[Following is a statement from All India Students’ Association (AISA)]
An Appeal to Save Jamia From: The Bulldozer Of Massive Fee Hike, Administrative Bullying Of Students and Denial of Students Union!
Imagine a place where public places are under the constant surveillance of CCTV cameras; where private security ‘bulls’ patrol the grounds, to prevent public gatherings, pasting of posters, or distribution of leaflets; where even asking a question can be a crime; where fear is the tool to ensure compliance.
A scene from a dictatorship or an occupied city? No: the daily life of a Central University in the heart of the capital city of the ‘world’s largest democracy’ – India!
If you thought a University was a place where questioning and dissent was welcomed, where freedom was the foundation of learning, a visit to Jamia Millia Islamia might make you think again.
Jamia: Where One Cannot Raise One’s Voice
Jamia Millia Islamia today is marked by:
• Massive fee hikes (fees nearly doubled in some courses)
• All democratic decision-making bodies sidelined and undermined
• Students thrown out for demanding student union elections
• Virtual ban on any poster, leaflet, or any airing of opinion by students
• Harassment of every student who speaks out- with security guards ‘Bulls’ rampaging the campus
• Denial of Student Union Elections and absence of elected student representation
Teachers too face intimidation. Teachers can be arbitrarily hauled up before the VC, and divested of their mobile phones before entering VC’s chamber. Teachers can’t speak out, but confide about their humiliation in private.
In the last three years, the Jamia administration has made it impossible for students to organize academic and political programmes within the campus. Posters, leaflets cannot be distributed, and even seminars or meetings by students on any issue are prohibited in Jamia. CCTVs have been installed throughout the campus and security guards (called ‘Bulls’) are allowed to use all manner of intimidatory tactics. Time after time, the Jamia administration has pressurized, threatened and cracked down upon the student community. Rigid ‘attendance requirements’ are invoked to put students’ careers at stake.
Steep fee-hikes: Will the doors of Jamia close for students from socially economically deprived backgrounds?
The reason given for designating Jamia as a minority institution was that the university could then focus on alleviating the socio-economic and educational backwardness of the Muslim community. The Sachar Committee and Ranganath Mishra Committee have provided ample evidence of this deep-seated vulnerability of the Muslim community. If fees are steeply hiked, how can students from such deprived backgrounds hope to study in Jamia?
• In the last few years, the number of ‘self-financing’ courses in Jamia have increased
• This year, breaking all records, fees across courses have been hiked in the range of Rs 2,000-Rs.20,000
• As per Jamia’s own financial statement, from Student Fees alone Jamia plans to raise Rs. 53,975,275 in 2012 compared to Rs.35,525,245 last year – which is more than 27% of its internal earnings.
• The decision to hike fees was taken by systematically sidelining the opinion of students, teachers and all democratic forums of the university
In a campus where more than 90% of the students are deprived of hostels and are forced to make ends meet without the help of any fellowship, such a fee-hike is likely to have a back-breaking effect. The attached table indicates the enormous extent of the fee- hike.
The Case of Hamidur Rahman: Speak Out and Stay Out
The dictatorial attitude of the Jamia administration and the total absence of student representation in any decision-making body in the university have only helped to strengthen the highly undemocratic and anti-student atmosphere currently prevailing in Jamia. Each time the students raise their voice against the draconian tendencies of the administration, they are swiftly terrorized into silence.
One such case is that of Hamidur Rahman, a B.A. (Final) student who filed a petition in the Delhi High Court seeking a directive asking the Jamia Administration to hold student union elections. He asked a simple question: when the Jamia administration can collect lakhs and lakhs of rupees every year in the name of the ‘student union’, why can’t the students of the university actually have an elected union? And for asking this simple question, for demanding what is a basic right, what did Rahman get?
Rahman was topper of his class for three years and had also been given the ‘Best Student’ Award by the University. But from the moment he filed the petition in court, the Jamia administration tried every trick in the book to get him to withdraw his petition, but Rahman stood his ground. From being Jamia’s ‘best student’, Rahman became a ‘trouble-maker’, ‘interested in litigation’, someone who ‘spoils the atmosphere’ of the university!
