- NL Sena
From ‘new hostel policies’ to being locked out of the hostel to academic issues—students are simmering with dissent.
The students of Kashmir University are an unhappy lot. They’ve been struggling with an excruciating delay in exams, degrees, and results, and an academic scenario that is so “destabilised” that authorities have been forced to take two batches this academic year. With students returning to class after a two-month winter break, they were in for a new surprise—several students were told they couldn’t stay in the different hostels until “further verification” by the Chief Proctor.
According to the students, they were told that “duly verified” accommodation forms were being retained by the Chief Proctor’s office for—paradoxically—”further verification”. They were then asked to report to the office on March 6-7, where they were asked questions including: Have you done anything wrong in the hostel or at home? Is there an FIR or police complaint registered against you? Why was your form retained?
A senior boarder of M.A. Boys’ Hostel said, on condition of anonymity, that they weren’t allowed to stay in the hostel unless the “Chief Proctor gives the go-ahead”. He’s been a resident of the hostel for the past three years. Students who went before the Chief Proctor’s panel expressed disgust over finding no “reasons” for their forms being retained by the office. They were finally allowed to go to their rooms once the wardens of the respective hostels gave them No Objection Certificates.
Owais Qadir, a final-year law student and boarder of M.A. Boys’ Hostel, told Newslaundry: “After travelling all the way from Jammu to attend this meeting, I expected them to give reasons for retaining my form. But they shocked me by asking the same to me.”
The students claim they’re being grilled to keep them “under constant pressure”. One of the residents of the SA boys’ hotel says this is an attempt by the university to restrict them to studies.
Professor Naseer Iqbal, the Chief Proctor of Kashmir University, attributes the whole process to “new hostel policies”. He told Newslaundry that boarders’ accommodation is “reviewed annually”—something which was never done before. He says the students were summoned under the new policies and it’s being done “for every boarder—not targeting a specific class of boarders”. Interesting, the new policies make no mention of any clause related to summoning the boarders to the Proctor’s Office for “verification”.
The students claim this is yet another “repressive measure” by the administration to smother them. In November 2017, the Chief Proctor had issued a circular banning political and religious discussions on the campus. In 2010, Kashmir University demolished the office of the Kashmir University Students Union, making it clear that student politics wouldn’t be allowed on campus. There is still no official student body to represent student issues, leading to hard times for students. It’s important to note that a response to an RTI query revealed there’s no official ban on the students’ union, but students claim the authorities banned it “verbally”—and there is no union on campus today.
In January this year, this writer and other students claimed that Kashmir University had, for the first time, closed its hostels during the winter break. M.A. Boys’ Hostel allegedly went a step further and locked out some students who wanted to pick up books and other belongings. Tajamul Islam, one of the students, says he and others spent the night under the open sky. “We knocked every door to try and stay for one night in the hostel but were turned down … We spent the whole night in the freezing cold.”
The Chief Proctor at that time said ”[winter] is the only time we get to renovate hostels” but contrary to his claims, no renovation or any other work was carried out in hostels during the winter break.
Other students who were locked out said they weren’t allowed to take any of their belongings from their rooms. One of them said: “When we approached the office of M.A. Boys’ Hostel, we were made to write applications and get them signed by the warden, who rarely stays in the office.” The post of warden isn’t a full-time one: it’s an extra assignation to professors, so they aren’t necessarily available in the office at all hours.
Another complaint is having to pay the entire hostel fee amount upfront. One of the students, who is a first-time hostel room allottee, told Newslaundry his hostel fees are over ₹40,000 and he has been told to pay it in advance. “This is not affordable [for me],” he says.
Earlier, the students would pay the fees annually. Now, the amount includes mess charges which are paid in advance and deducted over time, as well as rent and welfare and a refundable deposit two years’ in advance.
Newslaundry contacted Sheikh Javid, the warden of S.A. Boys’ Hostel. He said, “It [hostel fees] vary from degree to degree … They have to pay in advance because it becomes problematic for us to clear outstandings. We end up paying it from our salary.” When asked about the recovery system, he said, “Clerk ko ₹50 de k NOC lete hai (they manage to get NOC by paying ₹50 to the clerk).” He says the university does not ignore students’ financial conditions: they offer “deserving candidates” the option of paying in installments. The students say this is allowed only in “rare cases”; for example, a physically challenged student might be allowed to pay in installments, but not a student who is poor.
Javid also said the summoning of boarders by the Proctor’s Office took place because some of the hostel residents create “trouble”, and the meeting was to “counsel” them and remind them of their responsibilities. However, the students disagree. They claim the hostel rules are childish—how to get along with your roommate, that 10 pm-10 am is “silent hours”—but also that even the mess staff use the policies to threaten them.
Basit Farooq, one of the residents of S.A. Boys’ Hostel, says, “Authorities shouldn’t forget they’re dealing with university students, not kids in a kindergarten. We are tired of the constant suppressive measures employed by the varsity. But apna time aayega (our time will come).”