IUST election

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Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) has been successful in breaking a decades-long jinx. For the past 20 years, students in Kashmir were not allowed to form unions.

Strong efforts were made to keep politics away from them, at least in their educational institutions.  Against all odds, however, the five-year-old university in Awantipora held its first student union election. IUST students have elected a 22-year-old as their president—the only one with such a title in the Valley.  

Syed Sarmad is now the President of the IUST Student Union, Imran Bin Gani is the Vice President and Mir Anayatullah the General Secretary. Sarmad, a 7th semester computer engineering student won by 3 votes against Wasim Sarwar Khanday, an 1st semester MBA student. Sarmad earned 146 votes while Wasim won143 votes. Imran, the Vice President did not have any opponent, so he won unopposed and Anayat, an MBA 1st semester student won by 66 votes. 286 votes were cast in his favour and 220 in his opponent’s favour, Tabish Riyaz, an engineering student.

Syed Sarmad, a young enthusiastic president says he is happy. “Now we have a space where we can discuss politics, music, movies, sports or anything we want. A space which is totally ours,” said Sarmad. Like most of his young friends, Sarmad feels passionately about Kashmir’s political situation, and so he included it in his election manifesto. “I was warned by the varsity administration about a few lines in my manifesto that talked about the K issue, so I had to drop them, not because I was scared, but because I didn’t want to keep the Union and elections at stake,” Sarmad says.

 IUST administration has taken a bold step, and has made it clear that the creation of the Student Union will not allow for external politics.  They expressed that the Union will be concerned only about student’s welfare.

The elected Vice President and General Secretary, aware of their constraints, say they want to work exclusively for the betterment of the university and focus on the welfare of students.

“A university that is away from the city and the main market, where a student has to spend about seven hours, needs to have a good canteen. Massive load of administration on the canteen makes students to suffer. This matter needs to be looked upon soon,” says Mir Anayatullah, General Secretary.

Both Anayat and Imran have completed their Bachelor’s in Business Administration from IUST.

Seeing the elections actually happening is a dream come true for many senior students in the varsity, many of them are done with their degrees and are into jobs now.

Aamir Malik is one of them. Sparing sometime from his busy schedule, he managed to attend the university on the day of elections “just to see it actually happening.” “When we were students, we noticed students are not getting the due respect and administration is turning deaf ears to their demands. Just to make our side strong, we found it essential to form a union,” says Aamir Malik. Aamir, an MBA student along with Owais Amin (MCA), Mudasir Khan (MBA), Faraz Beig (B Tech), Aasif Beig (B Tech) and Mir Anayatullah, now the General Secretary, started looking for possibilities of forming a union.

Forming student unions and holding elections for it was presumed to be banned in Kashmir. No institution in Kashmir was allowed to have unions.

“We approached a few lawyers in the High Court and were successful in finding a judgement which encouraged us to move forward. We could see a ray of hope and knew we were not doing anything unlawful,” says Aamir.

The judgement increased the chances of forming a student’s union in IUST. This also helped them to convince the administration, especially the then Vice Chancellor, Dr. Siddiq Wahid, the students say.

In addition to crediting the present Vice Chancellor Dr A RTrag for permitting the formation of a union, students credit Dr. Siddiq Wahid and few of the faculty members.

“Mohammed Junaid, Wahajat Ahmed and Arshad Mushtaq were the major support for us, then,” says Aamir.

The entire process of elections and forming the union has been done under the recommendations of the Lindo Commission. The elections in IUST will be a yearly process. Next year, elections are planned in June 2012, present elections were also due in June this year but things took time to fall in place.

A proper constitution is also framed on the recommendation of the Lindo Commission.

“Starting a new trend is tough, that is why the elections got delayed. From next year everything will be on time,” says the newly elected young president.  

As per the Lindo Commission, the first election was coordinated by a committee formed by IUST’s Vice Chancellor, but in the future it would be entirely a student affair.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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