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Asma, a vocal protester whose life was cut short

Asma Javed was a popular student leader at AMU.

Asma Javed was a popular student leader at AMU.  

Woh jo ki akele hi dharne par baithi thi (The one who sat on dharna alone). Aligarh Muslim University remembers Asma Javed, a student leader who was found murdered in mysterious circumstances in her apartment here, as the first woman to sit on dharna on the campus.

The Aligarh Police are likely to arrest Javed, a property dealer, said to be her live-in partner, in connection with the murder.

“He is the prime suspect. There is indeed evidence against him. We may arrest him soon,” Senior Superintendent of Police, Aligarh, Ravinder J. Gaud said.

Asma was of course not the first woman to contest Aligarh Muslim University polls as reported by the media, but she was vocal and controversial. Her murder has got the entire city divided. While most conservative residents of the city, especially her neighbours in Al Hamd Apartment in a prime locality, resort to character assassination, women students and faculty members of the university remember her for becoming one of the first to highlight that its women’s cell was not functioning.

Most people — her classmates and fellow research scholars — say “she was too bold for a small town like Aligarh.”

She got into the limelight in 2006 when she sat on a dharna, all alone, on the road, in front of the Vice-Chancellor’s residence, alleging sexual harassment. “She had the guts to do things she felt passionately about. And the kind of strong woman she was, she also got her demands met,” Shadab Bano, a faculty member of the Department of History of AMU Women’s College, told The Hindu.

“But most of all, her dharna brought forth the fact that the Women’s Cell of the University was almost dead. After her activism and the dharna, it sort of started functioning. Rules and procedures which were only on paper started getting implemented on the ground.”

Then, again she made news when in 2011 she contested for the president’s post of the AMU student union. The 182 votes she got did not highlight her actual popularity.

“Pretty bold, courageous and equally popular,” Shahbaz Ali Khan, Asma’s classmate in MA from the Department of Hindi, remembered her.

“The tragedy of her life is that the small town like Aligarh judged her when she was alive and now that she is dead, people are passing moral judgments over the way she lived. We as a society can become very insensitive to the choices a woman makes in her life,” he said.

She got married in 2010, but in six months, her husband left for South America without telling her. Salman Javed, Asma’s brother, said this left her in depression. A few months ago, Mr. Gaud said, she had filed a complaint against a prominent businessman for rape on the pretext of marriage but later she withdrew it. There were many in her friends’ circle who believed that she was forced to do that.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 2:02:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/asma-a-vocal-protester-whose-life-was-cut-short/article7206988.ece

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