Who needs a Central University?
The net result of conversion of the University of Kashmir into Central University would be that Kashmiris, especially the majority of them who cannot afford going to other states for higher studies, would be even deprived of the little opportunity of post-college education that the university presently offers to them, writes Mohsin Qadri.
A year after its rampaging, violent and bloody agitation on Amarnath land controversy, the announcement for establishment of a Central University in Kashmir earlier this year provided the Hindu dominated belt of Jammu-Samba-Kathua (JSK) another occasion to raise passions and communalize atmosphere against Kashmir and its inhabitants. The people of this area have an enlarged, yet misplaced, ego about forming and representing the entire Jammu Division almost half of whose population does not see eye to eye with it on issues, especially communal issues that it is so known to espouse and propagate. That the Government of India is too willing to give in to the demands of this Jammu Imaginary was always a known fact, only further manifested by its surrender on the Central University issue, slamming its own norms.
An unwritten rule has now come to stay in J&K that everything naturally accruing to Kashmir has to be given to Jammu Imaginary too, the requirement and qualification notwithstanding. Comparisons are made, and accepted too by the powers that be, for gaining favours even if these are as absurd as pitting Kanak Mandi against Gulmarg in terms of tourism potential. The only sphere where the people of this area have no problem with Kashmir appropriating the entire share is human rights violations.
The hysteria created in the JSK belt and in the State Legislature by its political leadership against the establishment of a Central University in Kashmir was ignored by the masses in the Valley with the contempt it deserved. Normally, the Central University ought to have come to Kashmir, if not for being the oldest seat of learning, at least for the fact that there are already three full fledged universities functional in Jammu Division while as, in comparison, there are only one and a half in Kashmir, the high sounding Islamic University of Science and Technology being not more than a college level institution, both in terms of infrastructure and faculty. But does Kashmir really need a Central University?
At the risk of being taken for an obscurantist and anti-education, let me say that Kashmir does not need a Central University, not at least with the strings attached to it. An admission system that would let in only students of other states with a nominal mix of a dozen locals and a recruitment policy that would at best result in engaging a few locals for menial and semi-menial jobs is not what we should aspire for at a huge cost it involves. Parting with about a thousand kanals of land only to set up an institution where education and learning would take a back seat and machinations and Chanakya neeti vis a vis Kashmir and its inhabitants be actually at work is the last thing we need.
We must not lose sight of the fact that according to the State Government’s own admission, about 40 lakh kanals of our prime agricultural and horticultural holdings are under the control of the army, not to speak of the land under scores of other central departments and institutions supposedly engaged in their respective fields but actually working as eyes and ears of the Indian State in Kashmir.
One has to see through the ‘generosity’ of New Delhi in granting big institutions to Kashmir without its asking. Besides a Central University, an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) was also coming the Kashmir’s way out of only half a dozen announced for all other states of India had Jammu Imaginary not risen against the Valley. Where the entire Establishment gangs up to deny justice to the victims of rape and murder, this reveals something more than a desire to lift a people academically. One might see an explanation in the setting up of a television centre in Kashmir as early as in 1970, only the second or may be third then in India. Nobody needs to hazard a guess about this ‘benevolence’ given the great service the institution has done to its masters back in the Plains.
Experience shows that every central institution set up in Kashmir is only an addition to the already existing field units of the Indian State, howsoever beautifully these might be camouflaged with academic or cultural exterior. We have also seen the already functional academic institutions permeated by people whose interest and commitment lie anywhere but academics. The intrusion in these institutions, as others related to culture and public life, was aggressively pursued during the stay of S. K. Sinha, the Westerly-attired disciple of Golwalkar in the State’s Raj Bhawan, who had taken upon his shoulders the burden of rewriting the history of Kashmir and interpret Islam for Muslims. Never forget that he had almost succeeded in setting up his dream project, the so-called Shardhapeeth University, to pursue on a wider scale the objective for which he had started the much controversial Kashmir Studies department in the University of Kashmir.
The gradual deterioration in educational atmosphere and growth in equal measure of non-academic and politically loaded activities in our educational institutions is an example before us. The objective behind the thrust on these activities is for anybody to recognize. Where the established institutions were found infertile to grow and propagate particular ideas these were sought to be demolished as in the case of the Medical College Srinagar, one of the best institutions in the sub-continent in yesteryears.
The University of Kashmir has been a target of the forces inimical to the interests of Kashmir for its being the voice of local sentiment. The institution lifted itself to an iconic status in the discourse on Kashmir over the past two decades, earning the esteem of the indigenous people and wrath of their adversaries who are working overtime to demolish the institution. Notwithstanding inroads made into it by these forces, the institution is still in place and, hence, a constant eyesore for them. To pull it down, they have now come up with a Development Plan that actually aims at its demolition. There is a move to ‘upgrade’ the University of Kashmir as Central University instead of establishing a separate one. It was indirectly talked about in whispers first but lately some hints have also been dropped at the highest level in the Government in a camouflage of the supposed faculty-poaching by the Central University and its likely adverse effects on the State’s oldest university.
The apprehensions are being aired by design to encourage a demand from within the university itself to convert it into a Central University rather than set up a separate one. The ‘up-gradation’ would naturally come with allurements like increase in age limit and better emoluments for the existing faculty and thus serve as great bait. However, if that happens it would be the last nail in the coffin of our educational system. The Regional Engineering College’s metamorphosis into National Institute of Technology (NIT) is a case in point. The ‘up-gradation’ of REC into NIT has already smoothened field for a worst case scenario for us. The local students who earlier dominated the REC campus have now become the near-extinct specie there, even intimidated and beaten by outsider students. The net result of conversion of the University of Kashmir into Central University would be that Kashmiris, especially the majority of them who cannot afford going to other states for higher studies, would be even deprived of the little opportunity of post-college education that the university presently offers to them. The selection to be made at the All India level, does one need to envision the share of Kashmiris in admissions to various courses and selection on faculty positions?
In a slow but calculated process, the intellectual and academic fortes are slipping out of the hands of Kashmiris. What, however, makes it appalling is that there is a near-complete lack of appreciation of the situation we are confronted with. With the sudden and increased interest of everybody, from NGOs to DPS, in coming to Kashmir and attempts to neutralize whatever stands for the identity and strength of its people, who needs one more sprawling campus locating yet another field unit of the Empire constantly at war with the natives?
(The author is a 1976 post-graduate from University of Kashmir and deals in Kashmir artefacts. Feedback on firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Wed, 3 Feb 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 3 Feb 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 4 Feb 2010 00:00:00 IST
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