C for Creativity
WHY WE NEED A ‘C’ GRADE UNIVERSITY IN KASHMIR?
MIND MATTERS BY SHEIKH FAYAZ AHMAD
As of now we have more than seven universities in Jammu and Kashmir out of which some Universities have been accredited as ‘A’ grade university by the National Accreditation Council of India (NAAC) while the others are yet to get graded. But the university model I seek to delineate in this article is purely of the ‘C’ grade/type. When I mean ‘C- grade’, please don’t mistake it with the NAAC grading. I am actually referring to ‘creativity - a University exclusively meant to nourish and nutrify creativity and innovations. I am talking of a university which will encourage creativity, imagination and originality. Imagination and creativity are two important aspects of ‘knowledge based economy’ or what we call a ‘knowledge based society’.
Can we think of a university which will channelize creativity and help solve our unsolved problems and puzzles? Is such a creative university possible? My answer is yes… We can think of such a C-type university in Kashmir.
Kashmir had given some brilliant creative ideas and innovations to the world in the past. For instance, suspension bridge technology, seamless celestial globe, twill tapestry and paper, to mention a few. Dick Teresi, the author of God Particle in his path breaking book on history of science titled Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science-from the Babylonians to the Maya published in 2002 referred to Kashmir as the place which gave the technology of suspension bridge to the world. Amit Bhattacharyya in another book Swadeshi Enterprises in Bengal, 1995 argues that the art of paper making got diffused to the whole of India from Kashmir. Ali Kashmiri another unsung astronomer and metallurgist invented the first seamless celestial globe in 1589. Not only did the contemporary scholars but also the western travelers who visited Kashmir between 15th and 17th century recognized the ‘creative genius’ in the local people here. Francois Bernier in 1665 remarked that “the people of Kashmir are very active and industrious compared to the people of Hindustan”. Similarly, William Moorcroft in his travelogue titled Travels in the Himalayan Provinces of Hindustan and the Punjab, in Ladakh and Kashmir, in Peshawar, Kabul, Kunduz and Bokhara, from 1819 to 1825 has fully recognized the creative potential of Kashmir’s. Moorcroft contends that “The natives of Kashmir have been always considered as amongst the most lively and ingenious people of Asia, and deservedly so….With a liberal and wise government they might assume an equally high scale as a moral and intellectual people”. He further described the people of Kashmir as ‘decided genius’; “...He has great ingenuity as a mechanic, and a decided genius for manufactures and commerce”. Later on Lawrence in The Valley of Kashmir (1895) described the natives of Kashmir as intellectuals and wrote “He is timid yet persistent, degraded yet intellectual”. After considering the creative contributions by the people of Kashmir in the past, one can safely conclude that Kashmir had developed an innovation ecosystem much before Korea, Japan and USA. Hard to believe but true!
However, many people can contest this argument by questioning the present drab system of education in the valley. We have a number of universities which lack in innovations and publications and where rote learning is a common practice. Learning by doing and understanding by experiencing and experimentation is hardly encouraged. There is hardly anyone to give a boost to pedagogical innovations; it is as if everyone is in a deep slumber. Take the example of the famous Dal Lake, encircled and crowded by a bunch of universities, technical institutes and with the residences of top govt. officials. This famous water body is dying! Who will save it? the big, expensive and useless machines from Switzerland. Yes, the local researchers and scientists have to get the job done. Government should fund such research activities. Technical institutes would add value to such research and the local administration should be happy to apply such local solutions. To be concise I must say, that a university with the hallmark of ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ is possible provided all the three actors i.e The Government, The University and the local people wish so. Let us keep this C–Type University open for everyone so that ideas can flow from all the sectors. Instead of heading to Switzerland or France for finding the solutions to our problems, it would be a better option to seek the solution from our own people.
Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad, the author of Unsung Innovators of Kashmir is a full time Research Scholar at the Center for Studies in Science Policy- Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi-India. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.