Controversy continued

While the Central University in Kashmir is mired in land acquisition problems, its counterpart in Jammu is in a deeper mess, with a  controversy on the start point – the Vice Chancellor appointment itself. Haroon Mirani reports.  
Central University remained controversial in the state from day one. First Jammu opposed the grant of central university to Kashmir valley, forcing union government to amend its laws to allow two central universities in one state.
Not to be content with getting a central university, a lobby in Jammu demanded a Dogra vice chancellor soon after the news about appointment of Prof Amitabh Mattoo surfaced.
Matoo, a Kashmir Pandit, is a professor of International Relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University and has served as the vice chancellor of Jammu University.
A strong lobby in Jammu is opposed to Mattoo’s appointment. They accuse Mattoo of bungling in fund allocations, appointments, promotions during his stint as the VC of Jammu University.
Justice (retd) Pavitar Singh, convener of Jammu Provincial People’s Forum (JPPF) spearheading the agitation against appointment of any outsider as vice chancellor of Jammu Central University (JCU) says, “Only a local can do justice with the local conditions and take the central university to new heights.”
He alleged that Mattoo degraded Jammu University during his stint there. “Mattoo is pro-militants, pro-Pakistan, anti-India and pro-Mufti,” said Singh. “He ruined the reputation of JU with his administration.”
Accusing him of misappropriation of funds Singh added, “Due to his deeds the JU employees get their salaries after two months as government feels wary of releasing the money.”
Like JPPF, Jammu Central University Morcha (JCUM) is also vocal in its opposition to Mattoo or any non-local candidate.
To put pressure on union government they brought Jammu to a halt on May 1, with a day long shut down over the issue.  
“If Kashmir Central University can get a local VC (Prof Wahid Qureshi) then why can’t Jammu Central University have a Jammuite as a VC,” said Singh. “All the universities of Kashmir have local VC’s and all the universities in Jammu have outsider VC’s except Baba Ghulam Shah University where Masud Choudhary is on extension and due to retire soon.”
Mattoo’s appointment was recommended by the Union HRD Ministry in April after being selected by a search cum selection committee. The formal orders had to get the approval from President of India but sustained campaign in Jammu has given president’s office second thoughts. A number of letters and memorandums were sent to Rashtrapati Bhawan describing Mattoo as pro-Pakistan and pro-separatists.
The organisations opposing his candidature include Jammu Joint Students Federation, Peoples Revolutionary Movement, Joint Action Committee of Students and Scholars, Jammu Central University Morcha, Panthers Party and Shri Ram Sena.
Although the Central Universities Act 2009 clearly rules out domicile as a criterion for selection of a VC, but Jammu organisations are not relenting.
 “Let it be from any part of Jammu, Doda or Kishtwar, be he a Hindu or Muslim, but he has to be from Jammu division,” said Singh. “There are so many qualified people here, why can’t they be selected.”
Singh acknowledges Mattoo as a reknown academician, but says “he carries too much of political baggage and has ruined the atmosphere in Jammu.”
Mattoo is a member of the National Knowledge Commission, member of the Monitoring Committee of French Research Institutes in India and Fellow of the 21st Century Trust. The biggest problem with Jammu groups is his association with Pugwash India Society, which according to them is an anti-India group.
“He bought loyalty of various professors in Jammu University by sending them on foreign trips organised by Pugwash,” said Singh. “He divided JU into number of lobbies and strengthened his group by giving them undue promotions while marring the career of those who dared to oppose him.”
Mattoo served as the youngest VC of Jammu University for six years.
Meanwhile some academics differ with the opposing groups.  “Basic fact is that Mattoo is a Kashmiri and off late Jammuites have become allergic to any Kashmiri,” said a professor at Jammu University requesting anonymity. “There is a vested lobby who work in it for their own interest.”
According to the professor, the agitation was fuelled by some professors in Jammu, who dream of becoming the VC. “Just after it was clear that Mattoo is not going to be the VC, a number of professors from Jammu have send their bio-datas.”
With the President’s office sitting on Matoo’s appointment, Singh says government has relented to their demands. “The first recommendation of Mattoo is now a past and they are scouring for a new suitable candidate,” said Singh.
Describing Mattoo as a very bad administrator Singh alleges that he lacked qualification. “It needs 15 years of professorship for being a VC of JCU, which he has not,” said Singh.
A few feel that the row is reflection of the lowest ebb, the situation has turned into. “VC is not the post of a hawker, which anybody can get,” said a senior professor at JU. “It should be endowed on you and not that it should be begged like what is happening now in Jammu, as every Tom, Dick and Harry is trying to become the VC.”
He adds that if talent is available outside the state, then the locals should have no problem in importing it.
Without a VC, no other appointments have taken place. The Central University Office in Jammu has just one employee manning the building. The location at Samba is yet to be finalised. In this situation the students end up as losers. After a long agitation, as almost every other university has started classes or the procedure, JCU is nowhere on the scene.  
Meanwhile Kashmiri Pandits are in dilemma, as their loyalties divided between Mattoo and Jammu. Barring a statement by Ashwani Chrungoo of Panun Kashmir in support of the May 1 general strike, Pandits have generally refrained from commenting on the issue.

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