Debate: AMU Needs its Students’ Union

A response to Md Sabeeh’s recent article in LiveWire ‘Why AMU Doesn’t  Deserve a Students’ Union’, published on December 5, 2019. 

There was recently an article which tried to justify the absence of the students’ union at Aligarh Muslim University. In this article, I wish to put forth why I disagree with what the writer had to say about the union, or lack thereof, in the article.

The first reason given is that the body has done nothing “except for calling out issues of national and international relevance”. But with the current dispensation at the Centre leaving no stone unturned to curb and censor debate and discussion on topics pertaining to national interest, is this really a reason to negate the relevance of the union?

We have seen motivated cases against human rights activists, lawyers and opposition leaders. Now, among the only places standing by the real ideals of democracy are a few universities and campuses where such debates are being held vociferously.

The union can be commended for doing whatever little it has, such as organising seminars on the National Register of Citizens issue, for which Vice-Chancellor of NALSAR University Faizan Mustafa was the chief guest.

The writer also said that the union was a “misrepresentation of the students”. In that case, I believe that all the political parties should be banned and not allowed to function because we witness such ‘misrepresentation’ every day.

For instance, the recently formed government of Maharashtra after endless dog fights is a misrepresentation of the people. Similar episodes have taken place in various states where alliances have been stitched together at the last minute – remember Nitish Kumar’s betrayal of the people’s mandate in Bihar?

More so, to say that the union is sought out only to impede the implementation of rules regarding attendance is misleading.

The unsolicited presence of the police when the university has its own proctorial team, in trifling matters has also made the filing of FIRs against students a common trait after every protest. This is the result of the absence of the students’ union.

Claiming that the union has not protested, that it only marches from the library canteen to the iconic Bab-e-Syed (the Gateway of Syed) against such wrong doings cloaks the brutality of police action on campus, which was unleashed when students protested against the disappearance of Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Najeeb Ahmed, and that of the goons and their attempted attack on former vice president Hamid Ansari (during the row over Jinnah’s portrait at AMU), is wrong.

With the Centre and state’s vitriol and the ruthless actions being meted out against any form of criticism, even a short protest march from the canteen to Bab-e-Syed is an act of valour.

Another reason sought to nullify the students union altogether is that the elected leaders pursue their own motto of joining mainstream politics. Many will agree that joining the mainstream politics is no child’s play and those who reach the helm of the political hierarchy come mostly from student politics – be it the late Arun Jaitley or Sitaram Yechury.

Just like it is the duty of the citizens of a country to elect those who have respect for democracy to ask questions of the government, it is the duty of the common students to choose students as their leaders who have respect for democratic values and who can maintain the legacy left behind by the union of 1998.

This can only be possible when common students take part wholeheartedly in the process of electing their leaders because the negation of the idea of a students’ union can never be an option.

Fahad Ghani is a second-year B.A. LLB student at Aligarh Muslim University.