Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Return of the Native: "Kashmir University is wailing ... it needs resuscitation."

Syeda Afshana recalls when "gardeners and daily wagers in the University outnumbered the teaching faculty ..."

Kashmir University : This is all about the highest seat of learning.
SYEDA AFSHANA (Media Education Research Centre, Kashmir University)

Write down your story,
They say to me.
But, for me,
Everything becomes a poem.
Only this way
I can say what I want to say.
So I can also cope with it.
Afterwards I am quiet.
So I can think
What has happened to me.
So I can guide the reader
Until they are very close to this.
What is indescribable,
I then describe.
And so it should remain
That I can tell the story.

So much has changed in five years! An interlude of silent upheavals. Ever more change, ever greater complexity. Five years back, I stepped into Kashmir University, my alma mater, as a teacher. Majestic Chinars of Naseem Bagh greeted me with the same warmth as I had felt on my arrival as a pupil of this apex seat of learning. The spectacular tomb of Hazratbal shrine looked ever graceful on the ridges of shimmering Dal Lake. The surrounding groovy hills of Zabarwan made the setting inclusive and just the thing!

The passion and delight for teaching was high. The journey began. The same classroom that was my blissful abode just months ago became my trialing platform. I enjoyed every moment of it. It was a challenging thrill. Some mistakes; some memories—everything was piling up my nascent experiences.

Days passed… Months fled by… The feel of the system started happening. I had never imagined that learning institutions would be no different than any other “govt. agency”. I saw Cosmetic Treatment, or what they say Facelift, as a major priority of those who ruled the roost. Numerous construction plans and renovation formulas made my alma mater look like a Construction Company . The eco-friendly ambience was declining but the number of masons and laborers’ working in the campus was on rise. The truckloads of material dumped in campus invariably brought down the quality of academics because of the paradigm shift in priorities. Lavish purchases and liberal appointments made the heyday. The gardeners and daily wagers in the varsity outnumbered the teaching faculty.

Brand and cozy vehicles ala Qualis and Tavera became the fad of a few HOD’s who contrarily took fewer pains to perk up academic output of their departments. Even some of the HOD’s/Directors were just treated as Quick Fix Solutions as either ‘incharge’ functionaries not fulfilling set criterion to be in those chairs or else ‘imported’ from other faculties to head the department that wasn’t their baby. Round peg in square hole! Paradoxically, the basic amenities for students and research scholars never braced up. The situation in hostels or classrooms remained dismal. No appropriate cooling or heating arrangements in classrooms, and even lack of proper toilets in certain departments cut the sorry figure.

I saw mockery of sorts… Teachers vying for administrative positions rather than advancing their research and academic errands. Lobbying and factionist tendencies hijacking the mission of noble profession as good as teaching. Unaccountability towards classroom teaching amplified. Certain teaching members of varsity have a full-fledged business units running, ranging from Kashmiri A-Z (Arts to Zaffran)!

Plethora of seminars, conferences, sports and cultural activities kept the show on, though the basic essence of my institution slowly watered down under the debris of publicity stunts and public relation exercises.

I saw sneaky crusades and intrigues emerging to push and pull people onto chairs of importance. Shifty signature campaigns, anonymous malign posters and slanderous canvassing came to stay as hallmark of certain elements in the varsity who are otherwise supposed to be the “nation-builders”!

The White House (Administrative wing) of varsity turned to be the classic example of apathy and red-tapism. Unless a file is pushed virtually from one desk to another, things rarely moved. Work culture never nurtured. From station permission to leave sanction, I saw teachers cajoling the babus like tramps. Lighting up cigarettes to dropping them home, many a senior teacher did it happily. Dignity of a varsity teacher took a harsh beating. From stopping their salary on petty pretexts to pressurizing them to follow the whip, the half-baked bosses in certain departments ruled like arrogant autocrats.

I also saw ‘techno-talk’ making rounds often. Installation of Selling Spots like Hi-fi virtual libraries or sophisticated convocation complexes merely made a difference in qualitatively scholastic output of the varsity. The same was ludicrous in the backdrop of the reality that erratic power supply on campus renders all techno-talk just futile. And then, the cost-benefit analysis of such ventures barely showed up expediently. That’s why it seemed more and more Symbolism took over the Spirit in such endeavors.

Yet another disease that infested my institution was that of Intellectual Lassitude. When the role of the university in increasingly knowledge-based societies across the globe is seen as fertile breeding ground for revolutions and reforms, aimed at improving the contexts in which people live, Kashmir University miserably failed to fulfill this void. Instead of letting off garrisoned minds and voices, fear element always dominated the arm-chair intellectuals over there. Freedom of expression got shackled; thinking fatigue became contagious. Intellectual dissent or discourse was gradually replaced by Intellectual disdain.

All this pooled with the dissuasion of talent and potential and blocking entry of young blood by misuse of discretionary powers to favor the blue eyed persons, thereby promoting the culture of mediocrity. Instead of creating conditions to broaden and update or change a person’s qualifications on a lifelong learning basis, fresh breed in the varsity was usually pushed to the wall. Everything said, one can not brush off certain achievements of Kashmir University here and there. However, the same appear minuscule in the backdrop of emerging vision of the universities to deliver high quality teaching and learning, and being at the leading edge of research of regional, national and international significance.

The dynamic role of the university entails to create setting for students by providing higher education based on scientific and applied research activities matching the level of science, culture and the latest technologies; besides ensuring high quality of studies and tailoring of study programmes to the needs of the market.

Kashmir University has to evolve the strategic aim to be achieved by 2010 or 2020: To be one of the strongest research and study institutions that provides highest quality studies, has highly-qualified academic staff, applies modern teaching methods, possesses highly-developed research and study resources, and introduces innovations.

Such a herculean task cannot be carried out without lot of tactical cleaning and honest plugging of loose screws of the system that has so far been highly reprehensible and parasitic.

My varsity is needs has to survive and has to stand and speak up.

January 21, 2008 Copyright © 1998-2008-

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