Kashmir: Without Internet, Students Struggle to Fill Forms for Entrance Exams

There are long lines at every district deputy commissioner's office, where students have been asked to submit their forms from.

Srinagar: Shuaib Ahmad, a 20-year-old student, doesn’t know whether his admit card for the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), the entrance examination for various engineering colleges, has been released on the official website. It has been almost 130 days since the internet was snapped in Kashmir, and students like Ahmad face huge hurdles.

A month ago, when Ahmad had to submit his JEE form, he called his friend who is at Chitkara University in Punjab and gave him details on the phone, so that he could submit the form.

“It almost took me 25 days to submit the form as I was not able to access internet facilities.”

Ahmad, who is a student at Islamia College Srinagar, said that dozens of his friends will miss entrance examinations this year as they were not able to submit their applications.

There have been multiple protests in Kashmir against the internet shutdown, particularly by journalists, but the government has not reversed it yet.

Students appearing for NEET worry they might lose a year

On December 6, online applications for the National Eligibility of Entrance Test, for those who want to study medicine, were opened.

The government has provided internet facilities in every district deputy commissioner’s office, and students have been advised to submit their forms from there. But in many villages in Pulwama district, for instance, various government offices also have to do their work at the deputy commissioner’s office – the only place in the district where internet is available. Other districts too are seeing a similar situation.

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Given the limited access, there is usually a long line of students, many whom have travelled long distance, waiting outside the deputy commissioner’s office. Most of them usually go back home disappointed.

At the Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) in Srinagar too, hundreds of students from different districts wait for their turn to submit application forms. Others are also here to book travel tickets.

Nida Jan, 17, had come to the TRC from Bemina on two consecutive days to get her turn. She told The Wire that submitting application forms has become difficult students. “First we have to wait for days to get our turn, and then we also waste precious time here – which we would not have had to do if the internet was working,” Jan said.

On August 5, the Centre snapped call and internet services overnight in the Valley, leaving people with no means of communication. On October 13, it resumed connectivity for postpaid mobile numbers, but banned SMS services.

Jan said students needed to have relatives outside the Valley, whose numbers could be used to receive the one-time password generated while submitting applications. “If I don’t have a relative outside, it means I won’t be able to fill the form.”

After submitting their forms, applicants are also unable to access their emails. Many students fear that their forms may have been rejected, but they can’t find out.

“That means I will have to risk my future,” said Jan angrily.

Students missing classes, exams at tuition centres

At around 6:30 am on a foggy winter morning, Shameem Shmad, 35, came to the TRC with his daughter to fill her application form for NEET. When The Wire spoke to them, they had been waiting for four hours in a long queue.

His daughter got a call from her tuition centre, saying her exam will start in half an hour, “She is studying in Aakash and today is her test. Now we will have to come here again in the afternoon,” said Ahmad, “It’s very frustrating that we have been made dependent like this.”

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Seventeen-year-old Rameez Manzoor came from Bandipora district, 66 km from Srinagar, to complete his application after he saw a huge rush of students at his districts deputy commissioner’s office. “I have been coming here for the past two days. My serial number is 117,  I will have to wait until evening now. It would have been better if I had not come,” he said, disappointed.

Another student, Saqib Ali who lives in Karnah Kupwara, 90 km from Srinagar, said out of eight computers at the TRC, only two work in the morning employees come in late. “I missed my tuition classes for the past two days. How would I be able to learn that again?”

Quratulain Rehbar is a Kashmir-based journalist working with the Kashmir Walla magazine.