Published: 31st October 2017
Ten years after their Student Union was outlawed, here's why Jamia Milia students have resorted to an indefinite hunger strike
With no Student Union to represent their woes, Jamia's hunger strike and current plight for justice may serve as a grim reminder as to what will happen if JNU and UoH banish their Unions
Politics is a word that is almost synonymous with JNU — it pretty much runs in the veins of its students. And exactly 12 kilometres away there's Jamia Millia Islamia University, which has been fighting merely to have a student union for the last decade. You read that right. TEN whole years.
To drive that demand home, the students of Jamia are on the sixth day of their hunger strike demanding that the administration allow a student union to be set up at the University. However, their efforts are yet to gain any attention from the University management.
What happened to the Union?
In 2006, the administration banned student unions on campus after they developed issues with the then student union. Subsequently, in 2011, a group of students filed a case in Delhi High Court demanding the right to hold elections and elect a Student Union. Since the case continues to be pending in court, the administration has made it (case pending status) a never-ending excuse whenever it comes to listening to their students' demands.
Gandhi's way: Meeran Haider is nowhere close to giving up on his fast till a Union is constituted
The students have held protests on off over the last two years but when holding protests was also banned by the administration, the students said they had no other go but to go on a hunger strike. And that's when Meeran Haider, an MPhil student got into the act — by starting the fast that students have since flocked to, "The VC keeps saying that he doesn't want the campus to get political because he fears that people from outside the campus would get involved. But how can a University function when there is no student representation in any aspect of the functioning of the college?" he questioned.
Hello Mr VC, when can we catch up?
The students say that in the last few years they have felt like they have been under a dictatorship. From organising Marches to submitting a memorandum to approaching every open door possible, the students have done it all. " Every time we approach the administration to consider an election, they dismiss us by saying that the case is pending in court. Therefore they can't do anything. The VC never agrees to meet us either. We gave them a deadline of October 15 and they haven't bothered to get back to us so now there is no other go other than to fast," Haider said.
The students have held protests on off over the last two years but when holding protests was also banned by the administration, the students said they had no other go but to go on a hunger strike.
"Last year we found that the entrance exam papers were leaked on Facebook. But the issue just got buried like all others. No problem is ever addressed. The VC is running Jamia like it is a private college," Haider added. Funnily enough, the students are still charged a fee of Rs 50 every year as a contribution to the student council.
"We have issues with the hostel, basic facilities are not there. We don't have enough hostel accommodation. We have regular fee hikes for no reason at all. The exam results are delayed unnecessarily. We desperately need a student union to represent us on these issues, " said Ihsan UI Ithisam, an undergraduate student.
JNU Solidarity: Umar Khalid addressing the protests from outside the University gates
State of the Union
Ateeb Khan, a Masters student has also been fasting for the last two days, "The administration is asking a few students to go meet the VC. We have no representative, we want the VC to come meet us here and agree to have an election." he said and added, "The VC keeps acting like the court has said that we cannot hold elections. A verdict hasn't been given in the case but there are enough and more reasons as to why we need a Student Union. That should be enough for the administration to allow an election," said Meeran.
On Monday, JNU's Umar Khalid also addressed the Jamia students and supported their struggle. Despite the students receiving very little attention from the administration, they vow to continue fighting.