Limitation of options and cut throat competition leaves little scope for majority of students to stay put in Kashmir. They migrate for studying in private colleges outside Kashmir and return with certificates, Zafar Aafaq reports
A dropout from SP College Srinagar, Irfan Mir, 20 pursues para-medical degree from a college in Dehradun (Uttrakhand).
A native of Trehgam (Kupwara), Irfan had lost interest in studies. When family insisted, he decided to go outside the state. He drove to Dehradun, a place familiar to him because many of his friends from his village were already pursuing different courses there and joined a college in November 2016.
Irfan is not a lonely migrant. Limited seat quota in state universities and the also the better exposure and job avenues outside the state encourages youth to move out.
Dehradun is getting its own share from the student-pie from Kashmir. The city offers education with ease as it has abundant colleges, mostly private. These colleges have their capacity increasing with the demand as money does away with entrance tests.
Waseem Ahmad, a B. Sc IT student said the ease of pursuing higher education in Dehradun colleges makes the city the preferable option for Kashmiris.
The admission is usually secured by the intermediaries, the admission consultants. They complete the process on behalf of students while shuttling between Kashmir and Dehradun.
Besides the admission process, these consultants manage the academic issues as well. “The strict class attendance is not an issue here,” said Umar Mir who hails from Magam (Budgam), “If we face academic issue, the admission consultants having good relationship with college administration manage that.”
Among the numerous colleges in the city, the students prefer those where Kashmiris are already studying. This gives them an edge and added level of comfort.
“The city has scores of colleges and each college has dozens of Kashmiri students enrolled,” Sheikh Fayaz, an admission consultant who hails from Kupwara said.
Initially it was a small scale phenomenon, where students opted to go for post graduate courses. But the trend in migration of students is changing. Now, Kashmiri boys and girls can be found in any college outside J&K.
In Dehradun, Kashmiri are not uncomfortable. The city shelters them with respect and that is key to good numbers of Kashmiris, there. Even the first timers least worry about their accommodation. Boys prefer living in rented accommodations for it gives them a sense of “greater freedom”. “The girls use hostel facilities as it provides security to them,” said Fayaz.
The students live together in groups of four or five. Initially, students would only find conventional one or two room accommodations; however, since the city now has a flourishing real estate sector like other parts of India, the students now prefer to live in flats.
Of late, however, many Kashmir students complain that finding a flat has becoming difficult owing to the “negative media coverage” of Kashmir’s 2016 political uprising. “Now people look towards us as anti-India beings,” says Shoaib Mohammad. He said that he and his friend roamed around the city for over a week in October last year for a flat but everywhere they were denied accommodation. On many instances they would told by the flat owners that they are from Jammu but the owners would ask for identity cards and then flat owners would simply say no. Finally a Muslim landlord provided them a two room accommodation with limited facilities. Similar accounts were shared by many other newly migrated Kashmiri students.
The evening get-togethers among Kashmiris are regular activity. “Every other day, we meet at someone’s flat and spend time together,” says Bilal Ahmad.
The biggest congregation, however, is witnessed on Friday prayers at the Jamia Masjid in city’s Kishan Nagar area. “One floor of the Masjid is occupied by only Kashmiris,” Manan Sheikh, a student said. Dehradun’s total Muslim population stands at 11.75% according to 2011 census.
Students often arrange long tours to the beautiful campus of forest research institute or a trip to the nearby Massurie hill station.
Dehradun and Kashmir have some similarity in weather and has better connectivity giving easy access to students. Arshad Ahmad, who recently had a visit to his cousin in Chandigarh, said he is waiting for his semester examination date sheet.
Ishfaq Ahmad who completed his graduation last year told Kashmir Life that the academic atmosphere is no flexible that he and his friends would visit for couple of days once every summer month to participate in the village cricket leagues back home.
They, however, miss Kashmiri bakery. The available cookies does not satisfying the urge of having the local bakery. “When a student is expected to return from home, we call him to get a bag full of Kulchas along and that way we enjoy the home made stuff,” Umar Mir of Pulwama said.
Besides earning degrees, students also get a chance to prove their mettle in extracurricular fields.
For instance Mohammad Shafi, a Kupwara resident, has earned a name in cricket in his college where he is pursuing B Sc (IT). “In Kashmir, we wasted our talent playing in paddy fields; here I have played alongside professional first class cricketers on turf wickets,” Shafi said. Last year he got selected as a class-I player in a city league, however, was later dropped off for not being domicile of Utrakhand.
Back home, the general perception is that the education standards in these colleges is sub-average. A student pursuing post graduation in Kashmir University said that the students who fail to qualify here go to Dehradun. “They come home with degree certificates but without knowledge, the student said. “There they just have to appear in exams, class attendance and practical work is least bothered about.”