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3 more held for attack on international students attack in Gujarat

Ahmedabad: A total of five persons have been arrested by police in connection with an attack on international students at the Gujarat University hostel for offering Namaz even as the varsity decided to relocate foreign students to a new wing and engage ex-servicemen to bolster security.

Police, which had formed nine teams to probe and identify all the assailants, arrested three more persons — Kshitij Pandey, Jitendra Patel, and Sahil Dudhatiya — on Monday, March 18, adding to the initial arrests of Hitesh Mevada and Bharat Patel.

This brings the total number of arrested persons to five, police said, adding they are not students, claimed by some right-wing organisations.

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The incident, which involved a group assaulting students for offering prayers near the hostel block on Saturday, prompted the university to relocate foreign students to a new wing and engage ex-servicemen to bolster security.

Taking immediate measures, the government-run university has decided to transfer international students to a separate hostel designated for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) within three days.

Additionally, a foreign student advisory committee has been established, along with the deployment of ex-Army personnel to fortify the hostel premises’ security.

Gujarat University’s Vice Chancellor, Neerja Gupta, announced the immediate replacement of the study abroad program coordinator and NRI hostel warden.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Tarun Duggal said a thorough probe is ongoing, employing technical surveillance and other methods to identify remaining suspects involved in the attack.

Police have registered an FIR against 20-25 unidentified assailants for various offences including rioting, voluntarily causing harm and criminal trespass.

Two students – one from Sri Lanka and another from Tajikistan – were hospitalised after the incident took place on Saturday night, police said.

Amid these developments, the Gujarat High Court declined to intervene as a probe agency, affirming that not every incident warrants a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

The court’s stance emphasises the role of law enforcement in addressing the matter, urging legal channels for those seeking recourse on specific issues related to the incident. “Don’t substitute this court with police inspectors. Don’t make us the inspector of police. We are not investigating officers,” Gujarat High Court Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal said.

The police commissioner G S Malik told reporters on Sunday that minister of state for home Harsh Sanghavi had held a meeting with police officers and instructed them to take strict and judicial action in the matter. “Some 20-25 people entered the hostel premises (on Saturday night) and objected to the international students offering namaz there, asking them to do so in a mosque. They argued over the issue, assaulting them and hurling stones. They also vandalised their rooms,” the police commissioner had said.

There are around 300 international students enrolled at Gujarat University, including from Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka and countries in the African continent, Malik said.

Citizens condemn attack

In a related development, civil society groups condemned the attack on international students and demanded strict action against the perpetrators and police personnel who allegedly failed to stop the attack.

Gujarat-based businessman and former chancellor of Hyderabad’s Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Zafar Sareshwala, said he has discussed the issue with senior state government officials and expressed hope that such incidents will not recur.

Sareshwala, known for being a ‘moderate’ Muslim and close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, tweeted that he had taken the issue of “beating & heaping abuse to International Students” while they were offering Taraweeh (a night prayer performed during Ramadan)

“I have spoken to the highest officials in the Gujarat Government. They have assured strictest & tough action against miscreants,” Sareshwala said in a post on X.

He also replied to posts on his tweet saying the students had taken permission from the authorities and that “Taraweeh in Ramadan Kareem has been going on for years”, indicating that the place near the hostel block has been designated to offer namaz.

Civil rights NGO People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) said the attack on the international students was deeply concerning and demanded stern action against the perpetrators.

The state organising committee of the Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist) also condemned the incident and demanded action against the miscreants as well as policemen who, according to the NGO, were present there but did not save the students from the attack.

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