Monday, December 11, 2023

Kashmiri students at DB University share ordeal of their struggle for justice

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A sit-in protest outside Punjab’s Desh Bhagat University was called off after receiving assurance from the government of Punjab to take action against the management, accused of cheating dozens of Kashmiri students.

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Man directed DBU to pay Rs 10 lakh to each enrolled student as compensation for the trauma they have caused them and for the dislocation they will have to face and further stated that the DBU will not enrol any students in any courses onwards.

For about a month, nursing students at DBU have been protesting against the university administration’s arbitrary decision to transfer their admissions to a college that lacks approval from the INC and PNRC and are demanding enrollment in a registered college immediately.

According to the students, they say they are voicing their concerns, but no response has come from the university side.

“We have been cheated by the university. We are stressed and traumatised. We did not know that the university would transfer us to a college that would not be registered. We are just demanding enrollment in a registered college, and we do not want our careers to be affected by the fault of the university,” Heena Azad (name changed), a third-year BSc Nursing student told Maktoob

The DBU has transferred around 70 Kashmiri students enrolled in various paramedical courses to a newly established college, the Sardar Lal Singh Memorial College, without their consent. This unilateral move by the university has been ongoing since last year when around 500 students from Jammu and Kashmir found themselves embroiled in a distressing admission debacle.

“We have been continuously raising our voices against the unjust decision of the university. This is not the first time we have protested here or raised our concerns. It has been happening since last year when we came to know that the college where we were transferred is not approved under the Indian Nursing Council (INC) and Punjab Nurses Registration Council (PNRC),” says Azad.

On September 14, at around 4 a.m., these students gathered near the gate of the university after learning there was a National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) visit. According to the students, they wanted to highlight their concerns but were met with violence.

The students claim that the university staff mocked them while they were planning to hold a peaceful protest and even abused and said numerous things to them.

Fatima Nasir (name changed), who was among the protesting students, says, “We were subjected to violence and assaults; we were thrashed brutally by the university staff, including the vice chancellor; lathi charges were done by the Punjab police and even local goons were called by the university to hackle us”.

“Our clothes were torn. We are Muslims and our hijabs were forcefully pulled from our heads. We were abused and character assassinated. We were given life threats by the university staff,” Nasir said.

The students, mostly females, received injuries and were shifted to the nearby hospital.

According to the students, in the 2020 academic session, they were enrolled in various four-year paramedical courses at the DBU while following the proper admission process. The students claimed that during the start of their first year, classes and clinical training were conducted for both male and female students together. However, after the completion of the first-year exams, the students were informed that the university administration had decided to separate the female students from that batch and transfer them to another college, the Sardar Lal Singh Memorial College.

The decision was made without considering or asking for the consent of the students or their parents.

While posing questions about segregation, the students claimed that the university administration lied to them, saying, “It is just a division of sections, not the institutions”. To which the student says, “The college to which these students were transferred was not included in the INC’s suitability list for the 2020 session, leaving the students frustrated and cheated”.

Seeking answers to their grievances, the students approached the university administration in 2021, which had promised recognition from the INC, but so far nothing has happened or changed for these students.

According to these students, the university established Sardar Lal Singh Memorial College in 2022 and transferred all the female students from their batch except two who fell under the Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme (PMSS). Later on, the university administration changed the student records from the original university to the newly established and prepared new admission files without informing the students, even though they had forged their signatures.

Being frustrated and wronged, students began a four-day protest last year, seeking a solution, and the university remained unresponsive until an FIR was filed by the students involving the Punjab police and Sub-District Magistrate Amloh. In response, the university then presented documents prepared by the DBU administration itself, including INC registration, PNRC registration, and college IDs, which the students claimed were “fake documents” and were presented to safeguard the reputation of the university and hide the loopholes in the system.

Refuting the claims of the university, these students stated that at that time, they were threatened by saying “Their degrees would be delayed, and if their parents came, they would misguide them and tarnish their characters in front of them”.

Another student says, “When we were asking the university administration to enrol us in the registered colleges or what the status of the INC was, they used to character assassinate us, saying, “This time you are demanding this; next time you will say we want boys in our hostel, then we would have to fulfil your that demand also.” We do not understand how a person says that and labels us with anything.”

The students say that we have been facing injustice all these years, and now we have sat on a peaceful protest until our demands are not fulfilled.

Last year, the university administration assured the students that the issue would be resolved. Unfortunately, despite these promises, the students’ predicament has worsened over time. They are currently in their third year of academics and have been informed by the DBU administration that they must cancel their admissions. This announcement has left the students with limited options and a bleak academic future.

The situation has become unbearable for us, and we are thrown into chaos, and our vows are going to deaf ears, the students unanimously said.

According to the students, 20 days ago, they visited the director of the university seeking clarification over the status of the recognition of the newly established college by the INC. In response to the students, he furiously replied, “The students should take the refund and return home“.

Duped by the university, the students claimed that the university had admitted around 140 students, a number far exceeding the approved intake capacity, which typically ranges from 40 to 60 students. Now, these students are facing a situation in which abandoning the degree seems like a viable option.

Meanwhile, the students claim that the university disregarded the prescribed seat allocation by the INC, which had designated only 100 seats for their nursing courses. Despite the continuous raising of their concerns regarding the admission of additional students, the university staff dismissed the matter, asserting that it was merely a minor concern and fell within the purview of the university’s management.

During the recent protest on September 14, a First Information Report (FIR) was filed against 16 Kashmiri students for their only fault, as they were protesting against fraud committed by the university by making them study in an unregistered college, which falls under the umbrella of DBU but lacks approval by the INC and PNRC.

Earlier, the students were assured that the FIRs would be cancelled against them, but according to the students, “There is no official notice that claims it and the FIRs are still pending in the police station against them”.

Jammu and Kashmir Police have filed an FIR against the university for doing fraud with these students. The families of these Kashmiri students also staged a protest in Srinagar’s press colony, seeking justice for their children who are enduring wrath in Fatehgarh Sahib, Punjab.

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