One of the least talked about topics in higher education landscape is how Jamia Millia Islamia university‘s character has changed in the past one decade. A central university established by an Act of Parliament via the Jamia Millia Islamia Act of 1988, administered by acts and statutes of the Union government and funded by the consolidated fund of India has now essentially become an institute "by the minorities, for the minorities and of the minorities".
Jamia reserves 50 per cent seats in admissions to students belonging to the Muslim community (30 per cent seats in each programme for Muslim applicants, 10 per cent for Muslim women applicants and 10 per cent for Muslims hailing from Other Backward Classes or OBCs and Scheduled Tribes or STs).
In addition, 5 per cent seats are reserved (over and above regular seats) for those who pass their Class X/XII from Jamia schools, another 5 per cent for Kashmiri migrants — capped at two seats per programme and similar number of seats for candidates from Jammu and Kashmir (separate category from Kashmiri migrants). Similarly, 10 per cent (over and above regular seats) can be filled with students from foreign countries. Five per cent of seats are reserved for students with disabilities.
This wasn’t the case a decade back. From 1988 to 2011, Jamia followed the reservation policy of the Union government not only in admission of students but also in appointments and promotions of teaching and non-teaching staff. In 2011, the National Commission for Minority Education Institutes (NCMEI) awarded the coveted minority status to Jamia after which the university scrapped the reservations for SCs/STs.
NCMEI itself is a communal body which works on ‘of the minority, for the minority’ principle. Set up in 2004 through an ordinance by the Sonia Gandhi-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, this body cannot have a Hindu as its member or chairperson as per Section 4 of the NCMEI Act.
In 2014, after a resolution in the university executive council, reservation in appointment and promotion of teaching staff was also stopped. Not only that, Jamia even closed the SC/ST cell of the institute. All the teaching and non-teaching staff from these communities which had been appointed on the constitutional promise that they will be given preference in promotions have been betrayed in the process.
It is important to underscore here the fact that the university continues to be governed by the Jamia Millia Islamia Act of 1988, Section 7 of which clearly states that the "University shall be open to persons of either sex and of whatever race, creed, caste or class, and it shall not be lawful for the University to adopt or impose on any person any test whatsoever of religious belief or profession in order to entitle him to be admitted therein as a teacher or student, or to hold any office therein or to graduate there at". (emphasis mine)
In 2011 itself, NCMEI‘s award of minority status to Jamia was challenged in the Delhi High Court and the matter is still sub judice which puts further question mark on Jamia’s actions to unilaterally change the character of the institution where President of India is still the Visitor.
“The Centre continues to assert that Jamia is a central university. There haven't been any amendments in the Jamia Millia Islamia Act of 1988. NCMEI’s action is prima facie illegal. Only the parliament can make changes to the original act. Since that hasn’t happened, and the matter is sub judice, Jamia doesn’t have the right to assume that it’s a minority institution. Moreover, the constitutional rights of SC/ST faculty who are working in the institution cannot be taken away like this and they cannot be converted into ‘general category’ overnight,” Niyati Sharma, a lawyer who is assisting the SC/ST staff at Jamia in mounting a legal challenge, tells Swarajya.
Thanks to the changes in the admission and appointment process of teachers, the demographics of Jamia have tilted completely in favour of Muslims.
“This is not just about the SC/ST community. Let me tell you what I feel as a teacher. It’s an issue that has wider implications for the country because it has adversely impacted the demographics of the university. Jamia is located in Delhi and the ideological base that’s forming here, the dogmas that are being cemented can no longer be opposed by the tiny minority that is now left in the campus. Earlier, we used to have 30-40 per cent strength of non-Muslims in each programme. Now, it’s barely 10-15 per cent. And now that the religious composition of the staff has changed, they have increased the reservation for children of Jamia employees in admissions,” a professor at Jamia tells Swarajya on the condition of anonymity for he doesn’t feel safe to voice his opinion.
What’s happening in Jamia is oddly reminiscent of the changes that took place in Kashmir valley where Pandits were slowly reduced to an ineffective minority. They could no longer resist Islamic radicalism on their own. But at least they could inform the Indian state authorities about terror sympathisers and their nefarious plans. This led to the final ethnic cleansing of the community in the late 80s. Already, the minuscule minority of Hindu students and teachers that is left at Jamia, can no longer speak openly. One wouldn’t be surprised if they are religiously targeted for revealing the radicalism that’s being cemented in the institution.
“The main issue is that this development is detrimental to national integration. Moral, ethical, legal and national interest — on all grounds, this is a grave concern. Remember the role played by Aligarh Muslim University in the creation of Pakistan. Let me tell you Jamia is being created as a fertile ideological ground for another partition of the country in 10-15 years. The progenitor of that movement will be Jamia. The anti-CAA protests were just a water testing project,” the professor warns.
“Not just the students but university faculty was involved in the whole thing, otherwise, how can students dare participate in communal protests and shout slogans in a central university without the patronage of their teachers. We saw it closely. It’s the permanent faculty which was behind the formation of Jamia Coordination Committee and they were constantly devising ways to provide intellectual, financial, legal support and how to garner international media coverage. That’s what the teachers did 24x7,” the professor adds.
The role of Jamia in anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protests which culminated in riots in north-east Delhi is now well known thanks to investigations carried out by Delhi Police Special Crime Branch.
On 12 December, Jamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha had given a call for march on Parliament for the next day. It was to start from Jamia university and for which Sharjeel Imam, another accused in the anti-CAA riots conspiracy, mobilised Muslim students from other universities in Delhi including Jawaharlal Nehru University. The pamphlet distributed for the rally read, “thousands of Muslim youth are ready to disrupt Delhi which will give international media attention to our issue.” This is exactly what happened. The protest turned violent and as many as 20 cops sustained injuries.
On 15 December, in a meeting at Jamia, it was decided that more organisations of Jamia will be roped in, teams will be sent to Saharanpur and Deoband to reach out to institutions there and meet Bhim Army chief. The strategic plan to block the Shaheen Bagh road was also taken in the meeting. This was just the beginning.
In the chargesheet filed in the court, Delhi Police has detailed the role played by Jamia Coordination Committee in mobilisation of Muslim women and children so that 24x7 sit-in protest sites are created across Delhi. This was done in collaboration with the imams of local mosques in Delhi.
Delhi Police also discovered later that Alumni Association of Jamia Millia Islamia (AAJMI) played an important role in funding protests and riots. The accused Shafi Ur Rahman is the president of this association. Between 1 December 2019 to 26 February 2020, AAJMI received Rs 760,000 as cash out of which it got Rs 555,000 from alumni working in Saudi, the UAE, Oman and Qatar but this amount was not deposited in the bank accounts of AAJMI and was spent in funding the anti-CAA protests.
During the investigation, the police also seized fake bills of the expenses worth Rs 169,554 in the name of AAJMI. “This shows that the accused had tried to cover up his mistakes,” the chargesheet reads.
(For comprehensive details about the role of Jamia in anti-CAA protests and riots in Delhi, read and )
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