Why Studying In Kashmir Is More Difficult Than Scaling Mount Everest?

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by Tawfeeq Irshad Mir

I joined the college in 2016 and the year 2020  is about to culminate and I am yet to finish my graduation. Five years have passed since I joined college.

In 2014, I was in twelfth standard, going steadily through the different phases of the syllabus for the year. The required syllabus was taught in the school up to the last quarter of the year. Came September and I decided to stay home to prepare for the final examination.

September 2014: An aerial view of an inundated Srinagar. KL Image: Special Arrangement

Everything was going fine, I was literally living in my books, the date sheet was out, and the exam was scheduled for October. Hardly knowing that a bard of misery is going to kneel the valley. In the first fortnight of September, Kashmir descended in the gloom with the historic floods. For the first time in my life, an examination was delayed for months. Finally enduring patience, the examination was conducted in March 2015. The results came out in June.

After my results were out, I tried for an honours degree in Delhi University but I couldn’t make up to that position in the first attempt. So I decided to try once more the next year and started preparing for the same. The months were passing like anything. With this ended the year 2015.

I was sipping tea on a cold morning in January that my father appeared in the kitchen. He exploded news: “The application form for BSc nursing is out through Kashmir University.”

My father insisted me to submit the application form for the same. I succumbed to his pressure and submitted the form. After two weeks, the selection list was out, and to my surprise, I was placed in the waiting list despite having requisite percentage to figure up in the merit list for getting a seat in Government College for Nursing in GMC Srinagar.

Next day I left early in the morning to enquire about the selection list and procedure of filling the names in the lots and to cross-check the same. From my Sopore village, I left for Srinagar to the administration block in Kashmir University. I reached the Dean College Development Council (DCDC), the specific block mentioned in the selection list, too early. They were busy warming up around gas heaters. Somehow, I explained the whole situation to one of them. While listening to this all they had nothing to say. While leaving as a hopeless and helpless young man, I jotted down certain questions and left it with the personal section of the Vice-Chancellor. While leaving the premises, a room with “RTI section” on its door attracted my attention. Somehow I filled an application for information. I left the home a relived man.

By evening after having dinner, my phone started ringing. As I picked up, it was PS to the BC on line. He said you are asked to present yourself in the VC office with all the documents. I was thrilled hearing all this. Honestly, I couldn’t sleep the whole night.

Next day I woke up and rushed to university. I explained the case to the VC. He ensured justice. The same evening, an edited list was out and I found my name on the list. A couple of days later I received the reply to the RTI I have filled regarding the same case by a postman.

It was around April that we were asked to join the college in Srinagar. The first few months passed with glare and excitement. We had only three months in college that the crescent appeared to announce the Eid. Early July, we left for our homes. Hardly knowing that another bard of misery was waiting, we celebrated Eid and then Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter. With this started one of the longest curfews in Kashmir. Our books were in our hostel and the internet was snapped. It continued till November 2016.

The remains of taxis set afire by unknown persons during the summer 2016 unrest. Pic: Bilal Bahadur

When we stepped in college, most of us had forgotten what we had studied earlier. The Year 2016 passed by and I was still in the first year of my graduation. In June of 2017, approximately after one and a half year, the University of Kashmir decided to conduct our examinations for the first year. Finally, in August of 2017, we finished our examination for the first semester. Against the Indian Nursing Council guidelines of completing the first semester in 11 and half months, we actually finished it in 18 months.

A site of the blast at Lethpora Awantipora in which 49 CRPF troopers were killed on Feb 14, 2019.

After we finished our first year examination, we were sanctioned a month of leave to revitalise our energies for the second year. We went home killed September at home and resumed the routine in October 2017. We were still waiting for our results. The delay, they said was “your practical award sheet was missing somewhere”. The results finally came in January 2018.

The year 2018 came with a lot of hartals, curfews and internet shutdowns. Our classes continued till examinations in September 2018 (for theory) and practice (October) because of the killing of Dr Manan Wani. With this, we finished our second year and got a two week leave to replenish the energies lost.

In November 2018, we sat in the third year and the results came during 2019 winters when we were in vacations. We joined the college mid-February 2019. Around this time, the Pulwama attack took place and looked like as if the war was around. The classes were distributed badly once again. The situation somehow stabilised around April. Between April and July, we attended almost all classes.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulating Home Minister Amit Shah after the passage of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill in Lok Sabha on August 6, 2019.

On August 5, 2019, Article 370 was scrapped and Kashmir was galloped in garrison and began the longest Internet and enforced lockdown in Kashmir. Again with all the books in the hostel, we were ferried by hospital ambulances to our respective homes on the morning of August 5. The restrictions eased in November 2019, when we were called to submit forms for third-year examination without having studied anything. We toiled hard to prepare ourselves, finally appeared in the examination in January 2020. The process concluded by February.

In the second week of March 2020, we were called to attend our classes. We were about to enter the fourth level of our graduation, curiously waiting for the first lecture to be delivered, all of a sudden, an assistant professor of our college came in and said, “Dear students, The lethal virus has itched the world on toes, the concerned authorities have decided to halt the manual mode of teaching as of now and I request all of you to March to your homes”. Hardly aware of the deadly monster encapsulated in protein, that was going to haunt and terrorise the entire globe, some of my companions pitched some voices that we will continue, there is nothing to worry much. All of us left for our homes again. We are technically still in the third year as the results came only in June 2020.

Lal Chowk, the heart of Srinagar on July 13, 2020, when the second phase of lockdown started for containing the Covid-19. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

Conclusion

Tawfeeq Irshad Mir

I joined the college in 2016 and the year 2020  is about to culminate and I am yet to finish my graduation. Five years have passed since I joined college. Some of my classmates who joined the same course in neighbouring states have finished their graduation and even secured their jobs. If everything is all right, I have still one year to go.

Kashmir has become a place not feasible for education. Getting educated in Kashmir assaults the body, damages the physique and hurts the soul. Will I ever be a graduate, remains to be seen?

 (Ideas are personal.)

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