Jamia Millia Islamia

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1920-2020: In a nutshell

Mohammad Ibrar, October 29, 2020: The Times of India

The History of Jamia Millia Islamia in a nutshell: 1920-2020
From: Mohammad Ibrar, October 29, 2020: The Times of India

Jamia At 100: From Rebellion Against Raj To Top University

How Gandhi’s Speech On Jallianwala Spurred A Movement

New Delhi: What started as a humble beginning under tents in Aligarh in a rebellion against the educational system of the British Raj is completing 100 years as a university on October 29. Recently ranked top among Indian universities in the education ministry’s assessments, Jamia Millia Islamia is the product of the freedom movement, formed when some students of Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College rebelled against the administration. According to Sabiha Zaidi, director of Jamia’s Munshi Premchand Archives and Literary Centre, Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement of 1919 and his cooperation with the Khilafat Movement spurred Jamia’s formation. “Many people increasingly felt that Gandhiji’s call for non-cooperation in education should be taken up,” Zaidi said. “That is when students of MAO College requested Mohammad Ali Jauhar of the Khilafat Movement to invite Gandhiji for a talk.”

Accordingly, Gandhi arrived in Aligarh on October 12, 1920, and spoke against the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the Rowlatt Act. “This spurred the MAO students to demand their college stop accepting British grants,” said Zaidi. “The four founders of Jamia — Mohammad Ali Jauhar, Hakim Ajmal Khan, A M Khwaja and M A Ansari — warned the college administration that if British funds weren’t stopped, they would form a new institution. Future President of India Zakir Hussain also resigned from his post of lecturer in protest.”

Apparently, the college administration rebuffed the demand, and the first session of Jamia was held at the Jama Masjid of Aligarh, beginning with a speech by Maulana Mehmudul Hasan on October 29. “By October 31, the students had begun deserting the hostels at MAO College, settling instead at Aligarh’s Krishna Ashram, where tents were put up to hold classes,” informed Zaidi.

Of course, the journey had only begun. Ahmed Azeem, PRO, Jamia, added that the temporary classes continued for a few more years before the newly found institution shifted to Karol Bagh in Delhi in 1925.

According to the archive notes, “The Jamia community suffered a little setback with the slackening of the Khilafat and the non-cooperation movements. But Gandhiji said that no matter how difficult it was, Jamia should not be stopped at any cost. He said, ‘If I have to beg for Jamia, I will beg.’ With his help, industrialists like Jamnalal Bajaj, Ghanshyam Das Birla and founder of Banaras Hindu University, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, helped Jamia financially.” The university also began primary classes in 1936 when it shifted to its present premises in Okhla. “The foundation stone was laid by a student, Abdul Aziz, in 1934,” Zaidi said. Sixty-eight years after its humble start, Jamia became a central university.

“At present, Jamia has nine faculties, 43 departments and 27 centres of higher studies and research, in which more than 270 courses are taught,” said Azeem. “We are setting up four new departments for design and innovation, hospital management and hospice studies, environmental sciences and foreign languages.”

In a statement, Jamia claimed to be “only university in the country that provides further education opportunities for personnel and officers of the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy. The Residential Coaching Academy, established in 2010, has played an important role in promoting women, minorities and SC/ST candidates in the UPSC civil services with more than 230 successful candidates.” These successes will be celebrated on October 29.

Chancellors/ Amir-e-Jamia

1920-1927 Hakim Ajmal Khan

1928-1936 Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari

1936-1962 Abdul Majeed Khwaja

1963-1969 Dr. Zakir Husain

1969-1985 Justice Mohd. Hidayatullah

1985-1990 Khurshid Alam Khan

1990-1995 S.M.H. Burney

1995-2001 Khurshid Alam Khan

2002-2011 Fakhruddin T. Khorakiwala

2012-2017 Lt Gen (Retd) M.A. Zaki

Dr. Najma A. Heptullah


1920-1923 Maulana Mohammad Ali Johar

1923-1925 Abdul Majeed Khwaja

1926-1948: Dr Zakir Husain

Born on February 8, 1897, Zakir Husain studied at Etawah School, obtained MA from Aligarh Muslim University. He stayed in Germany from September 1922 to February 1926 to do PhD in Economics from the University of Berlin, under the supervision of Professor Werner Sombart, which was approved “summa cum laude” in 1926.

Along with his colleagues in Germany, Dr. Abid Husain and Mohammad Mujeeb, Zakir Husain came to Jamia in 1926. He was Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia for 22 years (1926-48). It was his vision that held Jamia together at a time of great financial and ideological crisis and he took leadership in creating the ‘Life Members of Jamia,’ who pledged 20 years of service to Jamia.

He left Jamia in 1948 to help Aligarh Muslim University as its Vice Chancellor. He went on to become the governor of Bihar, Vice President of India and the President of India.

1948-1973 Prof. Mohammad Mujeeb

1973-1978 Prof. Masud Husain Khan

1978-1983 Anwar Jamal Kidwai

1983-1989 Prof. Ali Ashraf

1989-1991 Dr. Syed Zahoor Qasim

1992-1996 Prof. Bashiruddin Ahmad

1997-2000 Lt Gen (Retd) M.A. Zaki

2000-2004 Syed Shahid Mahdi

2004-2009 Prof. Mushirul Hasan

2009-2013 Najeeb Jung

2014-2018 Prof. Talat Ahmad

Talat Ahmad, VC, left when he was appointed VC of Kashmir University in August 2018.

2019: Najma Akhtar

2019: Najma Akhtar

April 12, 2019: The Times of India

The government appointed Najma Akhtar as vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, making her the first woman VC in its four-decade-old history.

