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Laptops to 4G internet: Jamia Millia’s online exam diktat sparks anger in Kashmir

Srinagar: Athar Irshad is having sleepless nights since his university issued the notification for online exams. 

A student of MA political science at Jamia Millia Islamia, Athar hails from Danghiwachi, a place in north Kashmir’s Baramulla where internet and electricity are a luxury. 

“I am unable to understand what to do. Our careers are at stake. Most of the students do not have laptops. We have a slow 2G internet which is always pesky. Plus, the university has said if the internet snaps during the course of the examination, students would be disqualified. We do not want concession. But like other universities, Jamia too should hold pen and paper exams,” he said.

This is not an isolated case. Around 700 students from Jammu and Kashmir are studying in Jamia and most of them are from poor backgrounds.

Since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 last year, 4G internet services have been snapped across Jammu and Kashmir. Except for Ganderbal and Udhampur, all other 18 districts do not have high-speed internet. Only low speed 2G internet services are available in the 18 districts.

Sensing trouble, J&K Students Association has written to HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal and Jamia Vice-Chancellor Najma Akhtar, urging them to scrap online proctored mode of examination

 “Jamia administration’s arbitrary decision to conduct online proctored mode of examination is inconsiderate to the issues raised by the students. It is very evident that these guidelines reinforce the spirit of elitism in our education system because students from marginalized communities cannot afford laptops and PCs’. Exam and education should never be a privilege. This new diktat makes education a privilege instead of right which will lead to depression among the students,” said Nasir Khuehami, spokesman of J&K Students Association.

He said a majority of Jamia students belong to backward districts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, J&K, and other southern states. 

“Such an exclusionary and unfair mode of exam will ruin their career. Students from all walks of life should be put on an equal standing and the general will should be kept in consideration. This decision has been taken in a completely undemocratic manner without any consideration with students,” he said.

Khuehami added that the unavailability of high-speed internet connectivity has hampered and halted the process of online classes of students.

 “Due to the continuous ban on 4G Services, Kashmiri students would not be able to attend exams. Most students hail from a lower class and have no source of income. The education sector has been the worst victim in Kashmir valley and with internet services snapped; the students have no source to attend exams in such circumstances. Heavy snowfall in Kashmir leads to power cuts for 7-8 hours and due to which students won’t have any alternative of Wi-Fi services as well. In addition to this, frequent power cuts, harsh winters, the exams are no way possible in Kashmir valley,” he said.

 Former chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti too spoke to the controller of examinations, Jamia Millia Islamia, and discussed problems faced by the students.

“Jamia’s decision to hold exams in proctored online mode which requires laptops & high-speed data for 3 hours is deeply problematic for students hailing from J&K. Request them to look for alternatives so that these bright minds don’t suffer….Spoke to Jaffrey Sahab, Controller examinations at Jamia about problems faced by students from J&K who have to take exams through proctored online mode. He assured to make necessary changes & suggested that students unable to take these exams email @jmiu_official,” tweeted Mehbooba.