Fear of uncertain future haunts AMU students, teachers

AMU students protesting at the university gate on Saturday.

AMU students protesting at the university gate on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: de15 AMU


An uneasy calm prevailed on the campus as the central university is enveloped in three layers of police barricading

A day after the peaceful protest in the Aligarh Muslim University against the Citizenship Amendment Act, an uneasy calm prevailed on the campus. The central university is enveloped in three layers of police barricading. Inside, students are either taking exams or are discussing the possible fallout of the act and the proposed NRC across the country.

“Forget about carrying the baggage of the Partition, I was born after the Babri Masjid was demolished. I was not nurturing any ill-will against the BJP. My brother who is a science student used to appreciate the cleanliness drive of the Modi government. Instead of winning me over, suddenly, I find, my Indian identity is gradually being scratched to reveal a Muslim beneath,” said Lubna Irfan, a research scholar in the History department, who participated in the protest. “My father, a businessman is optimistic, but our WhatsApp groups are full of messages that exude the fear of what’s next? What documents we should collect to pass the impending NRC test.” She said the government's track record proved that their statements and their actions didn't match.

A few years back, she said, there was an assertion of the Muslim identity, now we are being advised to hide it. “I am advised to put on a bindi in public places; some of my friends who used put on hijab, now don’t cover their faces in public spaces,” said Lubna.

The issue has not only brought together teachers and students but also different ideologies that prevail on the campus. Groups like Fatima Sheikh Study Circle, a “left to the centre” group, which organised a protest on Saturday and Lalkar, a “liberal” group are on the same page as the “conservative” elements of the Students’ Union. Providing the intellectual heft is the Debating and Literary Club, part of the “cultural island” called the General Education Centre that also houses music and drama clubs, spaces that conservatives find “un-Islamic”. Ansab Aamir, secretary of the club said it was these groups that started the protest against the CAB on December 9 before the Union took over. It from this 640 member club that the pamphlets and the explainers on the Act emerge. Aamir showed disappointment that the protest remained “symbolic” on December 13. “If we want to be heard, we have to take the protest outside the campus, without fearing about the consequences. Peaceful protest is our democratic right,” he said.

A student of Mechanical Engineering, he felt that the CAA was a test for the judiciary but the fear was that it could “succumb” to the “national will” once again.

Mohibul Hoque, professor of political science, a popular figure among students said, “Our aim is to keep the students away from the increasing influence of leaders like Asaduddin Owaisi. As it would be counterproductive and falling into the trap of the BJP. I always say Muslim good can never be different from the national good but with the CAA and the NRC the fear is that the faultlines will emerge again. The government should realise that uneasy calm is not equal to peace,” he said.

He feared that it would lead to demonetisation kind of situation with people queueing up for documents. A source in the Controller Office said people were asking for degrees dating back to 1933-34.

Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi, Chairman of Department of History said, said there was “no fear” instead there was “a concern” that “our constitution was being torn to pieces by those who never believed in it.” The impending NRC, he said, was essentially “anti-poor.” “It is the landless farmers and the Dalits who would find it extremely difficult to prove their Indian identity.”

It was not that Muslims didn’t feel the “fear” during the Congress regimes,” said Aftab Alam, professor of Political Science. “But it was sporadic. Riots would happen and social amity would return. In this regime, it is everyday communalism. Nationalism is the new opium and I fear it will last 15-20 years,” he said.

Meanwhile, at the GEC, the good old attendant Wasi, was busy serving. “I have six more months to retire, after that I will start collecting documents,” he said. “I don’t think the sarkar is not in such a hurry. The elections are still far away,” he mused, looking at the grey skies.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 6:02:18 PM |

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