is one of the examples which needs immediate attention. Its building is crumbling and it can collapse if the region is hit by any earthquake. Similarly, 12-14 students are compelled to live in one room and it has two toilets, with no door, for 100 students. The hostel is housed by Scheduled Tribe students who hail from different parts of the state.” He added, Despite being costly, the students rely on water tankers for their daily needs. Do not even think about taking a bath.”

 First published in Newsclick.



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