ABID RASHID BABA
8th July is not the same anymore. Two years back, famed philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi left for heavenly abode while Kashmir’s Burhan Wani, a militant commander was killed later that day. To mark his second death anniversary, Kashmir preferred to study indoors. Education has always been the first casualty in conflict zones. Students are the silent sufferers here. We have been sacrificing something immaterial which can’t be compensated. Education has no substitute. Amid conflict and tension, we give our best to fit in the job market. We become a commodity. We sell our talent and earn to run home, heart and hearth.
8th July 2018 was the day meant for three national level competitive exams in and around Srinagar. While many rushed to tourist spots to make the most of the day, jobless literates eligible for teaching in higher education were seen heading towards the respective destinations.
Students were ferried in government buses from far and wide. My venue of examination was a BSF camp in the outskirts of the city. Students were humiliated in the name of frisking. Girls were the worst victims. I wonder which explosive can be hidden inside the panty or Bra.
As soon as we entered to write our exams, the men in uniform asked us to keep our belongings some 500 meters away near the gate. Suddenly, a trooper who was supposed to guard the borders started filming the entry of students. As we objected and made him delete the video, they sensed trouble, came in a pack and shoved us away. Filming did not stop the harassment.
Before I recount what unfolded inside, I would like to narrate a brief anecdote of how gun is a dirty liability. Sometime back, I had an appointment with a government official inside his office guarded by concertina and bunker. He had not sent my name at the gate for entry. And the CRPF man outside didn’t know whether my name was written on the paper or not. He was illiterate and getting 60 thousand bucks as monthly salary. Somewhat similar drama was witnessed here.
The BSF guy would ask every student to spell out their names. Inside this Vidyalaya School, the bossy principal (more like a dictator) ordered to unpack almost everything. It was the worst scanning of our bodies. We felt enraged since we were disrespected to the core. Our privacy was outraged. What could one hide inside the pants? A chit or a weapon?
We resisted the shameful diktats. It didn’t stop there. Candidates who belong to specially-abled category can avail extra twenty minutes for every hour. This relaxation is mentioned at serial no. 9 on Page no 8-9 of the Information Prospectus of UGC. Even, it is written on the admit card in bold letters. Chaos ensued as the head of this army school asked the student from the PwD category to undo his trousers. He wanted to check his fractured limb.
When another lady remarked that he looked normal, it was unbecoming of them. It created a fuss. If a government medical board had issued a certificate of disability, how a supervisor can harass the candidate? He was close to tears. The Surveillance continued. It was akin to Foucault’s Panopticon. This trauma will be embedded in the minds of these would-be nation builders.
If CBSE can cancel the exam at Allahabad for delay in distribution of question papers, why did our pleas fell on deaf ears? Why we are being labelled with different tag’s when we ask for our rights? Why this step-motherly treatment with Kashmiri students? Why are we asked to sit for exams in garrisons?
They get five thousand rupees each for a day from CBSE? What for? This humiliating approach will tarnish the image and credibility of the Central Board of School Education. They should take a strict note of it. A bucket of water with two tumblers was kept in the corridor with no one to serve. We were treated worse than animals. Our dignity was trampled. Now, when the National Testing Agency(NTA) has took over, a humble request to them is to keep the abnormality of the place in mind while choosing exam centres since nothing is worthy than life.
After facing immeasurable inconvenience, the frightened, hungry and exhausted souls were asked to make a beeline. Devoid of manners, the staffers were not cooperative. One candidate from Pulwama was told by one gun- toting man, “You pelt stones, you deserve the worst.”
The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org