Published: 21st February 2019
This Kashmiri Harvard alumnus is working to build a crowdfunded university in Kashmir for students to study safely
An academic consultant in Saudi Arabia, Mehboob Makhdoomi believes that more educational opportunities will alleviate the issues in the valley
The picturesque valley that they grew up in has almost always failed to provide peace to the Kashmiris. The result? Most of them eagerly wait for their ticket to migrate to other cities inside and outside the country, study and earn a respectable job. The aftermath of the Pulwama attacks — with Kashmiri students being attacked all over the country — has made it all that much worse. This has reopened the debate on opening more colleges and universities in Kashmir. Among the advocates for this argument is Kashmiri-origin academic Mehboob Makhdoomi. A consultant in a government university in Saudi Arabia, this Harvard alumnus is using social media to call Kashmiris all around the world to help him fund an international standard University in Kashmir.
Makhdoomi has been working on the project for two years now. While the initial idea was to open a college, he says that the aim right now is to open a university in a year — especially in light of the recent happenings. His project is also supported by the Jammu and Kashmir Private Schools United Front. "I run the YS Makhdoomi Education Trust which we plan to expand into the university. We are planning to offer all major disciplines except medicine there. We do not have much investment for a university, which means we literally have to go door-to-door asking people for contributions," says Makhdoomi.
He adds that the tardiness in getting the paperwork right was what delayed the process. "Nobody knows the procedure here in Kashmir. There aren't many private educational institutions. Also, the capital shift from Jammu to Srinagar in Winter and Summer also didn't work in my favour," he says. For somebody who spent the first 18 years of his life in Srinagar, Makhdoomi tells us about the major issues that he had to face growing up and what prompted him to move abroad. "I was five when the Kashmir Intifada of 1989 began. I always wanted to move abroad, but still come back someday and serve my people. Every year, I spend three months in Kashmir," he says.
At 18, he moved to Bengaluru to pursue his bachelor's, following which he went to the US for his master's and the UK for his PhD. "I never faced many issues during my stay in Bengaluru. Also, I've always felt that South India was safer for us Kashmiris because more people there are educated. They may disagree with you, but they're always ready to listen. This isn't the case in the north," he adds.
What will the aftermath of the Pulwama revenge attacks be, we asked him. Makhdoomi thinks that the students will "either decide not to study or decide to take a risk with their safety at stake." In the midst of all this conflict, this academic has one request to the authorities. "Alleviate our immediate issues. More than anything, Kashmir needs education and peace right now," he says.