Curfew, internet shutdown in Kashmir bring agitation by several PhD scholars of Srinagar's NIT against Education Ministry to halt

The protestors were demanding that funds for their fellowship, which have been withheld since May, be released. The situation impacts at least 400 research scholars and several master's students 
A protest held by PhD scholars in Kashmir's Srinagar before the curfew hit |Pic: DailyExcelsior
A protest held by PhD scholars in Kashmir's Srinagar before the curfew hit |Pic: DailyExcelsior

For many days, several PhD scholars and master's students of Kashmir's National Institute of Technology (NIT) have been protesting against the Ministry of Education for the delay in the release of their fellowship, which had been withheld for the last four months. However, it has now been compelled to come to an end after Kashmir faces yet another intense curfew and clampdown on communication services following the death of a prominent separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. 

The physical protests by scholars and students started in late August with placards that read, "Fellowship my right, not your pity #MHRD #PMO #LG(J&K) #NITSRI." This went on till September 1, and then the curfew was put in place.

Edexlive spoke to NIT Srinagar's registrar Kaiser Bukhari as BSNL networks, though fluctuating, remain open. Bukhari said, "Right now Srinagar is under curfew so there is no question of students protesting but before that, they did protest and we tried to pacify it."

Several students and scholars had taken to Twitter throughout August demanding that their fellowship be released by the ministry. But now these voices are on mute—they were last heard on the late afternoon of September 2, after which the internet services have remained suspended. 

The last tweet regarding the issue by one scholar read, "#NITsrinagar #ReleaseMyFellowship #FellowshipMyRightNotYourPity Are research scholars supposed to be on roads or labs? Are you listening?"

Bukhari added that more than 400 research scholars are affected by it, however, due to logistical difficulties in the valley, he couldn't provide the exact number of the affected masters' students. Another scholar had tweeted on September 1 about how the situation is causing severe mental stress to many. He said, "Research is about searching for solutions and explanations. And here we are dealing psychological trauma of financial suffering, searching for our scholarship since May 2021."  

One scholar even tweeted that the ministry is harassing students by holding back their fellowships, tagging the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education, he said, "Stop harassing research scholars. Research scholars of NIT Srinagar are without fellowship for the last four months."

"We have requested the ministry of education several times in writing and verbally that funds be disbursed but we have not received," Bukhari said. He added that the ministry has responded to the issue but there is no clarity as to when the funds would be disbursed. 

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