Kashmiri Students Face Undue Harassment, Fine for Late Fee, Short Attendance in Dehradun Colleges

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Media photo used for illustrative purposes.

Zafar Aafaq | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI — Amid the ongoing lockdown and a tense situation back home, Kashmiri students enrolled in private colleges and universities in Dehradun as also other parts of north India complain that the institutes are pressuring them to pay fine and late fee for shortage of attendance and delay in clearance of dues.

Students say that after the summer vacation this session, they could not make it to their institutes on time due to the clampdown and communications blackout enforced on Kashmir since August 5 when the Indian government revoked the special status and downgraded the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories. “The communications blackout worried our families and they did not let us travel outside the Kashmir, Mir Javid from Shopian, studying at a private college in Dehradun, Uttrakhand state, said.

He added: “Some students had applied for bank loans to finance their education and they could not avail this. Banks turned cautious since August 5 and were reluctant to sanctions loans.” Moreover, the students who were already in their hostels and apartments ran out of cash since they could not reach out to their families. The efforts of volunteers who collected and distributed money was of some help to the students to meet their daily needs.

Imran Ahmad, a 3rd year engineering student at Maya College, is hard-pressed for the past few weeks as he was  asked by the college administration to pay Rs 12,000 in fine even as he has fully cleared his current semester fee. The college administration gave him two options: “Either pay fine or cancel admission.” Struggling to make his ends meet, Ahmad says he has no means to get the money and pay the unjust penalty.

A few more Kashmiri students at his college were also being asked to pay fine.

When phone lines were restored in Kashmir, Ahmad had called the college authorities and explained them his position. “They had promised me of all relief but now they seem to be backtracking.” He has however been given clearance to pay the examination fee.

Several Kashmiri students of Sai College Dehradun Caravan Daily spoke to said they have been penalized with fine for shortage of attendance and failing to clear their fees on time. None of them wanted to be named here for fear of reprisal by the college authorities. “My college has levied a fine of Rs 4,000 on me for an unpaid Rs 10,000 from my annual fees,” said one student. “Some of my colleagues have already paid their fees and this has made our situation more precarious.”

Similar complaints were heard from students of Baba Fareed Institute in Dehradun, they being forced to pay fine. A Kashmiri student said that he and his colleagues have been given fines ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000. “Penalizing students with a fine is harassment,” Nasir Khuehami, spokesperson for the association of Kashmiri students, told Caravan Daily. “We urge the college administrations to exempt students from paying  the fine,” he said.

A couple of days ago, similar complaints were heard from Kashmiri students of private institutes in Punjab. However, timely intervention of Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh ensured the students were given more time or exemption.The issue was raised before the Punjab government by Nasir Khuehami.

In reply to a tweet of Khuehami on the issue, Captain Singh said it was not the fault of the Kashmiri students that they were not able to pay fees on time.

The chief minister also issued orders to several colleges in Punjab directing them to ensure that no Kashmiri student is harassed for a delay in payment of fees or in relation to matters like attendance shortage. Kashmiri students are thankful to the CM for his timely intervention, Khuehami said.

(Some names have been changed to protect the students from reprisal)

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