Jamia students protest for restoration of union, V.C,. says ‘its contempt of the court’

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By Muslim Mirror Special Correspondent,

New Delhi: Students of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), a central university in Delhi, have decided to stage indefinite from Wednesday after the varsity administration asked them not to demand restoration of union “without the specific directive of the Delhi High as it would amount to contempt of the court”.

Following demands from students, who had submitted a memorandom on the issue on October 5, the university released an official statement stating that “the vice-chancellor (V-C) considered their representation and agreed in principle to their demand for restoration of the students’ union in JMI. However, the V-C also apprised the students of the legal and technical problems involved in this matter”.

Three students of the university had filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court in 2012, seeking directions for holding elections to the student’s body. The matter was heard by a division bench and lengthy arguments were advanced from both sides. The university apprised the court of the circumstances that prevented it from holding elections.

The court observed that two of the three petitioners  were not on the regular rolls of the university and the rest had not been attending classes. Terming the petitioners as “non-interested parties” as they “do not genuinely raise issues pertaining to electoral politics on campus”, the judges were of the opinion the writ petition should be dismissed.

Following this, the counsel for the petitioners withdrew the writ petition against Jamia Millia Islamia.

But the varsity says the petition is listed in the category of regular matter and is awaiting a final hearing. Jamia had disbanded the the students’ body in 2006.

“The entire record and documents pertaining to this case are not available in the official records. As such the matter being sub judice in the Hon’ble Court, the university has applied for procurement of records of this case on October 9,” added the statement.

The administration said that “as soon as as the official are available, the legal issues involved will be examined and necessary steps will be taken to resolve the issue”.

The university has suggested three options to the students so that the union can be restored: (a) the petitioner may withdraw the case from the High Court; (b) regular students presently on the rolls of the university may approach the court for seeking urgent relief; (c) the case being regular matter be left to be decided on merits as per its own terms.

“As the matter being sub-judice in the high court, it is therefore clarified that any action on part of the students or the respondent (the JMI) without any specific directive from the court will amount to contempt of the court,” the university said the statement, adding that its “hands are tied”.

First banned in 1996, the elections of Jamia Students’ Union were held again in December 2005 when noted scholar Mushirul Hassan was the vice chancellor. Few months after the new union was elected, it was dissolved. Since then, the union office in the campus is closed. In July 2012, the then vice chancellor Najeeb Jung, who is now the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, ruled out any possibility of a students’ union election stating that “there have been no such elections for the last four-five years. I have not studied the background of unions here”.

No place for dissent

The students alleged that their democratic rights were being curtailed and there was just one-way communication between them and the administration. They demanded that instead of eliminating the whole process, the varsity should at least allow political activism among students, in a manner that did not affect academic activities.

Last month, the university cancelled the admission of Dhrupadi Ghosh, who was pursuing PhD. She was a member of the Dayar-I-Shauq Students’ Charter (DISSC), a left-oriented political organisation. Her resistance art animated posters on state repression in Kashmir, shrinking democratic spaces in public universities and pro-imperialist government policies impacting agriculture.

On October 7, 2016, the Jamia administration “once again employed its age old weapon of show cause notice to suppress the dissenting and democratic voices of the students”.

“In a vindictive action in the aftermath of an open letter written at the time of the visit of HRD minister to inaugurate the new hostel, the administration served show cause notices to the students. Begum Hazrat Mahal Girls’ Hostel residents received the stern ridiculous warnings from the authority which ‘places itself above the society of students’. The reason of show cause was the protest over the visit of the minister,” said Talha Rehman, a student of the Department of Islamic Studies.

Few students were allegedly beaten up recently by university guards and proctorial department staff for organising a cultural programme.

Association for teaching and non-teaching staff, but not for students

Interestingly, Jamia has strong union of teachers and non-teaching staff. In the last decade, Jamia hardly saw any real mobilisation of students for a common cause. Even when the Occupy UGC movement (launched in October 2015 in response to a recommendation for scrapping the non-NET fellowship) was going on, the collective participation of JMI students was minimal.

The university authorities, including the V-C, argue that those who are wishing to practise politics on campus are doing so for political mileage and not to address actual students’ issues.

“The argument that students should focus on studies and leave politics is hilarious and shows the ignorance at best and unyielding attitude of the authorities at worst,” said Laraib Ahmad Neyazi, a member of the Joint Action Committee that has been formed to fight for students’ union on the campus.

“We demand a democratically and constitutionally elected students’ union that empowers every single student of JMI. For the past 11 years, students here are feeling powerless in the face of autocratic administrative decisions such as regular hike in the tuition and hostel fees, delayed announcement of semester exam results, scrapping of paper mark sheet, falling placement rate, improper health facilities, lack of hostels facilities for the students, meagre scholarship for needy and disabled students, unruly and rude behavior of clerical staffs, discriminatory rule towards the girls hostel residents and privatization of our university,” he told MuslimMirror.

According to Meeran Haider, an M.Phil student, “an undemocratic university is being created in a democratic country”.

“The consecutive administrations of the university have always tried to please and ingratiate the respective governments for personal benefits, betraying the vision of the founding fathers. In a nut shell, you can say in democratic India, an undemocratic university is being created,” he said.

What would have happened if a JNU-kind incident had occurred in Jamia? asked Haider, who is also co-convener and spokesperson of Jamia Students’ Forum (JSF), which is fighting for restoration of campus democracy.

“Perhaps , the institution would have been shut down by now and it would have turned into a war zone,” he said, concluding, “a community which has no participation in national politics and administrations ends up becoming slave and the same is happening with us”.

Another student, on the condition of anonymity, said the problem lies among the “so-called guardians of Jamia itself”. “They see the university as a launch pad for their own political ambitions. Student politics will pave the way for an assertive Muslim intelligentsia. And that would hamper their personal ambition,” he said.

University campus or cantonment?

Jamia has been virtually turned into a cantonment. Forget outsiders, even the students are asked to produce their ID cards on their every entry and exits. Media representatives are barred in the campus.

If they want to do any story, they will have to seek the permission from the university administration which asks specific details of the story.

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