Jammu, Kashmir, Or Does It Matter?
NASEER A GANAI
Srinagar, Aug 5: In January this year, the Central University of Jammu and Kashmir was established by an Act of Parliament. Along with Jammu and Kashmir, three other states have been given central universities recently. While the land has been identified and infrastructure is being raised in other states, J&K’s Central University is marred in controversy- whether it should be established in Jammu or Kashmir divisions.
While some politicians from Jammu, Udhampur and Samba districts are trying to make it a Jammu-versus-Kashmir issue, Jammu division is, itself, divided on the issue. Demands are coming up from five districts of Pir Panchal region for establishing the university in Poonch, Rajouri or Doda district.
To end the controversy, the state government has now decided to seek two central universities for Jammu and Kashmir divisions.
On February 28, Prof. Abdul Wahid, former vice-chancellor of Kashmir University, was appointed the University’s vice-chancellor. Soon after the appointment, sources said Prof. Wahid had informed senior officials of the Human Resources Development Ministry and the state Government that a decision should be taken soon on identifying the site for the university to defeat attempts at regionalizing the issue.
Prof. Chaman Lal Gupta of the Bhartiya Janta Party claims a decision had been taken that the university should be established in Samba and accused the Government of backtracking. He argued that Jammu was centrally located place where Kashmiris and students from other states would have no problem. However there are no takers of his claim.
Former Education minister and senior leader of Panthers Party, Harsh Dev Singh says Jammu people have genuine grievances and they shouldn’t be given a feeling of perpetual deprivation. He said over the years a number of institutions came up in the state and Kashmir division was first to get the benefit. “Let this time Jammu get some benefit,” he said. He said it was good if the state gets two central universities but in search for two ‘we (Jammu) shouldn’t lose the one which has been already given.’ But the figures prove him wrong. There are four Universities in Jammu and only three in Kashmir.
A Kashmiri academic, on condition of anonymity, says there is no problem if the Central University is established in any other place in Jammu division except Samba. “The question is why Jammu politicians insist on Samba. Samba is a Hindu heartland where Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti has established offices. If established in Samba, the Central University would be out of bounds for Muslims in general and Kashmiri Muslims in particular in the present atmosphere,” he said.
“In case of Central University, the Central Government leaves only the task of identification of land with the state Government,” he said, adding the state Government or people usually don’t get any direct benefit in terms of avenues of education.
He said state universities like Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University, Islamic University, Mata Vaishno Devi University prefer local staff, unlike a central university. “In case of Central University, teachers would come from outside, administrators from outside and students from outside because there would be national level competition,” he said. The need of the hour was to strengthen the existing five state universities, he said.
“The state must upgrade the Kashmir University and allot the already sought Rs 1000 Crore package to it. The state Government must also pay the Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University and the Islamic University which are being denied their due,” the academic said. He said in Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University half of the students were from Kashmir and if Kashmiris can go to Rajouri they can go to Jammu as well. He cited the condition of National Institute of Technology, Srinagar, and the Institute of Hotel Management as two examples where outsiders have dominant presence, arguing that central universities or other central institutions don’t fulfill local requirements.
However, a former vice-chancellor of Kashmir University disagrees. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he said Kashmiris were the only people who deserve the Central University. “We all know how difficult it has been for Kashmiris to go outside for studies. A Central University in Kashmir would be a centre of education for outsiders to understand our culture and issues, and for us to hear their concerns,” he said.
After the conversion of Regional Engineering College Srinagar to National Institute of Technology in 2003, Kashmir lost the only government engineering college to the central government. A minuscule number of students from Kashmir qualify the All India Engineering Entrance Examination for NIT Srinagar.
Supporters of Central University in Srinagar describe it as a huge project. “Here funds are no problem and it has potential to provide quality education at our doorsteps,” said a professor in Kashmir University. He said there was no comparison between NIT and the Central University. “At national level a number of universities are coming up and it is not necessary that people from other states will flood our Central University only,” he added.
He said for Jammu, Samba and Udhampur residents, Delhi was nearer and they wouldn’t have any problem in JNU and other universities. Srinagar city, he said, would be centrally located place for Kashmir, Ladakh, Pir Panchal region and Jammu.
Presently, Jammu has four universities, 6 engineering colleges, 7 law colleges. Kashmir has only three universities, three engineering colleges and two law colleges.
Political leaders of Rajouri, however, argue that the Central University must be established in Rajouri. They said the Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University has set an example of interaction between different regions of the state and the Central University, if established in Rajouri, would ease out the controversy. They argue that the twin districts of Rajouri and Poonch have remained educationally backward, economically and financially neglected. Besides, they say, Rajouri is at equal distance from both Kashmir and Jammu and the opening of Mughal Road would make it most feasible for the Central University.
Prof. Gupta has no objection with the suggestion. “We want it should be established in Jammu division,” he said.
In a convocation address at Jammu University on July 16, 2007, prime minister Manmohan Singh had hoped that one of the intended 30 central universities would be set up in Jammu and Kashmir to give a fillip to higher education in the state. The prime minister didn’t mention either Jammu or Kashmir divisions to be the likely venues of the university.
During the 11th Five-year Plan (2007-12), the Central Government intends to establish one central university in each state (where it does not have one) and to provide assistance for establishing one college in each district with a low Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education. The financial requirement for these universities is estimated at Rs 4,800 crores during the Plan period.
Functioning of these central universities will be modeled on the lines of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. The Government of India is responsible for arranging, allocating and distributing financial resources required by the University Grants Commission for the establishment of these universities.