By Shahwar Kibria and Mir Mudasir Gul
We, the students at JNU, are currently in great distress. Having faced the wrath of the media and unexplainable demonization in the larger sphere of public life in the past two years, we are now conditioned and helplessly immune to mediatised public vitriol of the highest order. Nonetheless, our current cause of distress is not the disaffection of the larger majority of public life but an inter-institutional draconian farmaan rooted in erroneous assumptions of the concept of compulsory attendance which seeks to jeopardise, threaten, and hijack our basic rights and entitlements as students and deviate from larger pressing concerns emerging out of an incompetent and incoherent system of administration.
Adjusted to deplorable hostel infrastructure and insufficient/absent funds to support research work primarily in the social science and humanities departments, the JNU student community is currently protesting to secure and preserve the continuity of basic minimum facilities, including fellowships and hostel facilities to sustain studentship in a globally revered central university. The JNU student community is terrorised and perplexed as our basic rights as researchers and scholars is under siege by arbitrary measures to devalue and delimit our freedom as citizens of a democratic nation. Furthermore, the current regime seeks to make a mockery of our intellectual potential and capability to perform in academia by formulating erroneous yardsticks to measure and regulate our intellectual output and unleashing despotic measures to regiment our academic potential. The student-teacher community at the university is in shock and stasis faced with despotic and ridiculous pronouncements by the VC and the administrative body aimed to destroy the academic ethos at JNU and more importantly to distract attention from the reality of its own monumental inadequacies in running the most prestigious university of the nation.
While we at JNU are united in our discourse against vicious administrative ploys spearheaded by the VC to endanger our academic wellbeing, another grand travesty, involving students, is currently underway in Jammu and Kashmir. The civil service aspirants in J&K are currently in a state of flux. Faced with adverse weather and an even harsher authoritative climate, around 7354 young Kashmiri civil service aspirants are battling great uncertainty, ambiguity, and injustice while awaiting the most important examination of their lives – the Kashmir Administrative Services or KAS.
The KAS, or the regional equivalent of the Indian Administrative Examination, is a testing module crafted to choose future leaders and bureaucrats from J&K. In a state marred with extreme socio-political tension, the KAS examination is an opportunity for its youth to rise above their circumstances and dedicate their merit to the betterment of the society. But this opportunity has been in continual jeopardy owing to the sheer ineptitude and gross recklessness exhibited by the current Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission because of which the future of 7354 civil service aspirants is now at stake. The KAS Mains, originally scheduled to be held in July 2017, has been delayed twice, in order to accommodate pronouncements from judicial proceedings involving PILs and RTIs filed by examinees questioning faulty answer keys, and requesting transparency in the merit list. Following stern directives from the J&K High Court the JK-PSC was forced to revise, rectify, and issue a fresh merit list. After this directive, 429 candidates were freshly inducted into the examination on 8 February, 2018 – a mere six days before the examination! Following state-wide student protests and in view of inclement weather conditions, the first two papers were delayed, with the rest of the examination scheduled to commence from the 19 February. But this will only aggravate the woes of the examinees, and severely inconvenience the newly inducted 429 candidates who have inadequate time and preparation to write their Mains. More importantly, KAS 2016, as administered by the current JK-PSC, is plagued with multiple fissures, inconsistencies, and errors. Thus, it is only acceptable that the JK-PSC may first immediately address all discrepancy in KAS 2016 arising out of its own gross mismanagement and incompetency and fix its credibility before conducting the examination. Else the examinees face the imminent threat of quashed or cancelled merit if the KAS is disqualified following state evaluation.
The above are two variegated instances exemplary of erroneous and vicious policies dedicated to continually jeopardise, inconvenience and alienate the student community. While the JNU student community is embroiled in an unending nightmare and endless trials since February 2016 and gross injustice meted out by its own administrative system, the civil service aspirants in J&K are facing unexplainable stress, mental harassment and strategic alienation facilitated by an inconsiderate, insensitive, unfair and a highly incompetent administrative body – the JK PSC. Simply put, the above are two instances where students are suffering from the inadequacies and misjudgements of a faulty system. Our time as students, academics, and researchers, our precious and formative years, is a time we must wholly commit to our research, our questions and in enhancing our intellectual capacity. We do not have time to lose. We cannot afford to relinquish our present fighting big wars over securing and preserving basic, rightful, and legal entitlements, which must be guaranteed by default. With most of us currently writing our Mphil and PhD theses, or busy with fieldwork and archival work, we cannot afford time to ensure that the system does its job, so that we can safely do ours. Intellectual merit and academic potential cannot solely be ensured by implementing irrelevant schemes and absurd protocols to demand our physical presence in classrooms and delimiting our intellectual presence in conferences, seminars, and workshops by not providing fellowships, funds, and grants. We cannot afford to be embroiled in peripheral and infrastructural worries manufactured primarily to deviate attention from the fallacies and shortcomings of administrative bodies, presently structured to dismantle the future of students across the nation. We cannot afford to be enmeshed in obtuse trivialities, which are aimed to distract us from our priority and responsibility towards our curriculum, our intellectual ambition, and the society. We do not deserve to suffer owing to no fault of our own. This is not why a majority of us, living in cities far away from our homes, from the presence, comfort and assurance of our loved ones, having made innumerable sacrifices and trying to adjust to the vagaries of a continually changing nation, here for. We deserve justice. We do not deserve to be maligned, disrespected, and treated as outcasts and buffoons.
Shahwar Kibria is a research scholar at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Mir Mudasir Gul is a KAS aspirant.
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