Pune educational institute proposes campuses with local partnerships in Kashmir

Students from Kashmir studying at Sarhad, Pune, with founder-president Sanjay Nahar (red sweater).

Students from Kashmir studying at Sarhad, Pune, with founder-president Sanjay Nahar (red sweater).(HT PHOTO)

At a time when investments are being encouraged by the central government in education and other sectors in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), a social organisation from Pune has proposed to partner with the local people to open educational institutes in the terror-hit districts of J&K.

For nearly three decades now, the Pune-based social organisation Sarhad has been undertaking humanitarian work in J&K with a special emphasis on orphans and women. Many Kashmiri students from conflict areas have studied in the school and college run by the organisation. Presently, more than 150 students from Jammu and Kashmir have been studying at Sarhad School and Sarhad College of Arts Science and Commerce at Katraj, Pune.

Eminent personalities such as former IPS officer JF Ribero, scientist RA Mashelkar and lyricist Javed Akhtar are on the advisory panel of Sarhad.

In an interview, Sarhad’s founder Sanjay Nahar (53) said his proposal to the government is to establish educational institutes in Doda and other terrorism-affected districts such as Pulwama, Anantnag, Budgam, and parts of Avantipura, in cooperation with the local people there.

“Our proposal is to promote the ‘Ghar Ghar School, Har Ghar School’ movement under which we want to collaborate with local Kashmiris and create educational institutes in partnership with them. People are willing to give land for schools and our proposal is to work with Kashmiri teachers, retired teachers, retired officials from the same cultural setting and convert homes into schools,” said Nahar. “We want to train Kashmiris to teach Kashmiris,” he said.

Vishwakarma University, a private state university and a few others in Pune have supported this initiative.

On August 19, Nahar wrote to J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik stating that he was in close touch with 25 educational institutes from Pune and at least seven, including Vishwakarma University, Padmabhushan Vasantdada Patil College of Architecture, KJ’s Educational Institute and Arham Foundation were among those who were willing to collaborate with Sarhad on educational projects in J&K. These institutes also submitted letters of intent to the J&K governor, copies of which are with HT.

Nahar said Kashmiri students and their families were keen on such collaborations and cited the case of Joginder Singh, a student from Doda district who had lost 15 members of his family to terrorist violence. Singh, who has been studying in Pune for the last seven years and is now in final year M.Com, had even offered his family land for such a project, Nahar said.

Zahaid Bhat, a 24-year-old Kashmiri student from Badgam, is now in his second year Master’s in Political Science at Sarhad College. He began studying at the Sarhad school when he was in the third grade, in 2004. Bhat, who also functions as a coordinator for Kashmiri students at the college, said J&K is in need of good quality institutes of higher education.

“The people there need good quality, affordable higher education. They cannot pay high fees and donations. It would be good to open educational institutes and accommodate local professors and others,” he said.

Nahar emphasised that education and healthcare were the primary needs of the Kashmiri people and enterprises around these were possible only with local involvement.

“Outside investors want land, water, electricity and security from the government. This cannot work on a long term basis,” he said.

Nahar has proposed a beginning in village Lehota in Doda district. “The locals are willing to provide security and work for as less as Rs 4,000 a month. Partnership arrangements can be worked out with them. I am willing to take up educational projects in places like Doda, Dard Pura in Kupwara district and Pulwama district,” he said.

He recalled that during the 2015-16 term of the Mufti Mohammed Sayeed government in J&K, Sarhad had proposed to establish the “world’s biggest Book Village” in Bandipora district and later in village Mahjoor, famous as the birthplace of the legendary poet Ghulam Ahmad Mahjoor. Conceived on the lines of the Hay-on-Wye project in Wales, the Books Village project did not materialise due to various hurdles, he said.

Higher education & healthcare, need of the hour in J&K: official

Mahmood Ahmed Shah, director, Industries & Commerce (J&K) said in an interview that establishing institutes of higher learning and tertiary healthcare facilities in cancer, cardiology and nephrology “is the need of the hour” in Jammu and Kashmir, and such initiatives would be welcomed by the people.

Preparing for the J&K Investors Summit planned in November, Shah said that about one lakh Kashmiri students were studying in various parts of the country presently. “We have a dearth of quality educational institutes. If these two things (education and healthcare) happen, people will welcome it. These are need of the hour,” he said.

When asked about the number of investment proposals received so far, he said there would be greater clarity after the summit in November.

Post-abrogation of Article 370, institutes keen to tie-up with Jammu and Kashmir

Various city-based educational institutes are keen to start educational institutes in Jammu and Kashmir after the government of India’s decision to abrogate Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

Professor SB Mujumdar, founder president and Chancellor of Symbiosis International (Deemed University) said, “We are planning to extend our Symbiosis campus in Jammu and Kashmir, after the recent decision taken by the Government of India of withdrawing Article 370.”

“For this, we have appointed an external committee to study the situation in the state,” said Mujumdar.

“After we get their report then necessary steps will be taken,” Mujumdar added.

While professor Nitin Karmalkar, vice-chancellor, Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), said, “Last week an administrative meeting was held in which senate member Rajesh Pandey gave a proposal to set up an educational centre.

“We will be sending a proposal for the same to the state government. It will certainly give a chance to the Kashmiri students to engage with SPPU,” he further added.