New Delhi: Ladakhi students on Sunday staged a protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, demanding a full-fledged university in the Ladakh region. The protest comes after shutdowns in Leh on November 1 and in Kargil on November 3 over the lack of institutions for higher education in the area.
Jammu and Kashmir has three central universities and nine state universities. Jammu, as well as Kashmir regions, have six universities each, while Ladakh has none and all the existing colleges in Leh and Kargil are affiliated to Kashmir University.
Citing conflict in the Kashmir valley, Ladakhi students claimed that exams don’t take place on allotted dates and that degrees are delayed.
They said that a three-year graduation course takes five years to complete in a college in Ladakh and due to the regular shutdown of processes, the colleges also fail to maintain a high standard of education.
“It is embarrassing that we have to protest and demand a university in the 21st century,” said Dechen, a Ladakhi student of Gargi College in Delhi. “Not everyone is economically well off in Ladakh that they could send their children outside to study,” she added.
According to students, about 90 percent of students from Ladakh pursuing higher education have to leave the region and study in universities in other states. The others, who cannot afford the migration and have constraints at home, have to abandon education.
Student groups like Ladakh Student Welfare Society and All Kargil Student Association joined the protest at Jantar Mantar and invoked their Right to Education, demanding an autonomous university in Ladakh.
“This is an urgent need and Ladakh should have a university as soon as possible,” said Jigmat Palju, president of Ladakh Student Welfare Society.
“It’s been over 70 years of independence and we still don’t have a university in Ladakh. This is discrimination against us and our region and because of this students are forced to migrate,” said Muzaffar Hussain, President of All Kargil Student Association.
Hussain also claimed that the economy of the region has been adversely affected as young students have to always migrate. The two degree colleges, one in Leh and one in Kargil, also lack even the basic facilities, Hussain added.
Speaking to News18 about the condition of education in the region, Showaib Shamim, a former student at Leh Degree College, said, "I had gone to Leh to study after finishing school in 2014. My three-year course was supposed to get over by December 2017. But due to repeated delays in conduction of exams my course stretched till September 2018," he said.
Shamim, a resident of Drass, Kargil, is now waiting for the new academic session to begin so that he can pursue higher education in Delhi.
Dechen Namgial, principal of a degree college in Leh, told News18 that whenever there is unrest in the region, Kashmir University postpones the exam. “Since we are part of the same university, we also have to follow the suit. Apart from that, the students have to travel to Srinagar to collect the certificate which itself is a troublesome and costly affair for them," he added.
Stanzin, a protesting Ladakhi student of Delhi’s Gargi college spoke about the financial challenges involved in the process of migrating.
“We come here, because there is no other option. It costs us around Rs 20- 25 thousand per month in a metropolitan city like Delhi and not everyone is financially well off to afford that kind of expense as most Ladakhis are dependent on tourism which is there for only six months,” she complained.
Meanwhile, Ilyas Hussain, a student at Jamia Milia Islamia in Delhi, said that Ladakhis would not come to Delhi to breathe the toxic air if there was a university back home. “We have to pay even for water, which our parents can’t even imagine,” he said.
Government is also setting up an IIT and IIM in Jammu and Kashmir, respectively. Mustafa Haji, a Delhi-based lawyer from Kargil, says the central government's Kashmir-centric policy has resulted in this. “Unfortunately we have never been a vote bank for them,” he said.
Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University has announced to delink the colleges of Ladakh from Kashmir University and set up a sub office to look after their examination and results. Principal Namgyal, however, said even though the colleges were getting delinked now, but the demand for University is genuine.”
(With inputs from Kazim Syed)