The controversy on Jamia Millia Islmia inviting Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to burn. Those in favour of inviting Modi on campus have now started to claim that the resistance to the invitation is only by former students and not those who are currently studying at Jamia. Many media houses have also resorted to arguing on the same lines. As a former student, and as part of the movement that seeks apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making the derogatory and false remarks against our University in 2008, I can vouch that a large number of students in Jamia Millia Islamia are standing in solidarity with us. Some of them have come out in open and expressed their dissatisfaction over the invitation while others call us to appreciate our stand.
However, the projection in mainstream media remains that it’s the Alumni who are opposing the invitation and not the students. This takes me along to comment on the state of democracy inside the campus first before dwelling onto who are the students’ who want him in the University without an apology.
When we were students at the University, the state of democracy was such that any voice of dissent was curbed with an iron hand. Students were not allowed even to ask uncomfortable questions to the administration. Suspension and rustication of students’ was an everyday routine affair. I was personally suspended and fined for participating in a protest against fee hike in the University. The university administration behaved like intelligence agencies: they had photographed us, and identified the dissenters based on those photos. The letter from the then proctor to us construed our peaceful protest as an attempt to disrupt the peaceful environment by raising slogans. This, the proctorial letter alleged could have instigated the students to resort to violence. That was my first hand experience of how cases are manipulated by the state agencies. And Jamia varsity was only following the precedent set by them. The truth was that we sat silentl in a night-long standoff in the month of September 2012 and demanded that the institution should roll back the fee hike for different courses. We were also demanding the restoration of the students union that has remained disbanded since a decade now, while all other Universities in Delhi have representation of students. Then why this discrimination against Jamia and at whose behest?
To my mind, the reason for Jamia not having a student body comes from the fact that it is a minority university and governments in the Centre who appoint the Vice Chancellors do not want an autonomous youth leadership to flourish in these campuses. They are however happy to give a free hand to elements who work as contractors for different political parties.
Having said that, we cannot ignore those rare vice chancellors who had a very progressive outlook – one of them being Mushirul Hasan – who would push students to be part of academic, and as well as national and international political discourses.
Since the departure of the last Vice Chancellor to the post of Delhi LG, there hasn’t been much change in the condition of democracy on the campus. Things more or less remain the same even today. There is hardly any space for dissent on the campus. The current administration continues to target students expressing their resentment on the same lines set by his predecessor. There is no student body even today in the University. In these circumstances, it is not difficult to understand why students, rather than coming out in the open to express their dissatisfaction to the invite to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, prefer to call up the ex- students who are articulating this. (Some brave hearts have come out in open and asked for an apology from the honorable Prime Minister for calling Jamia a breeding hub of terrorists.)
Now, coming onto those who are saying that our protest is politically motivated, I would like to point out that these are those students who for long have been working under the banner of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in Jamia.
It was absurd to see a bogus list of Alumni and students being circulated by one Mr. Praveen Kumar, who happens to be an active member of the saffron student brigade. He has not bothered to check the names in his list and repeated those names who are signatory in our memorandum. By calling us politically motivated, they are leading a malicious campaign against us in connivance with the administration to obfuscate their own political inclinations and ambitions from public domain.
The truth remains that most of the Jamia students, if not all, are supporting our campaign and standing by our side even if they are scared of coming out and declaring it in open. Like us, they are not opposed to the invitation of Modi to Jamia but are rather seeking an apology from him for making the remarks he made in the year 2008 about this great institution associated with India’s freedom struggle.
Asad Ashraf is a former student of Jamia Millia Islamia, and currently a journalist.