Note: This article is in response to a recent story published on LiveWire ‘My Family Doesn’t Want Me to Give the Entrance Test for Jamia. Here’s Why’, where the author spoke about her family’s prejudices about the university.
Jamia Millia Islamia.
The name invokes a certain visual in the mind of those who are not familiar with the institution – of hijab and kurta-clad students, skull cap et al, who only speak in pure Urdu.
The real picture, however, is a bunch of students rushing to their classes, wearing whatever they feel comfortable in – from pyjamas to shorts.
‘Jamia is like family’
For Priyanjul Ojha, a 23-year-old postgraduate student of Hindi literature and a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad – the RSS’s student wing – the university is a home away from home. From Allahabad, Ojha says he is very open about his political views and that whenever he has faced criticism for his political ideology in the university, he has never never felt discriminated against or targeted for his religious identity.
A vegetarian, Ojha also spoke of how his friends would not eat meat around him until he told him that it was not a problem. “Jamia is like family, which I do not wish to leave,” he says.
Ojha’s experiences reflect a culture of inclusivity that JMI – a university born out of India’s freedom struggle – has long strived for. They also contradict political and religious stereotypes often associated with Jamia, a university which over the years has emerged as one of the top educational institutions in the country.
Accommodating diversity and choices
Before joining the M.A. convergent journalism programme, Karan Anand, 24, who graduated from Jamia last year, says he had a different perception of the university. Before joining, he had assumed it would be a conservative space. Instead, he found that this was not the case.
“I had studied in Delhi University earlier, but Jamia was way more liberal – not only in its politics, but also its values,” he says.
Shreya Gupta, a 22-year-old student of mass communication, shares a similar arc with respect to her notions about the university.
“I did not have any prejudice, but still wore a kurta-pyjama for the entrance examination,” said Gupta, who initially thought her usual wardrobe of jeans and shirts would be an anomaly in a university perceived as a minority institution.
“When I got there, I saw people coming in shorts,” she says, adding that she never had to “adjust with any part of her identity” thereafter.
Perceptions and narratives about women students being forced to wear a hijab, Anand believes, are being pushed to malign the image of the university, “Just like they [elements with vested interests] did to JNU [Jawaharlal Nehru University].”
He firmly believes that despite being a target, the quality of education in the university speaks for itself. “The HRD rankings prove it,” adds Anand.
Monika Mani Tripathi, a 24-year-old law student, agrees with him. “The ranking and the quality of education is the reason why my parents never questioned it. In fact, my brother has also applied here,” she says.
“Of course, some individuals can be conservative. However, Jamia as an institution is way progressive than what many might think based on how the media projects its image,” she adds.
Differences are a discovery
Akanksha Mishra, 24, graduated in English literature in 2018, but she remembers that before coming to the university, she was anxious that she might get influenced by the opinions of others. However, her mother explained to her that she was joining an educational institution and she should only think of it that way.
Mishra says coming to Jamia was a “cultural shock for her, but a positive one”. There were many new things for her to learn, which, she says, amused her.
“When you enter the university, your biases dissolve,” adds Mishra.
For Shalinee Kumari, the university is “everything that an ideal educational institution should be”. Kumari is a 22-year-old student of M.A. convergent journalism, and she says that Jamia gave her the opportunity to interact with people from different cultures, making her more culture sensitive.
Rashi and Aman Pandey are postgraduate students of convergent journalism at AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia.
Featured image credit: Wikimedia