Jammu: The government’s decision to make a cluster university functional from the satellite campus of Kashmir University in Kargil, has triggered massive protests by students of the region. The students have been protesting since last week against the decision that they believe will result in the closure of Kashmir University’s satellite campus in Kargil.
A satellite campus, also known as branch campus is a campus of a university that is physically at a distance from the original university, that is, Kashmir University in this case. Kashmir University (KU) has two satellite campuses in Ladakh – each in Kargil and Leh.
A cluster university covers five colleges and is a first of a kind concept in India introduced by the Jammu and Kashmir government in 2016. Cluster universities are being established in the state under the centrally-sponsored Rashtriya Ucchtar Shiksha Abhiyan to “run series of additional and novel courses in the existing city colleges, with one of the colleges each in Srinagar and Jammu acting as the lead college.”
In a letter to Kashmir University, the state higher education department has sought the use of land of KU satellite campuses to establish a cluster university. The letter reads, “The matter was discussed today in the Chief Secretary’s meeting regarding Establishment of Ladakh University where in it was decided that while Kashmir University can retain the buildings and land appurtenant to the extent of 100 kanals approximately at both the campuses for courses to be run by the Kashmir University and balance land out of 800 kanals at Leh and 600 Kanals at Kargil shall be utilized for establishment of University of Ladakh.”
Sajjad Hussain, a prominent journalist, activist and independent candidate from Kargil, who recently gave a tough fight to BJP in the Lok Sabha polls, termed the decision as “politically motivated by the BJP government through its henchman, Governor Satya Pal Malik.”
Speaking to Newsclick, Hussain said: “The Kargil satellite campus has over 300 students. This will gradually lead to closing down of the campus. How can you close down a campus and make another university functional at its place? Initially, Ladakh wanted a central University, but ahead of elections, to gain votes, the Right-wing party, through the Governor, took a decision to announce the cluster university hastily with no clarity, and now this. The satellite campus in kargil has maintained a good record and more and more students are willing to join. You can’t close the university overnight or merge it with a cluster university.”
One of the protesting students told Newsclick, “We are not against the establishment of a cluster university but not at the cost of shutting down KU campuses. The KU campus in Kargil has always maintained a good record as compared to Leh, which hardly has 30 students in its campus. This is an outright case of discrimination between Leh and Kargil.”
The protestors said that the cluster university in Kargil must be established in the vicinity of the Government Degree College , the KU campus has the “potential to be the future university.”
While Kargil is relentlessly protesting, the Buddhist populated Leh is keeping quiet, as of now. A student from Leh studying in Jammu told Newsclick, “In the satellite campus of Leh, only 30-50 students are inducted in the campus, while in Kargil, over 500 students are enrolled. So, the decision doesn’t matter much to us.”
The socio-religious Imam Khumini Memorial Trust, Kargil, has written to the Governor asking him to reconsider the decision. The letter reads: “You are well aware that the Kashmir University Satellite Campus of Kargil, located at Khumbathang, is deemed to be the best campus in the Ladakh division with 400 students on its rolls. Any intrusion and bifurcation of the existing campus is poised to disturb the Master Plan of the campus and will choke the KU satellite campus in Kargil.”
The Chairman of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Kargil, Feroz Khan, has also written to the Governor, demanding revocation of the decision taken by the higher education department.
In December 2018, the State Administration Council under the chairmanship of Governor Malik had approved a Bill to set up the first ever cluster university in Ladakh with headquarters in Leh. The decision was welcomed by the Buddhist populated people of Leh, while Kargil observed a shutdown owing to the fact that they were also demanding a cluster university.
Political analysts believe that the “decision to establish the headquarters in Leh and nothing in Kargil has left the residents of Kargil in a quandary as they too have been demanding divisional status. With no headquarters in Kargil, it is evident that BJP was banking on Leh voters.”
The decision, said Hussain, shows that the “BJP is always eyeing ways to divide the Muslim-dominated Kargil and Buddhist-dominated Leh.”
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