Yesterday evening, women residents of Jamia Millia Islamia’s newly built J&K hostel started banging their hostel gates to protest against the administration over a wide-range of issues.
According to a student’s collective Pinjra Tod, women hostellers are not allowed to have coolers in their rooms, the quality of food is bad and there are restrictions with regard to access to the garden area inside the hostel.
Students had to come out in huge numbers after the administration turned a blind eye to their demands, said Pinjra Tod.
On March 29, Pinjra Tod wrote an open letter to JMI’s newly appointed vice-chancellor Najma Akhtar requesting her to not align herself with the regressive guidelines of the old administration.
The letter came out in response to some of Akhtar’s recent decisions, interviews and statements which, as students say, violated their basic rights.
The letter details a series of anti-curfew protests held within the college campus in the past four years. Last year, students came together to protest against discriminatory curfew hours for women residents and the absence of student councils in the university.
The protests in Jamia, as the letter states, kickstarted student-led agitations in other colleges in India too.
“Hidyatullah National Law College, Kottayam Medical College and several National Institue of Technology have also been organising simultaneously. At this moment, your appointment obviously makes us hope you will stand on our side of history,” said the letter.
The letter highlights Akhtar’s statements and remarks which, they assert, go against the democratic ethos of an educational institution.
Within the first week of her appointment, Jamia’s hostels put up new notices asking female students to dress ‘decently’ in common spaces within the hostel.
Similarly, as the letter states, the administration continues to scuttle the free movement of female hostellers by locking them up in their rooms after 10:30 pm.
“This [hostel curfews] is a violation of our rights, and results in unequal access to university resources such as the library, sports complexes and laboratories. Tell us, why women students continue to be treated as only additional stakeholders in the University, unfairly policed to be limited by infrastructural barriers?” says the letter.
The collective also expressed its disappointment over Akhtar’s recent comments about removing certain courses in order to ‘modernise’ the university.
Her statements, as the letter describes, tend to align with the agenda of pushing the university towards privatisation when “it is the government that must be pulled up for disinvesting in primary and higher education, it is the government that must ensure access to education.”
The collective has appealed Akhtar to fulfil some of their demands which the previous administrations ignored.
About a month ago, students held a protest outside the department of applied arts against its head, Hafeez Ahmed, for making lewd comments, intimidating and regionally discriminating against students.
However, the administration didn’t take any measures to solve the issue.
Therefore, the letter demands that Akhtar immediately constitute an autonomous sexual harassment redressal complaints committee in the campus within her tenure.
Secondly, with regard to the repeated subjugation of minority institutions in the country such as JMI and Aligarh Muslim University, the letter demands that the new VC rise “above bureaucratic challenges, and ideological pressures and work for Jamia Millia Islamia and not against it.”
Finally, the letter appeals to her to re-institute independent and fair elections for a student union in the university.
“It has been a long standing demand across quarters and students organisations, that Jamia does not have student union that can represent the student community as an important voice in decision making. We hope you will comply with this at the soonest,” says the letter.
Shedding light on the importance of having student councils in university spaces, the letter concludes by saying: “The student community will be watching you.”
You can read the full letter here:-
Pinjra Tod’s Open Letter on Scribd
Featured image credit: Twitter