Eventually, the Delhi High Court issued a show-cause notice asking the Jamia Administration why it had not conducted student union polls. When Rahman applied for admission in the MA programme, he got called for interviews by no less than 5 departments. But, in the interviews, he was not selected by any of the departments. It was found that the Jamia VC has invoked his special powers to prevent Rahman from getting admission. This instance of victimization is no exception. Today, any student who dares to question the administration in Jamia faces intimidation and victimization.
And yet, the students of Jamia are fighting a spirited struggle against the recent administrative assaults. Recently, Jamia students staying in hostels held a night-long peaceful protest against the sudden and sharp rise in their mess charges. On Sep 4, students of Jamia marched to the HRD Ministry in large numbers with the students from DU and JNU, asking for intervention to ensure campus democracy, student union polls and roll-back of the fee hikes. The administration did their best to intimidate and prevent students from participating. Various departments suddenly called ‘compulsory’ meetings of students; ‘Bulls’ in large numbers blocked the gates – yet students defied such bullying and participated in large numbers.
With every passing day, JMI administration is unleashing fresh repression
• Almost 30 students have been issued show cause notices for being present in the Protest against Mess Charge Hike and they are being selectively threatened with dire consequences.
• In another move, Hamidur Rahman has been declared out of bounds and intimidatory notice has been sent to his family so as to make impossible for him to pursue his legal battle by staying in Delhi and on 9th Oct a false FIR has been filed at Jamia Nagar Police Station against him by the JMI Proctor Alleging Disruption and vandalism inside the campus on same night!! This is the level of witch-hunting!
Why is democracy under such attack in Jamia?
We also need to ask: why is it that democracy is so ruthlessly and routinely muzzled in campuses like Jamia Millia and Aligarh Muslim University?
In these campuses, in which a large number of the students are Muslim, and the nearby localities are of a minority character, repression seems to be the order of the day. VCs tend to be of a military or bureaucratic background, and surveillance and policing of students and muzzling of any kind of democratic opinion are rampant. The Batla House encounter had revealed the extreme vulnerability of students of Jamia to communal witch-hunt on the part of security agencies.
If we do not speak out now, Jamia’s regime could soon be the template for Universities elsewhere too. Already, students’ rights and freedom of expression are being curbed in JNU and DU. In JNU, the Lyngdoh recommendations have been invoked to place restrictions on Student Union polls. In DU, increasingly, it is difficult for students to hold public meetings; teachers face draconian actions for strikes; and there, too, ‘bouncers’ and ‘bulls’are being used to police the campus and intimidate students. The struggle to save Jamia, is also a struggle to save the very spirit of Universities in Delhi, to save the spirit of democracy.
Friends and concerned citizens,
We appeal to you in the hope that your concern and intervention can help bring some fresh air to the stifling atmosphere against which students of Jamia are struggling. We appeal to you to stand in solidarity with the ‘Save Jamia’ campaign in every way you can.
Join ‘SAVE JAMIA’ Citizen’s Convention at URDU GHAR, Opposite GPF, ITO, New Delhi, on Thursday, October 18, 2012, 2:30 pm (Link to Event page on Facebook)
Prof Shamshul Islam, DU
Prof M S Bhatt, JTA, JAMIA
Dr Manindra Thakur, JNU
Seema Mustafa, Senior Journalist
Sitab Ali Chaudhary, Hamidur Rahman’s Advocate
Mukul Mangalik, Historian, DU
Dr Akhlaque Ahmad, JNU
Dr Ajay Gudavarthy, CPS, JNU
Anand Pradhan, IIMC
Students of JAMIA and Many Others.
For, All India Students’ Association,
Sandeep Singh, President, All India Students’ Association (AISA) 9868033425,
Ravi Rai, General Secretary, All India Students’ Association (AISA) 9868661628
[Views expressed herein are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent Jamia Journal’s editorial policy.]