Mohd Aasif | Clarion India
NEW DELHI – Having completed a century of service to higher education in the country, Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) has come of age. Celebrations to commemorate the august occasion could not held due to the ongoing lockdown in the country.
Dr. M. Irfan Qureshi, Joint Secretary of Jamia Teachers’ Association (JTA), who is teaching in the University for the last 14 years, told Clarion India that “Along with other centenary celebration programmes, we organised an international conference in the month of February but due to lockdown, some of our programmes had to be held in online mode and few got cancelled.”
In the month of December, police crackdown on the campus sparked an anti-CAA movement turning Jamia into its epicenter. The institution has hogged the limelight for reasons other than academics. During the nationwide lockdown clamped as a preventive step against coronavirus, the Delhi Police have arrested many a anti-CAA-NRC-NPR activists.
Jamia research scholars, Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar, student of Persian literature Asif Iqbal Tanha and president of Alumni Association of Jamia Shifaur Rehman were booked under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Apart from them, several others were called for investigation and their phones were seized.
The Jamia Coordination Committee on 100th year of Jamia stormed twitter with #StandWithJamia, condemning the arrest of students of JMI and activists of the anti-CAA movement on 23 May 2020. The campaign #StandWithJamia remained on number one trending with more than 51 thousand tweets and the number reached more than one hundred fifty one thousand tweets.
The Jamia and its students have remained a target of government’s offensive, yet most of the faculties and students don’t see the arrests as a taboo. “It shows that people have not sold their morale if we had no one would dare to touch us,” said Dr. M. Irfan Qureshi.
“All the great leaders had to spend their days in jail for speaking against the wrongs so do students,” he added.
Activist Dr. Umar Khalid compared the arrests of Jamia students with the arrests made during British rule in India. His tweet reads: “As Jamia students Meeran, Safoora, Asif & many anti-CAA activists are in jail, recalling Mahatma Gandhi’s words whose call for non-cooperation led to establishment of Jamia: ‘When a large number of innocents are in jail, we may take it that Swaraj is at hand’.”
The institution has always been stereotyped as ‘University of Muslims’. Yet, students even from non-Muslims community reject the idea. Dr. Irfan says that a false perception of Jamia prevails in the society but students start loving once they get admission.
“My stereotype of Jamia being an extremist university got broken once I got admission here.” Sumedha Poddar, a student of Faculty of Humanities. She feels grateful to be the student of Jamia.
Dr. Mukesh Mirotha, one of the students turned faculty of Jamia said that Jamia gives them the strength to fight back the challenges. Replying to the fact that Jamia has become a political center he further added, “It is our divine duty to make aware our students about issues at national and international level.”
Several organisations and individuals of repute have tweeted condemning the arrests during lockdown. Gurmehar Kaur, one of the peace activists, tweeted, “This lockdown is being used for sinister ends and we must never forget the kind of work they continue to do.” Ms. Kaur has been a target for the trolls as she posted against Indo-Pak war and its tragedies.
— Gurmehar Kaur (@mehartweets) May 23, 2020
Jamia, as the protesters claim, has played a vital role during the freedom movement of India. “It has been doing this since the Azaadi days. This scares BJP and RSS the most. That is the reason they are hell bent in curbing voices from Jamia,” tweets Saiful Islam, a law student at Jamia and member of JCC.
The institution carries forward the legacy. “Jamia doesn’t produce robots. It produces students that think, raise questions, debate and discuss,” added Islam.
However, anti-CAA movement has been projected as an act of sedition by the saffron brigade. Many tried to attack the protesters. In an attack, one of students of mass communication got injured by a gunshot fired with a country made pistol. Still, the protest continued and protesters have faith in their doing.
Justifying their protest, Saiful Islam said, “There is nothing unlawful about practicing your democratic rights, but Jamia students are slapped with sedition and UAPA bookings.” He wonders as to Why is the government against students?
Mother of Rohith Vemula, Radhika Vemula, paralleling the struggles of Jamia with her son, says that she is enraged to see similar attacks and arrests of Jamia students calling the regime as ‘brahmanical’.
My son Rohith was martyred in struggle for inclusive education. He was vilified & hounded. Today I am enraged to see similar attacks & arrests of Jamia students by brahminical regime. They don't want students from marginalised communities to get higher education. #StandWithJamia
— Radhika Vemula (@vemula_radhika) May 23, 2020
Arrest of Jamia students has been called arbitrary and a tool to stifle the voices of students. Jignesh Mevani, MLA – Vadgam Assembly Constituency, Gujarat, in his tweets argues in the same direction. “It is well known to BJP that attack on educational institutions is the prime step to destroy a society,” claims Mevani in his tweet, terming the act as “shameful”.