The BJP Leader and also a pass-out from Jamia Millia Islamia, Madam Shazia Ilmi accused the Jamia Millia University of dropping her name from the list of speakers who were to speak at an event about ‘Triple Talaq’ on campus, which was scheduled to take place on 16 February 2017 but was later postponed to 28 February.
Shazia, in her statement, said that this was a clear violation of her right to freedom of speech and expression. Taking a dig at the Jamia students, she further expressed her discontent with the fact that it is only the ABVP (BJP’s student wing) that is criticised for being intolerant, whereas in this case, the Jamia Millia Islamia and its students have been intolerant towards her.
I strongly agree with what Shazia has expressed. In fact, I am happy that she does understand that it is important to practice the Right to Freedom of Speech in a democracy. But before we allow the ‘Hashtag Intolerant Jamia’ to trend on Twitter and Facebook, we need to assess the facts surrounding the controversy.
Fact #1: Program was NOT Organised by Jamia
The program was not being organised by Jamia Millia Islamia University, but by an organisation named FORUM FOR AWARENESS OF NATIONAL SECURITY (FANS), an RSS affiliated organisation. Therefore, the question of dropping her name from the list of speakers should be posed to the organisation and not the varsity.
Fact #2 Not All Jamia Students Were Opposed to the Event
Shazia accused the students at Jamia Millia to have created a ruckus on the campus to oppose the program. Some mainstream news portals ran the story without proper verification. The students on campus who were attending the event denied the allegation. In fact many Jamia’ites, including both Muslims and Hindu students, lauded and shared pictures of the event being organised successfully.
(One may refer to the screenshots from Rahul Tiwari’s wall, in which he appreciated the efforts of the university, but he later deleted the post for reasons best known to him.)
Fact #3 Shazia’s Name Was Dropped Long Back
Her name was dropped from the list of speakers long back. In fact, the new banner, with the revised dates and list of speakers, was being circulated both online and offline all these days. Why did she wait all these days only to rage the controversy, right when the Ramjas was witnessing fierce clashes?
Fact #4 Students Are Not Part of the Controversy
In the revised list of speakers, not just her, but BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi’s name was also dropped. I wonder why that was the case, and why has she been silent all this while.
Moreover, there is a very strong opinion doing the rounds across the campus that if in any case, the Jamia administration is involved in cancelling her lecture, it has got nothing to do with the students. Students on campus are of the view that anyone and everyone must be allowed to express their perspective. This is evident by the fact that there was a good turnout on the day of the event and a healthy discussion did take place.
Targeting the University
I find the fabrication of the controversy to meet the larger ongoing process by the government at the centre to target the university and portray it in a negative light. This is not for the first time that the ruling government has gone with all guns against Jamia. Last year, Jamia was dragged to news for its minority status. Also in August 2016, there was a raid conducted by the IB and Delhi Police at Jamia Hostels against which the students had protested.
I wish to appeal to the larger student community not to get carried away with the ideologies, be it left, right or centre. Instead, apply logic and then dissect the happenings. One is certain to find a larger web out there with a target to dismantle one of the strongest forces of opposition in the country – the Student Community!
(The author is a Mass Communication student at AJK-MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia and can be reached @daudarif_da. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)