[Note: The following letter was initially sent to the Vice Chancellor on October, 10, 2011]
Jamia Millia Islamia
Sub: Allowing Students Union in Jamia Millia Islamia.
There are serious debates about Islam’s compatibility with democracy, and Muslim countries’ bad record on democracy has given the West an excuse to create an anti-Islam propaganda which has also resulted in Islamophobia. Also in our country, Muslim youth and students are being targeted for their alleged extremist activities which have been found baseless.
If we undergo a self-interrogation processes, it will also come as a fact that Muslim youth are far behind from their non-Muslim friends towards playing an active role in Indian society. Muslim students are not exposed to the social, economic, cultural and political challenges to the country and hence are not encouraged to respond to them in their capacity.
Is it not unfortunate that political leadership of Muslim community does not come from political processes and social engagement; rather it comes from religious establishments which remain largely isolated but respected mainly in their religious capacity?
The result is that Muslim community is suffering from bold, mature and innovative political leadership and the community is forced to stay in the age of clan-tribal politics.
Sir, as a student of this glorious institution, I am forced to ask you who is responsible for this long term backwardness and political disability? Why our leadership is not allowing their youth and students to be part of an active social engagement? Why are they not allowing our youth to participate in each and every social and cultural debates of the country? Why Muslim youth are forced to stay isolated from national political and social agenda? Why they are deprived to have their strong opinions on every issue of national and international importance? Why reasoned deliberation and critical engagement is not being allowed within institutions which have historically evolved out of political processes during our freedom struggle? Why democratic institutions for student community in Muslim administered colleges and universities and particularly in Jamia Millia Islamia are not allowed to develop?
Universities and colleges are the first space of training for democratic, intellectual and ideological exercises; however, unfortunately, the very principle of democracy and space for intellectual and ideological discussion has been throttled in our university.
Sir, this violation of our basic right to form students union in our colleges and universities does not only isolate Muslim community in India’s vibrant democratic space but also restrict their opportunities to prove their ability and skills to contribute to the nation building process. Apart from that, student community is treated like beggars and dependent workers for their small needs and regular complaints by university administration and authorities. Be it the issue of hostel accommodation, fellowship, mess issues, hygiene, and disbursal of student funds, and government schemes for students. This must not be acceptable for our wise leadership of the university. Despite the fact that Jamia has been collecting Student Union’s fund from students, but union election are not allowed.
I agree that some earlier experiments in forming student association have not yielded very positive result. But you will agree too that democratization is a continuous and evolving process. If there were any faults, that needs to be corrected, but not by dismantling the students union altogether.
It is my humble suggestion to the university administration that as a minority institution, our students must not be deprived of democratic space and exercise. They must not be rendered politically backward. Recent revolutions in the Arab World and anti-corruption uprising in India have proved that the youth have a constructive role to play in the society, best contribution for their country and it is just a matter of allowing them space and facilitate their political participation.
I would here also like to make it clear that I have no such political ambition and that as an M.Phil student I am anyway not eligible to contest.
I shall be grateful to hear your views and anticipate your positive response.
Thanks and Regard,
Afroz Alam Sahil
Convenor, Forum for Student Democracy.
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Forum-for-Student-Democracy/111995942241472
[Afroz Alam Sahil is an MPhil student at the Centre for the Study of Comparative Religions and Civilizations, JMI, and is also the Convenor for the Forum for Student Democracy (FSD), a student initiative to promote elections in university campuses of India. FSD believes that student elections inculcate the values of democracy, human rights and respect for political opposition in the young minds. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org]