Saaquib Amin is a student looking for a room. The president of the newly elected Kashmir University students’ union, Saaquib, a final year Law student, says the authorities have still not allotted them an office. “The administration is just not in the habit of dealing with a union. We have not had one for two decades.”
Elections were held on September 18. The first steps toward forming a council of members began this week.
Militancy and counter-militancy measures have had an impact on student life at Kashmir University in many ways. An “unofficial ban,” on any activity that would mobilise students into a group was in place, say students. “There was fear that a student union would be hijacked by other elements,” said a student leader on condition of anonymity.
“The first thing to tackle is
the identity crisis among the
students,” said the KUSU president. “Why are we frisked in the campus? Why are sit-in demonstrations lathicharged?”
Students complain of a hyper-vigilant atmosphere with a CRPF company permanently stationed on campus.
Irtif Lone, president of the interim body — the Students Council — said the university administration “has earlier never recognised us as a union. Whenever we would give a presentation, they would always address us as council. Or, ask us to register it with the Registrar of Cooperative Society. Why should we?”
The issue of registration is the latest bone of contention between the administration and the newly-elected union.
KU Vice-Chancellor Abdul Wahid said, “The society is a body authorised by the government. It’s just a legal requirement. All unions are registered.”
Dhananjay Tripathi, president of the JNU students’ union rejects this claim. Backing the KUSU, he said: “A student’s union is not an NGO that it needs registration. Such restrictions are just means of restricting the students’ movement.”
Assam, Nagaland and Manipur, states that have also been roiled by issues of militancy and separatism have, in fact, more than one union functioning in its schools and universities. Artax Shimre, advisor of the Northeast Students Organisation, said: “In many cases, the Principal or Vice-principal heads them.”