Sheikh Javaid Ayub
Man’s quest for knowledge is as old as man himself. His quest has always made him to search and research. This search and research has been the bedrock of whole knowledge humans have acquired and disseminated. But, research (academic) has never been everybody’s cup of tea. Probably because researchers are naturally fit for perusing research or may be because search and research demands passion, vigor, enthusiasm, personal endeavor, leisure, resources and above all a consistency that can run through ages. The explosion of knowledge has altogether changed the modus operandi of research. Nowadays, researchers are lucky enough to have designed and defined ways and methods of research. And above all researchers are guided, supervised by their guides and supervisors. These guides and supervisors are guided fellows who, it is believed, know the path and make the scholar’s journey to search easy and meaningful. They are the persons in whose names research problems are found, research designs prepared, synopsizes hypothesized, objectives formulated and methodology adopted and even conclusions reached. They are under whose name all the research is done!
The simple logic behind ‘guided research’ seems that ‘to become a stalwart one must be in the company of stalwarts’. After all, it is the guidance of Socrates that produced Plato and from the company of Plato, Aristotle was born. It may be true for the rest of the world but in our State the example seems a mismatch.
We, as a society, are not born researchers, so how come, we accept better guides and better researches. Coercion and compulsions have made us so. Research is mandatory for higher education posts so one must pursue; supervision enriches CVs, so one must supervise. If it is all for guides becomes guides and researches the researchers, why to get enthusiastic about quality research. Why to yearn for not producing quality research works? All cannot be painted with the same brush, but exceptions never break laws. What is described may be the fate of a vast multitude across many nations and many universities. After all common people do have many things in common!
Who is to be blamed for this whole wreck? Simple to state is lack of professionalism in both, but it will be a less professional answer itself. Let us dip deep to unearth certain new facts so that we a stop cab be put on what has till now been considered a routine. Let a much prepared and rational roadmap be formulated for a better and a more genuine research in future. Let us not beat about the bust and let us make the point straight. Here it is!
Some days back, a young charming guy wearing formals entered our college premises. He introduced himself as a PhD scholar from the University of Kashmir. I assumed that he might be doing some research on students or college faculties and might have some questionnaires to fill or an interview to conduct. But, I was proved wrong when he politely requested us to purchase few books for the library. I said great! Why not? He was pleased so were we. He gently opened his bag and took out three books and handed them to us. But, to our utter dismay he was not the author but was selling the books of his supervisor. I was stunned; so were others. I felt an intense pity on the system and on him. The question that immediately struck my mind was: Was it not exploitation?
Thinking and thinking went on but my restlessness was not coming to any halt. I finally decided to have some research about these new forms of exploitations. I interviewed many scholars, became friends with many, lived among them, talked with them and was deeply moved by the pain they undergo, the exploitation they face. Some feel dejected; others dehumanized, and many others disgusted by the treatment they sometimes receive from their supervisors. Suppression, oppression, coercion, exploitation and other forms of torture have become the usual norms of supervising. In our part of world a researcher has to do many things at a time. He/ she has to perform academic works of his/her supervisor; going to classes to deliver lectures, checking assignments of the students, framing question papers, evaluating answer scripts etc are so much routinized that they are considered as part and parcel of research.
A good researcher is one who unquestionably performs all these routinized works and a good supervisor is one who gets these works done from his scholars. What is worst, some scholars are forced to write research papers for their guides or to mention their guides as first authors or, at least, second authors. Mockery indeed! Through this routinization, a stage is reached where the experts seldom know the area of their expertize. The papers written by the scholars and accepted in some international conference abroad are not presented by the scholars themselves but usually by their supervisors. One scholar perusing PhD in Aligarh Muslim University told me that he wrote a research paper for an international conference in New Zeeland, but his guide went himself to present the paper (even the PPT was also prepared by the scholar). There are instances where scholars are asked to prepare speeches to be presented in the conferences by the guides. This usually happens where the supervisor finds depth and eloquence in scholars. Scholars are unpaid laborers when it comes to Xeroxing materials for guides, fetching grocery and other daily consumable items from the market.
Women researchers are in a state of despondency. There are constant fears which have sapped their energies and have made them feel insecure. There cases of sexual harassment against female scholars are on rise. Though there is no clear data available due to known reasons, however, whatever is available is the tip of the iceberg, the greatest part of which remains submerged.
Our researchers are not only exploited in many ways but are also experiencing what can be called as ‘administrative exploitation’. They have little choice or clearly stating, no choice when it comes to choosing their research supervisors. They are forced in, picked up and forced to labor. The trouble starts from the starting itself. It takes years for them to get registered as researchers as if time has lost its preciousness! Their files (registration) become stagnant resulting in wastage of time. A naked sword is kept hanging over their necks; when day on and day off they are told in a high tone that they will never get their PhD degrees. Sometimes petty things become reasons for the guides to withhold their signatures to their scholarship forms.
Life in a conflict zone is usually horrible, creating mental illnesses; psychological disorders and when the extra pressure is added to the already existing, scholars get forced to take drastic steps. Some say good bye to research. After all, it is a fact that only 8-10 percent of the scholars enrolled in PhD are able to complete the research (of course, years after due date). Some are frustrated to the extent that they write on the face book pages ‘either marriage or PhD’, and some go to the extent of writing that lets ruin our lives; let us be enrolled in PhD. Don’t we remember Mohit Kumar Chohan of Central University of Rajashtan who committed suicide because he could not absorb the torture or the ‘pressure’ of his guide.
Kashmir University is about to have a new Vice –chancellor. Let us hope for the best and let us hope that change from the top will trickle down to the bottom for greater good of the scholars. Let their interests be of first priority and their problems taken into consideration. Let our scholars shun all norms of pleasing the guide except through academics and research and then and then only can we produce best quality research works.
—The author is an Assistant Professor of Political Science. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org