What’s Happening in Kashmir University

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An open letter by a student sheds light on deplorable situation in the University

As another session is likely to come to an end and most of my batchmates prepare for a research degree, I await here in this deplorable and pathetic system prevailing in Kashmir University to take the final exams and get my degree. Sometimes it feels like as if I was sentenced to some sort of punishment when I joined this place.

Being the only state-level university in Kashmir, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Kashmir University is just another dismayed reflection of the state. But to what extent is it really viable for a university to function like that ? To what extent is it acceptable when an educational institution deviates from its purpose and functions in a dictatorial manner ?

I’m an ordinary student revealing my ordeal not just to express my plight but also to raise the very important question of missing accountability on account of what we are made to go through. What as students have we done to deserve such treatment and suffer losses for none of our fault and have our dreams shattered repeatedly? 

My very introduction to this university would begin from the day I took my entrance exam for Masters degree in 2016. I sat in a corner beside a broken window trying to solve the paper while the invigilators sat right behind me gossiping about their domestic affairs without the slightest consideration for anybody who was taking the exam and would be disturbed fromthe echoeing gossip. But then that was just the beginning. There was more to come. 

The admission process turned out to be an introductory phase of the red-tapism that prevails in the university. One is made to run from pillar to post for completion of the unnecessary formalities and avoidable procedures for admission. The lower rung officials play a dominant role in the administration imposing their will with impunity while at the same time enjoying immunity from the superiors. There is no accountability for power exploitation by the officials for the inconvenience, harassment and mental agony they cause to the students. 

Next is the phase of finally joining the university. I would have anticipated things to be not so good or even bad, but to my utter dismay, it turned out to be worse. The classes as usual didn’t start on time and the session was delayed. In a place like Kashmir, where conflict takes its toll over most of the activities, I really wonder how the university could afford such delay but then I realized that unnecessary deferrals were a routine tradition in the university. 

In a class that could barely accommodate 30 – 40 students, the number exceeded far beyond my expectation. Wasn’t it even in violation of the UGC guidelines that prescribes a class limit of 60 ? Is the university even well equipped in its infrastructure to accommodate such a vast number of students ? But then ofcourse I suppose the University is also a means to make business. The introduction of payment seats and second shifts only supplements this fact. In order to accommodate more students, quality of education is compromised over quantity which also puts more burden on teachers.

Classes are irregular, exams don’t happen on time and then ofcourse this only leads to delay in degrees. With such shortcomings at its end, how does the administration even manage to make a fuss over attendance. What motivation would a student have to go to such a place everyday. But then again I suppose in Kashmir, it’s possibly acceptable because we are less concerned with learning and more obsessed with futile and frivolous rules.

The result is ofcourse a deteriorated education system. As if this wasn’t enough, one is then left to cope with the recurrent and overhauling dominance of nepotism. There is an over-riding effect of personally held biases and prejudices within the system that one really feels left behind and discriminated upon as these don’t just determine the behaviour of certain professors but also reflect in the marking. The examination results are not merely a reflection of the student’s performance but also of the impression held by certain professors. Sycophancy plays a vital role in scoring as well as in awarding degrees especially research awards. Not to generalize anyone in particular, this has been a practice in the university since long. Students are often suppressed to the extent to being threatened with delay in their degrees in case they raise voices against the unfair treatment and injustice prevalent in the university.

As if the quality of education wasn’t poor already that it is then accompanied by an additional dose of religious counselling. I have often wondered whether I was really studying religion than my original course ? Are there no professional ethics? There has been a decline in a lot of cultural activities due to the fact that they are looked down upon by a certain section of people. What has really happened to the university? 

In 2016, the UGC introduced the feedback system wherein students upto the attendance of 75% and beyond could evaluate the teachers and rate their teachings. This remains till date unimplemented in the university. Courtesy – The ill-equipped administration of KU. 

And last but not the least, the introduction of compulsory uniform for various courses which has only become a tool for moral policing and harassment ofstudents. As a university student and an adult, my dignity is subjected to everyday insult by the self-proclaimed morality police who feel they have a right to decide what I can wear. Where does this fall in the ambit of a university’s rules and regulations to impose dress code at university level that merely supplements the ideologies of the radical minds only to disrupt a healthy atmosphere in the university ? Under what system is gender discrimination allowed on campuses enabling male students to use the university facilities like the Library indefinitely while girls are expected to leave at 6 ? What really allows the practice of coercion to be implemented for post-graduate students at university level ? Aren’t they entitled to due respect ?

With such a failing system in place, I ask where and to whom do we as students turn to for help ? In such instances, student unions could play an important role as a bridge between the aggrieved students and the university administration. However the student union stands banned in the university and rising voices are incessantly suppressed through disciplinary action. In absence of a student union, a properly functioning grievance cell with student representatives could have been an alternative. Alas even this is not available. This only leads to further alienation among the youth. 

Is there no accountability for the authorities? The university has turned a dictator and has repeatedly crushed spaces for dissent leading to a choked life over the campus. Does this really suit a premier institution meant to impart education ? What have we as students done to deserve this?

The author is a student at the University of Kashmir and desires to remain anonymous.

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