‘Let’s not politicize student issues’

  • Majid Maqbool
  • Publish Date: May 31 2016 3:05PM
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  • Updated Date: May 31 2016 3:05PM
‘Let’s not politicize student issues’

In the backdrop of NIT Srinagar controversy, two former students - one from south Kashmir and another from UP - tell their story of living together in harmony, both inside and beyond the campus

Rayees Malla, 29, from South Kashmir, is presently stationed in Baglihar, Ramban district of J&K, where he works as an engineer in Jammu Kashmir State Power Development Corporation (JKSPDC). He studied Electrical Engineering from NIT, Srinagar, from 2006 – 2010.
There’re about 1500 students studying in NIT Srinagar right now. You have to understand that these students are all in their early twenties. They are very young and emotional. NIT Srinagar is not just another NIT campus. You have to take into consideration that it is placed in a conflict region, so there’re bound to be conflicting views and disagreements between local and non local students on different issues.
Even little fights can break out between the students in the campus, as they did even during our time in the campus, but they were resolved in the end, and we would still be good friends and carry on with our studies.
I had two roommates who were from outside the state; one was from Haryana. We used to enjoy each other’s company and never had any problems with each other. We would get greeting cards on festivals like Eid from nonlocal students and sweets would be distributed among all students on festivals like Holi.
One of my batch mates in NIT, Ajay Prakash, became a very good friend. He often used to come over and stay at our hostel room in the campus. We’re still good friends, even years after graduating from NIT. Even today whenever he gets time, he comes over to stay with me in Kashmir. And we meet and stay at each other’s place outside the state as well. In fact, soon after leaving NIT after we got our jobs in Jammu, we lived together for two years in a flat.
Small fights happen in every campus. NIT Srinagar is no exception. In 2009, I remember, there was an altercation between some local and non-local students during a cricket match. But often I believe it’s only a few temperamental students who get into these fights; the rest of the students just want to get along and move on with their studies. I remember at that time some nonlocal students asked me to stay back in the hostel in their room when many Kashmiri students had already left their hostel rooms after the fight. I stayed back and I was the only Kashmiri student in their room. I didn’t feel threatened at all.
 I remember during our time in the campus we would go to picnics together and share each other’s joy and grief. Religion and region didn’t come in between our friendly relations.
When I heard the news of the altercation between some students in NIT Srinagar, I thought it was a small issue which will be amicably resolved among students and would die down soon. But then the media kept playing it up for days, turning it into a big controversy. It only brings disrepute to a wonderful institution where we have spent the best years of our life.
In fact days before this whole controversy erupted, Ajay had come to Kashmir and we visited NIT together in late march. We met our faculty and interacted with students. Later, we had food together in the canteen mess. It was great to be back to the campus and see the cultural diversity intact.
All the talk about shifting of NIT outside Kashmir is not just unreasonable but also impossible. It defeats the policy purpose of creation of NIT, which is to bring together a large talent pool from different states and cultures at one place. Also, you can’t shift the whole NIT on demand of a few agitating students from one batch.
In retrospect, I think the college administration could have acted wisely and sat and talked to the agitating students and resolved the issue inside the campus without letting it go outside and be hijacked by the media. Most of the channels that made a lot of noise about NIT Srinagar don’t understand the psyche of young students who come from different states and cultures and how they instinctively react to a particular situation.
I think you can’t expect intellectual responses from boys in their early 20s when it comes to an emotionally charged cricket match where they support different teams based on their nationalism and political leanings. The jingoistic channels keep adding fuel to the fire.  You have to treat students as students and not tag them ‘national’ and ‘anti-national’ when such situations arise. Otherwise, it is bound to create more trouble. Let’s leave students to sort out their issues themselves.
‘Human relationships are above nationalism and religion’

Ajay Prakash Kushwaha, 29, belongs to Utter Pradesh. He’s presently working as Assistant Manager in the Jammu office of Rural Electrification Corporation Limited. He studied and lived in the hostel of NIT Srinagar from 2006- 2010.

What happened in NIT is unfortunate. Some news channels added fuel to the fire.
I remember when I got selected for NIT Srinagar campus, I had the option of changing my college during our counseling but I didn’t. I really liked the Srinagar campus. Our faculty was excellent and as good as you can get in any IIT and other top engineering colleges of the country. We had good relations with Kashmiri students. -
During our days in NIT Srinagar we would have a batch of about 340 students, out of which about 220 students were from different states and the rest of the students belonged to Jammu and Kashmir. But now, I hear the number of students has swelled to about 700 students in each batch. While the resources are the same, the number of students has multiplied. At that time every outstation student would get one hostel room but this time it is not possible. So students have to struggle for whatever resources are available there. The infrastructure is limited.
But at one time NIT Srinagar used to be one of the cheapest engineering colleges in the country, charging lowest fee among all engineering colleges of the country. During our times the fee was about Rs 5000 per student per semester, which has now increased to about Rs 36,000 per semester. The fee is expected to rise further.  The college also had a good placement record
So, when you have increased the intake capacity of students by fourfold and at the same time not created sufficient infrastructure to meet the needs of all students, there are bound to be problems and struggle for available resources.
When there are many students studying together under constrained infrastructure, there’s less one to one interaction and connection between students which was not the case during our time in the college. So many students won’t have a good understanding of each other’s thinking and prevent political situation. 
You cannot expect high level of maturity from these young college boys and girls who are in their early 20s, many of them just out of high school.  Many students from other states studying in NIT don’t know much about Kashmir dispute and the political situation there. They just come there to study.
Rayees and me would stay together and never had any altercation on any issue, although we would discuss all issues, including the political situation in Kashmir. Even during India Pakistan cricket matches we would prick each other in lighter vein but we never fought over which team we were supporting. Even when we would disagree on some issues, it never affected our relations.
During our initial years in the campus, Rayees used to share his hostel room with a non-local student. And in the same room, in one corner, you would find Rayees offering his Namaz five times a day and in another corner his roommate would offer his Puja. They never had any problem. In fact we loved living together in a multi cultural environment the campus offered. We would learn and appreciate each other’s culture and differences.
Recently we had gone to NIT and we stayed in the college guest house and interacted with students. Later, we also had food together in the college mess. 
I enjoyed my years of living with Kashmiri students in the college. I found them argumentative and opinionated and they would never hesitate to participate in debates. People in Kashmir have suffered over the years and they have their reasons for their political beliefs. I didn’t get offended. I would rather try to understand the prevalent situation from them. We would debate and disagree with other, never taking it to heart.
Difference of opinion is bound to be there on contentious issues but it didn’t mean we stopped being friends. We would get together and discuss things rationally with our Kashmiri friends and batch mates. And we maintained our friendly relations even after graduating from NIT.
Rayees lived in my flat for the first two years of his posting in Jammu. We would respect each other’s religion and culture. In fact Rayees completely avoided having non vegetarian food during those two years when we lived together, knowing that I was a strictly vegetarian. He respected my feelings even when he didn’t need to. There were times when we would go to parties outside the state and it was Rayees who would tell my Hindu friends on my behalf not to make me eat non vegetarian food! I think these human relationships are above and beyond nationalism and religion. Let’s preserve them.

(As told to Majid Maqbool)