Respected Prof. Khurshid Iqbal Andrabi,
Vice-Chancellor, University of Kashmir
Kashmir University Students Union extends a welcome to you on your appointment as the new Vice Chancellor in one of the most prestigious academic institutions in Indian-Occupied Kashmir. But as a student body in Kashmir’s present historical circumstances our welcome is qualified by our fears and apprehensions about this sacred institution. It is a universally acknowledged fact that Kashmir is under military occupation. The University of Kashmir has never been able to function as an autonomous institution of learning. The administration has been weakened by nepotism; student culture is under assault as alien ideas are grafted under different guises to control student politics; and the University instead of being a seat of inquiry has been turned into a factory that produces the affirmation of a political status quo. You must have witnessed how political exigencies of the Occupying power have led to a lowering of academic standards, abuse of power, waste of resources, and the promotion of academic cliques and coteries which have less and less to do with academics.
We do not want to remind you that an appointment to the position of Vice Chancellor in KU has always been politically motivated. This constant interference facilitated by the governing structure of the University has brought the University to its present abysmal state. The first step towards addressing the malaise should be a free and fair appointment of the candidates. Academic research can only improve if the students feel they are free to pursue their research. If the teachers are seen to be guided more by the fear of political powers rather than the spirit of inquiry, there is little hope for the academic future of the institution. Good research will only take place if people realize that they don’t need to bend over backwards to please Raj Bhawan, or India, or secularism, if they need to be academics. They just need to do good research and for that they need good resources.
The “yesmanship” culture has ruined the intellectual capacities of young Kashmiri research scholars and it would never come to an end unless someone takes a stand against external interference in the working of institutions of the University and its student bodies. A student union should be part of decision making at different levels as is prevalent in other universities throughout the globe to ensure. As the main student body of this University, we would like to address some of our main grievances to you:
- For years, the narrative of status-quoist so-called mainstream political parties has been propagated by the institution in its policies, even as dominant people’s political narrative finds no space in the institution. This is extremely unfair to the Kashmiris who have different political ideas for Kashmir. We demand that as the highest seat of academic endeavor the University administration shall desist from turning the campus into a site of political propaganda by the State.
- The unabated promotion of VIP culture has hurt the overall academic ambience of this varsity. The entry of pro-India politicians, police, and bureaucrats in academic seminars has become a routine which degrades the varsity’s academic standard. Any such politically motivated initiative must either be discouraged or all political groups in Kashmir must be granted equal access to the University.
- The varsity administration has always promoted the elite food culture inside the campus giving rise to class disparity within the student community. The fact remains that majority of the students cannot afford such a lavish lifestyle and we request healthy and affordable food at standardized rates be provided for everyone in the University community.
- The funds allocated to the Departments have often been misused. The University must ascertain how the Departments spend the funds allocated to them and see to it that the Departments address student needs and concerns in their budgets.
- Transparency ought to be maintained in self-financing seats.
- The courses – like Diploma in Human Rights – that were discontinued by the varsity for some ‘unknown’ reasons should be resumed.
- To enhance the academic standard of the varsity, the culture of independent research journals should be encouraged. If research journals seem unfeasible then the Faculty must be encouraged to publish in research journals published from other Universities.
- For a more detailed exposure to different subjects, technical and practical workshops should be introduced into the curriculum and international student-exchange programmes should be given priority.
- The University should make it easy to appoint Visiting Professorships or short-term appointments for external Faculty with a demonstrated record of excellence without considering their political positions which might not be in line with the state narrative.
- Research grants – like JRF and non-NET scholarships – should be released on monthly basis for the motivation and better commitment of research scholars.
- The quality of life standard of boarders residing inside the university hostels shall be improved.
- Special initiatives should be undertaken to see to it that the extremely poor and vulnerable students do not discontinue their education for a lack of funds.
- Good research cannot take place without good resources. We think resources such as libraries, computer labs etc. are a must for the overall improvement in academic atmosphere in the campus.
- The University needs to make sure that academics are less anxious about being seen towing a pro-State political line and more focused on their research.
- We should think about ways to deepen our understanding of our spiritual culture and be guided by it. We should especially scrutinize the functioning of Departments that reflect our spiritual and cultural heritage and make sure that these Departments become true sites of learning.
Regarding your recent statement on student politics – “there are two types of politics—healthy and exploitative. In healthy politics, the opinion of students is heard. The students organize seminars and put their views and suggestions across. However, the exploitative politics carried out on the behest of some people can’t be allowed”. We are with you in the fight against exploitative politics carried out by Indian state and oppression. We hope your office will create an intellectually vibrant atmosphere so that the campus remains student-centric and free of exploitation. We also hope your term in office will bear long lasting fruits for the social, economic and political emancipation, intellectual freedom and spiritual development of Kashmiri society at large.
Kashmir University Students Union (KUSU)