Made me feel like an outcast: Called a terrorist by JNU prof, Kashmiri student demands apology

Aejaz Rather, who is the General Secretary of the JNUSU, says the professor interrogated him and his friends unnecessarily and asked for their ID cards
Aejaz is a third year PhD student from the Centre of Historical Studies
Aejaz is a third year PhD student from the Centre of Historical Studies

The General Secretary of the JNUSU has accused a professor of hurling Islamaphobic comments at him and insinuating that he is a 'terrorist'. Aejaz Ahmad Rather claimed that the professor, who teaches at JNU, had suddenly stopped her car where he was sitting with four other friends and began to call them names for "misbehaving".

According to 29-year-old Aejaz, he and his friends were sitting at a canteen at around 2.30 pm on December 26 when the car pulled up next to them. The canteen is situated near the Centre for the Study of Law & Governance, which is where the professor, Amita Singh teaches. "She said we didn't look like JNU students and asked us where we were from and our backgrounds. Then she called us vulgar and uncultured, " he said. She then apparently repeatedly demanded that they show her their ID cards, which they claim was unnecessary. 

"Having been a student of the university for many years, we are well aware of the functions and jurisdiction of the faculty members as well as students. When Singh persisted with her forced interrogation, we asked her what authority she had to demand that we show our identity cards and why should we, as registered students, agree to such surveillance," Aejaz said. 

According to her faculty page on the JNU website, Amita Singh joined the university in 2001 and specialises in Political Theory and Administration. In 2017, she had allegedly courted controversy when she made damaging remarks about Dalits and Muslims. Being the General Secretary of the University's Student Union and a PhD student who has been at JNU for very long, Aejaz claims there is little chance that Singh did not recognize him, "We've seen each other at so many meetings, how can she pretend like she doesn't know me?"

Fighting Together: The JNUSU has also called for protests in the matter, the JNUTA is backing them too

The student, who is from Kashmir, claimed that Singh tried to personally target him and allegedly even when to the extent of saying — "from your appearance it looks like you are a convict in ten bomb blast cases and that is why you are not telling your name”

However, the professor denies these accusations and in a tweet has said that she had only asked the students to stop smoking. "A professor asks students not to smoke. They misbehave and in two hours social media is splattered with calling me things anti-Muslim/ Islamophobic," she said in her tweet. She also went on to accuse the JNUTA president of being unfair to her by supporting the student.

Aejaz said that Amita Singh’s actions have deeply affected him especially because he comes from a difficult background, "I've struggled a lot to come here, to be able to study in a university like JNU. If a member of the JNU faculty is making me feel like an outcast by questioning my social background, it is not just violation of my fundamental rights that the constitution provides through Article 15, but also a violation of human rights." 

Showing solidarity with Aejaz, the JNUTA issued a statement that said — This incident amounts to profiling of students from different regions and religious persuasions. This alleged behaviour by Prof. Amita Singh is clearly against the mandate provided by the JNU Act and disrupts the process of teaching and learning in the JNU campus. Prof. Singh’s conduct is unacceptable, shameful, and is completely unbecoming of a teacher. JNUTA stands in solidarity with Mr. Rather.

In response to the statement, Singh claimed the JNUTA was "pursuing a highly illegal and dangerous path in connivance with JNUSU to create fake news" and even demanded the President's resignation. In another tweet, she said she was ashamed to see "JNU being used by some faculty leaders as a platform for hate, discrimination, violence to serve their narrow political interests."

However, the students are demanding a public apology from the professor.

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