“Reinforcing elitism”: J-K Students Association rue JMI’s apathy towards restricted internet in Kashmir

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On Friday, Jammu and Kashmir Students Association wrote to the authorities of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), in New Delhi, urging them to scrap the online proctored mode of examination as students based in Jammu and Kashmir (J-K) — except Ganderbal and Udhampur — continue to use restricted mobile internet.

The Association, a pan India grouping of students from J-K, wrote to Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal and the Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), Najma Akhtar about the issue. This week, the government extended the high-speed internet ban in J-K till 25 December.

Students from J-K said that the preliminary dates for varsity examinations had been set and the students were asked to appear in the examinations via online mode. Speaking with The Kashmir Walla, a 20-year-old student of Sociology at the university, Rashida Bashir, said, “When we were not able to join classes on 2G, how can we appear in the online examination without any issues?”

A resident of Handwara, in north Kashmir, Bashir said: “We have been asked [by the university] to ensure high-speed internet connectivity and the laptop has been considered necessary.”

She further added that the students have also been asked to ensure uninterrupted electricity during the exams. “Everybody does not have WiFi and a laptop,” she said. “And there are frequent power cuts, how can we manage?”

The Association’s spokesperson, Nasir Khuehami, told The Kashmir Walla that the Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal and the Vice-Chancellor JMI “haven’t responded yet.”

“The majority of the students of Jamia hail from backward districts [and] such an unfair mode of exam will ruin their career,” said Khuehami. “The decision is taken in a completely undemocratic manner without any consideration of students.”

Kheumani stated that the unavailability of high-speed internet connectivity has halted the process of online classes of students. “Due to the continuous ban of high-speed internet connectivity, Kashmiri students would not be able to attend exams,” he said.

In the statement, the Association condemned the university’s administration for being “inconsiderate to the issues raised by the students”. “It is very evident that these guidelines reinforce the spirit of elitism in our education systems because the students from marginalized communities cannot afford laptops and PCs,” read the statement. “Exam and education should never be a privilege. This new dictate makes education a privilege in place of right which will cause depression among the students.”

On 11 December, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president, Mehbooba Mufti, requested the administration of the JMI to look for an alternative for the online examination. “Jamia University’s decision to hold exams in proctored online mode which requires laptops and high-speed data for three hours is deeply problematic for students hailing from J-K. Request them to look for alternatives so that these bright minds don’t suffer,” she said.

The Association requested the concerned authorities, in the statement, to scrap the online proctored mode of examination by taking an immediate step to resolve the issue “so that justice may prevail.”

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