Students go on Hunger Strike As Jamia celebrates 97th foundation day

Written by Daud Arif | Published on: October 30, 2017
Jamia Millia Islamia, a central university in the heart of the national capital, is all set to celebrate its 97th foundation day with a grand schedule of programs and events lined up for the two day event. However, a section of students are holding a protest, demanding a democratic students union, something that the university last had about 12 years ago.

A few students have gone on a hunger strike for the last 72 hours, demanding an announcement of elections on campus. These protesting students claim that their struggle is the actual celebration of the foundation day of the university, since the campus was built amidst demand for democracy against the colonial rule that existed in the country prior to 1947.
Students took to social media making an appeal to join the “Real Foundation Day Celebration”

Quoting from the historical literature available with reference to the setting up of Jamia Millia Islamia, the students expressed that Jamia was set up against the feudal and imperialist forces during the Non Cooperation Movement of 1917.  With the foundation day round the corner, the protesting students have made an appeal to be a part of what they term as a Non Cooperation movement of the time. The students further said that the movement symbolizes fighting for the ideals of Jamia Millia Islamia, to celebrate the character of dissent that Jamia symbolises.
But it appears that the students and the administrators of the university are at an impasse. However, certain dimensions are worth exploring.

The University’s standpoint
In response to the demand of the students, the University  issued a clarification on October 23rd after obtaining the official documents of the Writ Petition No.917/2012 titled “Hamidur Rahman Vs. JMI” from the High Court of Delhi.
“A group of nine students have intervened in the Writ Petition and filed an application dated February 2012 praying to present their case in the larger academic interest of Jamia. In paragraph 9 of the said application, these students have opposed any direction system of elections in the Jamia Millia Islamia. This application was admitted on record by the High Court of Delhi,” Jamia Millia said in an official release.
In a layman’s language, Jamia is of the view that since the matter is subjudice, any decision on the matter would mean as contempt of court, therefore it cannot entertain the demands.
It is interesting to note that Jamia Millia can withdraw its position from the court, bringing an end to the ongoing case that is dead for years now, and thus announce election, but the intention so far seems otherwise.

The Campus is not ready for student politics 
An often cited argument in the discourse around demands of election is that the campus is not ready to absorb the politics and it might end up doing more harm than good to the varsity. But if one was to counter question asking about the indicators one must look for in order to declare a university fit for elections, the argument goes silent.
Interestingly, a major chunk of professors in Jamia come from diverse backgrounds hailing from various central and state level universities. For instance the present Vice Chancellor Professor Talat Ahmad hails from Aligarh Muslim University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, both these universities having active student politics, but what keeps them so apprehensive about restoring it in Jamia is a question that deserves an answer.
Is there really a need for students union?
A frequently asked question both in the administration as well as in the student community is that of why is it that a union is required on a space that is meant for imparting education.
A response to this could be, irrespective of the ideology one comes from, left right or centre, spaces that impact education have to be the very space from where one should learn politics, or if not, how are we to expect students of today to turn into leaders of tomorrow.
While these dimensions continue to remain a matter of debate, the ground at Jamia Millia Islamia on one hand is all decorated, well lit and ready to kick off its 97 foundation day. On the other hand, there are students who continue to agitate, giving up food, on the land that once stood for revolution, now turned cold as winter hits Delhi...
(Daud Arif is a Mass Communication student at Jamia Millia Islamia, he can be reached at [email protected])