The students of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) are resorting to desperate measures, in view of their demand for a students’ union not being met. After protesting for the whole of October, students from the Joint Action Committee (JAC), an umbrella organisation of almost 16 student groups, went on a hunger strike on campus on Wednesday.
On October 5, a huge protest march had been organised for the reinstatement of the students’ union (which was banned in 2006) and the students had even given an ultimatum of October 10 to the authorities. But, the varsity failed to meet their demands, saying the matter was out of its hands as the case is sub judice. A writ petition filed in 2012 for holding students’ union elections is pending in the Delhi High Court. Consequently, hundreds of students gathered at the central canteen in support of the demand, which was followed by a call by the JAC on Wednesday at 3.30 pm.
Meeran Haider, an MPhil student and convener of Jamia Students’ Forum, believes that having a students’ union is a democratic right. “We have the right to an elected students’ union and I am sure that 17,000 students of JMI would agree with the same,” said Haider.
The protest saw people joining in from outside the campus, such as alumnus Jawad Ali Khan, and a professor from Delhi University, Ratan Lal. The march continued till the night with the president of Aligarh Muslim University Students’ Union, Faizul Hasan, joining as well. By that time, three students – Meeran Haider, Shamsee Mustafa and Imran Ahmad Kranti – had begun their hunger strike on the main campus, at gate 7.
JMI is the sole varsity in Delhi-NCR which doesn’t have a students’ union as it was banned in 2006. Following the years of struggle for the same by students, university vice-chancellor Talat Ahmad had said in an interview three years ago that he would bring back the union in Jamia – a promise that is yet to be fulfilled.
The varsity authorities often ask students’ representatives to withdraw the petition filed in the high court in 2012 by a Bachelor’s student, Hamidur Rahman, raising the demand. However, the protesting students ask how a petition from a former JMI student matters when the university has autonomous power?
Though the primary demand is for a students’ union, a lot of other issues were raised at the recent protests, such as constant fee hikes, delay in result declaration and increasing number of private seats. “The students’ union had been banned in the university because the administration believed the council was getting involved in issues where it had no business butting in, but the absence of a union in 2017 has not improved conditions at all,” said Mohammed Danish, a protester.