New Delhi: At Best Technical and Professional College (BFIT), Dehradun, a Kashmiri student is worried whether he’d be able to sit for the upcoming external exam – starting from December 19. The college has slapped a fine of Rs 5,000 on all the Kashmiri students who couldn’t pay the semester fee due in July.
Other Kashmiris students, from different colleges in Punjab – Maya College, Adesh Institute and others – share the same concern and have been requesting the administration to either deduct the fine or give them an extension so that they can arrange for the money.
However, students largely and justifiably say that it is unfair to charge a fine in the first place given the sanctions in place in Kashmir that have resulted in the delay. Most of their family businesses, they say, have been running at a loss since Article 370 was read down on August 5, resulting in a shutdown of several services, including the internet.
“We never thought that things will turn out like this. My father had asked me to ask for an extension but the authorities didn’t listen. Exams are about to start in a few weeks and I don’t know if they will issue us admit cards if we fail to make the payment,” said the BFIT student.
The Wire contacted the respective administrations at BFIT, Maya College and Adesh Institute. While the calls sent to the last two went unanswered, the administration at BFIT said that as per the rule, students who fail to pay the fee on the due date have to pay a late-fee charge.
“We have not asked the students to pay any fine. It’s the late-fee charge which is usually very nominal and it’s applicable to all the students. We have also provided required extension to the Kashmiri students who couldn’t make the payment on time. The students, who are still facing any trouble, can directly speak to the principal,” said a representative of the administration.
Meanwhile, chief minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh has issued an order directing the vice-chancellors of all private colleges in Punjab to “ensure that no student is harassed for a delay in payment of fees or attendance shortage resulting from the clampdown in the valley.”
A day before, he also tweeted saying: “Will not allow this to happen in my state.”
Will not allow this to happen in my state. It was not the fault of the students and I will ensure that they do not suffer on account of the delay in payment of fee or attendance shortage resulting from the clampdown in Kashmir, which was never in their control. pic.twitter.com/hyhEmz7qrG
— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) November 29, 2019
‘It’s not our fault’
Another student at Maya College, Jalandhar, got to know about the fine yesterday evening when he went to make an examination-related inquiry at the office. The college asked him to pay Rs 7,000, he said.
“I was not aware of the fine until yesterday. This is a huge amount. I was in Kashmir during the lockdown and couldn’t carry any money from home because the banks were closed. How am I going to pay this fine now?” he said. “My friend has been asked to pay Rs 13,000. It’s not our fault.”
He said that he’d request the administration to give him a concession because arranging the amount for the fine would be an uphill task.
A BFIT student echoed the above student and said that his father’s apple business has been running at a loss for the past few weeks.
“Our family depends on the sale of apples and generally we have to invest a good amount of money in early July to later earn a profit in September – when the fruits are ripe for sale. But this year, we haven’t been able to earn a good profit,” he said.
At other colleges, some Kashmiri students have had to pay the fine because exams were nearing and they needed to collect their roll number slips – which they could not as long as payments are due.
“The college authorities agreed to give us a concession from Rs 3,000 to Rs 1,500 but we were told about it just a day before our first exam. We didn’t even get the time to react and had to just make the payment,” said a student at Adesh Institute, Mohali.
He further said that it is “highly unjustified” to charge them money for something they didn’t have any control over.
“Some colleges have given extension but look at the situation in Kashmir. How will a student arrange for money even by the extended date?” he added.
The spokesperson of the J&K students association has been communicating with the state government and college authorities, asking them to deduct fine charges. He also mentioned that this isn’t the first time that colleges have “unfairly penalised” Kashmiri students.
“Even during the Pulwama attack, some colleges had asked students to pay a fine for attendance shortage. This is pure harassment and we’d want the state government to blacklist these colleges,” he said.