A group of students in the Jamia Millia Islamia University have been on a hunger-strike for nine straight days demanding the administration to allow students’ elections. Although, the authorities managed to pacify the students, their fight for electoral rights on campus is far from over. The nine-day long hunger strike, which started on October 25, came to end on November 2 after the Vice-Chancellor, Talat Ahmad assured the students that the administration would engage in talks and try to resolve the issue. InUth got in touch with a few members of the Joint Action Committee, which had organised the hunger strike on the campus. Meeran Haider, one of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) members, who’s pursuing M Phil from the university told us that the V-C reassured that the administration wants to have a dialogue and a committee will be constituted to look into the matter.
If you’re unaware of the context, a few students in the Jamia Millia Islamia were protesting for setting up a Students’ Union as they want their voice to be heard. Unlike the Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia doesn’t have a Students’ Union since 2006. In 2006, the administration disbanded the union citing that it was hampering the academic growth. During the time when Najeeb Jung was the V-C (2009-2013), a group of students led by Hamidur Rahman filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court in 2012 demanding Students’ Union elections in the University.
According to an official press release dated 10 October, ” The entire record & documents pertaining to this case are not available in the official records. The writ petition is listed in the category of regular matter for final hearing. As such the matter being sub-judice in the Hon’ble Court, the University has applied for procurement of the records of this case on 9th October 2017…As soon as the official records are available from the High Court, the legal issues involved will be examined and necessary steps will be taken to resolve the issue as per the options available.”
Another JAC and NSUI member, Shamsee Musatafa, who’s a student of MA (Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy) in Jamia told us, “The V-C has promised not to file a counter petition in the court this time.” Although in an interview to the Indian Express on October 3, the V-C was quoted as saying, “Let them march… The matter is sub-judice, I cannot take any decision.”
On October 5, the JAC ran a two-day signature campaign on the University after which they got about 3,000 student signatures on the document demanding the constitution of a Students’ Union. We asked Haider if they have the support of all the 17,000 students of the University. To this Meeran responded saying, “It was not possible to get 17,000 signatures but of the 3,500-4,000 that we could reach out to, we got 3,000 signatures.”
“There were some students who said that the matter was sub-judice, so the protest doesn’t make sense. But they were just repeating what we have been hearing from the administration for so many years,” said Shamsee.
When asked about the matter being sub-judice, both Meeran and Shamsee said that the administration has been fooling students with this excuse. They sought legal advice on the matter and were apparently told that in allowing students’ elections wouldn’t amount to contempt of court.
“In fact, the University can be charged for contempt of court because during the Hamidur Rahman case, the administration agreed to constitute a students’ council (not a Students’ Union) but never worked towards it,” adds Shamsee.
As of now, a delegation of students will go and meet the V-C on Monday, November 6 to discuss the issue. When we asked Meeran about their further plan of action , Meeran says, “We have only ended the hunger strike, the struggle continues. We will not remain quiet.”