What transpired on the 13th of August, 2016 had a lasting effect on the students’ fraternity in the Jamia Millia Islamia University.
The students of Hall of Residence, Boys were informed a day before the alleged incidence to be ‘careful’ and not to keep any non-resident especially ‘Kashmiri’ students inside the hostel as there will be a check by the Delhi Police. On 13th, i.e. the following day two uniformed police constables and 15-20 officers in plain clothes were seen outside the hostel premises in the afternoon. Thereafter, the mentioned two police officer made their way into the hostel and had a conversation with the security guards, while the other officials waited inside the campus but outside the gate of Hall of Residence in their respective cars.
Seeing unexpected turn of incidents unfurl in the hostel, few residents took the lead and asked about the reason for their presence in the campus. The officers answered back that they have been given permission from the University Proctor. Consequently, students called the Proctor to inform them of the same, but surprisingly the Provost from Hostel ‘A’ Campus came over in place of the University Proctor. He initially denied sanctioning any permission, but later admitted of allowing them to be present outside Gate No. 4. Following this students asked the officers for an unconditional apology. But, instead of supporting the call for an apology, Provost allowed the erring officers leave under his supervision.
The students have continuously maintained that some of the students were questioned by the officers and their rooms were checked. Also, there were reports of photos being clicked and videos taken. On seeking a definitive answer by the authorities, no substantiated response was put forth, which lead to the historic five days long protest by students demanding the following-
1. No action by the administration against any student who was part of the protest.
2. Press Conference by the administration clarifying their position.
The solidarity extended by the students was unprecedented. This time students came together from varied courses and departments against the witch-hunt orchestrated by those in power.
The malicious act to put whole university and its students under surveillance under the garb of ‘security’ is condemnable. The defense taken was it being a ‘routine check’. But, it was soon busted by residents of the hostels who have been staying therein. The vile attempts by the government to project the university in a certain light was met with a successful and strong resistance. The attempt in creating a tense and fearful environment within the campus miserably failed and students exposed the same out rightly. The students were raged against targeting Jamia by singling it out amongst the other universities present across Delhi and selective profiling of its students.
Since the beginning, the question has been regarding whether the mentioned act has been a ‘raid’ or not. This might not fit into a legal definition of a ‘raid’, but it was certainly an invasion into the safe place of students, going against the ethos of the university space. This ‘search’ comes in the backdrop of the vitriolic campaign run by the Centre against the minority status of Jamia and Aligarh University and sends out a message of how the government perceives one of its educational institutions and its students. Moreover, the onslaught on student fraternity (FTII, JNU, HCU, Pondicherry University) since this present government has come to power adds to the suspicion amongst the Jamia community.
Leaving everything aside, this protest has been a wonderful one to witness as not only it showcased students’ unity, but what was more satisfying and heartening was seeing active participation by female students since day one. Not only they were present in large numbers throughout the day, but kept on their fight during the nights as well.
At the same time, it was hurtful to note the attempts that were made to weaken the movement. The ones who always promoted themselves as ‘upholders of the rights of students’ soon gave in to administration’s demands and started insinuating against the protesting students by claiming ‘hijack of protest by political opportunes’. It was laughable yet irksome to hear comments like ‘Politicisation by Left Groups’ from a section of students. Infact, it just showed their frustration through which they were trying to hide their incapacity to unite students and fight.
Though students have been assured by the administration in writing against any disciplinary action, but what we gather from the campus is that each department is on a lookout for students who participated in the protest and their attendance is kept under strict scrutiny. While, students of another college in Delhi protest against the ambiguous administrative calculation of the attendance post- suicide of one of its brilliant student named Sushant Rohilla, Jamia students are likely to be punished punitively for raising their voices through the same attendance bar.
The whole idea of a University being an open space wherein students can engage in dialogue, discussions, debate and put forward their peaceful protests and different viewpoint remains a utopia. In reality, it remains as a close gated, claustrophobic and a space which doesn’t value dissent. With each passing day, the space for voicing out our opinions is shrinking and we are asked to blind ourselves from what happens before us and to ignore what we hear. This suppression of thoughts and stifling of voices is a direct assault on our democracy and will be met with resistance all across and especially in the campuses. Let’s be assured of the same.