New Delhi - On December 15th, it has been four years since the police and paramilitary forces used harsh violence against students at Jamia Millia Islamia University. Many feel the university has not been the same anymore. Remembering the violent day that feels like just yesterday, members from the fraternity have expressed concerns regarding the university space. The Mooknayak spoke to Ghufrana Yasmin, Mantasha Naseem, and Waqas Khalid, who have successfully completed both their undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Jamia Millia Islamia. They have experienced both the celebrated aspects of Jamia and the diminishing perception, influenced by its history of student protests.
Mantasha said, “The presence of CRPF personnel around our campus, which used to be an open and welcoming space, is deeply unsettling. This shift began with the anti-CAA and NRC protests. We witnessed situations that drastically changed our perspective on security and authority. The impact of these protests, combined with the challenges brought by the pandemic, has led to a more constrained atmosphere.”
Filled with nostalgia, Mantasha then remarked, “The vibrant and democratic expression that Jamia was known for seems to be getting suppressed. Phrases like 'mahaul theek nahi hain' are now commonly heard. It's disheartening to see the protest graffiti, once a symbol of our voice and resistance, being erased. The events of 15 December were a turning point. Any illusions of safety and sanctuary within the campus walls were shattered.”
Ghufrana feels, “there was socialization inside the campus but that is not there anymore. The name of the institute is the only thing remaining, with the reputation dwindling. I personally feel the students and staff of Jamia have been through a lot of isolation- physically by force and the pandemic, emotionally because of the experiences not being understood by other university students.”
Waqas Khalid said, “At the beginning, the environment of our college was such that you would not want to come back home. Like every other government university, you used to have spaces where people from different margins could come together and have a conversation. The violence mixed with the consequences of the pandemic provided enough excuses to the administration to not open up hostels, canteens, and so on until late 2021, providing no space for people to come together.”
The Mooknayak further spoke to a faculty member who wished to remain anonymous. Talking about the dip in quality, the professor expressed, “According to NAAC rankings, Jamia is doing very well. The deterioration is not a visible one and unfortunately, is not just with Jamia but with other central universities such as JNU and DU as well. I find a dip at the administrative level and not just the teaching. Freedom of speech is the soul of every institution, and it is unfortunate that we are going through it.” Other professors we tried to reach out to decided not to comment on it.
15th December is Celebrated as a Black Day by the Student Community: Reflecting on the dreadful day, Khalid remarked, “15th December started off in a slower note. I remember sitting with a few friends of mine and not thinking much about it. Suddenly, multiple people came running in and entered the campus through gate no. 7. I went a little ahead, and people started telling me to rub salt on my face so that tear gas does not affect me. I crossed the gate and saw armed forces running towards us with guns and laathis, and I took a step back. The guards then got us in and closed the gates. Police beat them up, broke the gates, and entered the campus. Students who were inside gate no.7 were not only the ones who were protesting but also students who had come to study at the library as it was the exam season.”
“Some even entered from Gate no. 1 and Gate no. 8 and started beating up whoever they could find, even some common people who had just come to offer namaaz at the mosque near gate no. 8. Tear gas was used against people, even in the library. Now, the library is a closed space, and using gases there will have a more significant impact on the individuals.”
Waqas explained, “CAA-NRC protests in Jamia Millia Islamia had started from a girl’s hostel on 10th December 2019. At that time, student protests were very common, and no one used to bat an eyelid. Protests used to go till the Vice-Chancellor’s office. The next set of protests took place on 13th December, where police beat up people who were a part of the rally. It was on 15th December when the violence took a severe turn.”