KU Says Good Bye To Human Rights Course

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Srinagar – With the Kashmir story on human rights abuses hogging headlines, the University of Kashmir in a bizarre move have closed its diploma course of Human Rights Education, leaving the students in lurch.

In 2003, the University’s Law department had started a one-year post graduate diploma in human rights. The course lured scores of students, particularly from legal background, political science and journalism. Initially funded by the UGC, its financial burden was to be borne by the state   government subsequently.

However, sources said, UGC suddenly stopped its funding and, after three years, the government refused to bear its liability, eventually paving the way for its closure, the faculty and students alleged was pre-planned. Interestingly, the government continued backing a similar course in the University of Jammu.

“I don’t understand this bias towards the University of Kashmir. There is a sinister agenda behind the move. It took them no time to say good bye to this course, which is more relevant to Kashmir than anywhere else,” a senior member of the Law faculty, wishing anonymity, told Kashmir Observer.

“Former vice-chancellor, Riyaz Punjabi, used to insist for the reasons best known to him that the course should be abandoned immediately,” he said, adding Punjabi used to say “the course has no scope and that Banking Law and other courses need to be introduced in its place.”

Paradoxically, no university or college in the valley offers any course in human rights even as the issue is receiving international attention in view of widespread abuses, including custodial disappearances, torture and killings, fake encounters, rapes and other atrocities.

“It is unfortunate and deplorable not to allow human rights courses in educational institutions,” noted academic, Prof A G Madhosh, said.

Prominent human rights activist and coordinator of Coalition of Civil Societies, Khurram Pervez, believes the closure of the course was part of a “state policy” to discourage its study as a subject at the premier seats of higher learning. He accused the state government of being worried about the growing awareness about, and sensitization towards, rights abuses.  

“Once the students enrolled in the program started conducting research on some grave human rights issues in Kashmir, they began exposing these. That really prompted a rethink by the authorities who eventually decided to close the course,” Pervez said, accusing the former VC, Punjabi, for it.

“How could a person who represented India at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva and defended the country on its rights abuses, tolerate continuance of a course at theUniversity,” he asked, adding, “This course was not promoting separatism or Azadi except that it perturbed New Delhi and state government.”

He accused University authorities of having some hidden agenda. “The university has turned into a concrete jungle where no student activism and research is allowed. They are trying their best to choke the researchers working on such topics,” he alleged.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, who had arrived on a 2-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir in March this year, is believed to have taken a strong note of the closure of the course.

“Some of our faculty members were called by the UN official to give reasons of the closure and we even got queries from the Canadian ambassador regarding this,” a senior faculty at the Law  department said, pleading not to be named.

REPORT SAYS

The University of Kashmir had forwarded a report, a copy of which is with Kashmir Observer, to the UGC and the state government, in which it had, inter alia, stated that atrocities on weaker sections and vulnerable groups of the society had made it indispensable for the educational institutions to include human rights in their teaching and research programs. The subject has, therefore, assumed greater importance because the entire state continues to be hostage to a bloody conflict.

“In Kashmir, political uncertainty, internal disturbances and external intervention paved way for promulgation of various draconian laws, such as, PSA, AFSPA and others. Human rights became the first its causality, people have been victims by the laws and in this situation holding of human rights education was a vital step,” the report said.

“The human rights organizations which remain active in other parts of the world and come to the rescue of victims of human rights violations also continue to be indifferent towards Kashmir situation. ICRC, which is rendering a lot of humanitarian services even in Afghanistan, does no more than paying occasional visits to detention centers of Kashmir,” it said.

The report makes a strong case that beside these problems, the scenario in Kashmir was infested with lack of awareness about human rights – both among masses and among professionals. Thus to meet this challenge, Faculty of Law introduced human rights as a subject in its curriculum of LLB in 2000. It started PG Diploma in Human Rights and Duties Education with the assistance of UGC in 2002-03.

“We had a tremendous response from the beginning. We used to take in 20 students and the course would include 5 papers- Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Vulnerable groups, Human rights and Criminal Justice System,” it said.

“Apart from this, students were made to submit the report of their field work, relating to different aspects of human rights. This generated a lot of interest among the students,” the report said, adding, “We have initiated our humble way but for comprehensive efforts we need cooperation and help from all quarters. It won’t be a favor to us but for fulfillment of an obligation that international community has imposed upon Indian state”.

Meanwhile, the University has failed to conduct the examinations for the students having backlog papers in the course.

“This was a shock to us when we were told there will be no admissions now for this course. Fourth year has begun but they have failed to conduct examinations for us,” a back-log student, Ashiq Husain, said.

Talking to Kashmir Observer, head, department of Law, Prof Farooq Ahmad Mir, said the dearth of staff made them to close the course.

“I was not at the helm at that time but as a faculty I know it was only the dearth of staff that made us to wind up the course. Besides, there was not a good response to it,” he said.

Asked why the department had failed to conduct the examinations for backlog students.

“Interestingly they (students) had brought this matter to my notice today. I assure you we will surely conduct their examinations for them,” he added.

The University registrar, Prof Syed Fayaz Ahmad, however, refused to elaborate the matter, saying “I am not really updated in this regard; you better talk to our dean academics”.

On being told that the course was suspended during his time; he said “I don’t have any idea now. Kindly call the concerned head of the department or public relations office,” he said.

When contacted, the minister for Higher Education, Abdul Gani Malik, showed ignorance about the course suspension.

“I really don’t have any knowledge about this course. Let me check it with the university authorities,” he said.

Asked why the state government had failed to clear the liabilities, he said, “Well, that I have to check out as we didn’t receive any report from the University,” he added.

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