Jamia Millia Islamia turns 100 this year, Students, Alumni, Professors, Teaching and Non-Teaching staff together rejoice for the glorious 100 years of this university. The story of its growth from a small institution in pre-independence India to a central university located in New Delhi—offering integrated education from nursery to research in specialized areas—is a saga of dedication, conviction, and vision of a people who worked against all odds and saw it growing step by step. They “built up the Jamia Millia stone by stone and sacrifice by sacrifice,” said Sarojini Naidu, the nightingale of India.
While the centenary year is being rejoiced, students of this university, Meeran Haider, Shifa ur Rehman, Safoora, Asif Iqbal, it is time to celebrate these warriors as well as they continue to combat injustice and fight for democracy, some from behind the bars, some in courts.
Earlier last year, in 2019, the right-wing ruling government Bhartiya Janata Party passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). It amended the Citizenship Act, 1955 by providing a path to Indian citizenship for illegal migrants of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities, who had fled persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan before December 2014. Muslims from those countries were not given such eligibility. The act was the first time religion had been overtly used as a criterion for citizenship under Indian law.
Jamia that has the legacy of fighting the English on the call given by Mahatma Gandhi didn’t fight CAA in line with the constitutional value of Right to Equality, students took to streets to fight this act.
While the movement was not accredited to one or two faces, student leaders at Jamia including Ph.D. Scholar Meeran Haider, Alumni Association of Jamia’s President (AAJMI) Shifa ur Rehman and a few others were regular faces at the protests, not just at Jamia but across different parts of the country. This was followed by the early 202 Delhi riots in parts of Northeast Delhi in which the investigating agencies seem to be in spoiled waters, the young pro-democracy students and activists are implicated and are currently under trial.
As Jamia completes the century, It is time to celebrate Meeran, Shifa, Safoora, Asif Tanha, and others that continue to fight on the values Gandhi Ji taught, for this nation!
Known for raising voice for students, Meeran even before CAA was seen as an active and just voice on the campus. Be it the 2016 entry of police in Jamia campus (illegal as termed by Jamia Proctor) or be it the demand for a democratic student body in campus for which Meeran sat on a hunger strike, risking his life, Meeran deserves a mention while we continue to conduct Mushairas celebrating Jamia.
Besides this, Meeran’s JSF (Jamia Student’s Forum) made sure that the university does not become another space to feed robotic commands but encourages debate and discussion, be it the discussion around AKhlaq’s lynching due to the rise of fringe post-2014, the the tragic suicide of Rohit Vemula, Meeran stood as a pertinent voice.
Raising awareness on campus related matters, the rise of extremism in the country, CAA, besides these, Meeran mobilized students to help new come to Jamia with admission related assistance by setting up help desks, helplines, etc.
I remember, on multiple occasions, Meeran used to quote Tagore and used to say with a light in his eyes that we collectively should strive towards Tagore’s vision. Leaving it here for you all:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
It’s been over 4 months now that Meeran is behind bars and is being investigated for his role in the Northeast Delhi riots, charged with draconian UAPA, as Jamia Millia Islamia turns 100, I would like to register that the campus do miss you Meeran, the campus do miss Shifa, the campus misses Asif. You all will come out clean!
Daud Arif is AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia Alumnus. He works as a Communications Expert on different National as well as International Media Projects.