Akhtar is the head of the department of educational administration at National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA). She specialises in institution building, distance education, education of minority and educational decentralisation.

According to her bio data on NIEPA website, Akhtar is a gold medallist from Aligarh Muslim University and completed her PhD from Kurukshetra University. She has been a Commonwealth Fellow for university administration course at University of Warwick and Nottingham and trained at the International Institute of Educational Planning (IIEP), UNESCO, Paris.

Akhtar has previously served as director, academic programmes at AMU, and its controller of examinations and admissions. She was also founder director, State Institute of Educational Management and Training (SIEMAT), Uttar Pradesh. She has authored two books and contributed several book chapters and research papers.

The Dastarkhwan canteen

The Times of India, May 11 2016

Dastarkhwan (canteen run by women), Jamia Millia Islamia University; Picture courtesy: The Times of India, May 11 2016

Jamia's popular spread helps keep heads high

Manash Gohain  For Simran Parveen, a Class XII student, it's a way to sustain her fatherless brood of seven sisters and to keep alive her hopes of becoming a lawyer. For unlettered Shabana Khan, it's a means to proper education for her children, and for Saba, whose failed businessman of a husband left her in Delhi when returning to his village, it offers a dignified livelihood. Welcome to Dastarkhwan, a canteen run exclusively by women at Jamia Millia Islamia.

But the canteen is not just run by any women. The 40 or so women involved with the canteen all have had a bad deal in life. Some are divorced, others are single-handedly bringing up families, yet others are trapped in debt.The idea behind this social initiative started in January 2015 by Ekta self-help group in collaboration with Zakir Hussain Society of Jamia was to empower such women.

That it has. Dastarkhwan is now giving the university's popular Central Canteen a run for its money . Though it is not open to the public, it attracts students in droves, including those from Delhi University , JNU and other institutions visiting friends or working on some project on the campus. “We started with the investment of eight women from the nearby localities of Zakir Nagar, Batla House, Abul Fazal Enclave, Shaheen Bagh and Jasola. Others joined later. Those who could not contribute in cash joined as workers,“ says Shabana Tawhid, the canteen manager.“Now, we have nearly 40 women.“

And they have not done badly . The first day sales of around Rs 5,000 have gone up a year later to a daily average of Rs 55,000. The cooperative has not yet paid out dividends to the investors and much of the funds are used to meet the salary bill, but it is fulfilling its objective in a special way: even when a women worker fails to turn up for work, usually due to domestic pressures, she is not docked a day's wages to ensure she remains motivated.

“They serve a very nice biryani,“ says Rupal Chandra, a Miranda House student, who visits the canteen whenever she is in Jamia. Nafisa Ahmed, a master's student in human rights at Jamia, testifies to the other popular wares at Dastarkhwan: “The kebabs and paranthas served in the evening are the best.“

Though most items are priced a bit higher than at the Central Canteen, Dastarkhwan draws a lot of customers for its home-made flavour. As Rachit Malik, an MCA student, says, “Who wouldn't pay Rs 5 extra when you get such good food!“ It may mean little to the diners, but it is this extra Rs 5 that is helping some hapless woman dream of life again.

Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia

India Today

The Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia, was established in 1989. In addition to the five-year integrated BA LLB course, the faculty runs an LLM four-semester course in three streams - Personal Law, Corporate Law and Criminal Law - and a Ph.D. programme.

Number 11 in Law: 2015

India Today

The Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia, was established in 1989. In addition to the five-year integrated BA LLB course, the faculty runs an LLM four-semester course in three streams - Personal Law, Corporate Law and Criminal Law - and a Ph.D. programme. And it was ranked 11 in rankings of India Today for 2015.

Minority status

2016: 'Not a minority educational institution,' Govt

The Times of India, Jan 16 2016

HRD opposed minority tag for Jamia

The attorney general's opinion that Jamia Millia Islamia is not a minority educational institution is in sync with the position taken by successive HRD ministers like Arjun Singh and Kapil Sibal. Clamour for granting `minority status' to Jamia began after UPA-I gave OBC reservation in admission to centrally-funded educational institutions.

Minority status' granted to it by quasi-judicial body National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) helped Jamia avoid reserving seats for OBCs. UPA-II did not contest the decision of NCMEI.

Otherwise, HRD ministers and the ministry itself have been opposed to giving it minority status. In fact, in March 2010 Singh, who was no longer the minister, had written to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressing fear that the prestigious central university might fall into the hands of fundamentalist forces if it is given minority status. But as demand or change in Jamia's status rom “secular“ to “minority sta us“ grew, Sibal asked minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid to provide ``data and historical facts as to why the position so far taken is inconsistent with reality“.

Sibal's letter to Khurshid included a comprehensive note on he historical character of Jamia as well as ``substance of the ssues that arose at the time of enacting the Jamia Millia Act n 1988. While admitting that he SC decision on the status of AMU would have some bearing on Jamia, Sibal had said ``that tself will not determine the fa e of Jamia. Sibal had not agreed with minority affairs ministry under Khurshid that the stand of the HRD ministry requires alteration. ``The charac er of the institution of Jamia Millia Islamia is to be adjudica ed upon by a court of law, Si bal had said. He had argued that ``each institution has a unique history and its character must be culled from the context in which it was set up. While the two ministers were exchanging notes, National Commission for Minority Edu cational Institutions in February 2011 granted minority status to Jamia Millia Islamia. The order changed the secular character of the central university and also gave it freedom not to give reservation to OBCs, Dalits, tribals and reserve up to 50% seats for Muslims.

The 51-page judgment, given by Justice M S A Siddiqui, Mohinder Singh and Cyriac Thomas, said, “We have no hesitation in holding that Jamia was founded by Muslims for the benefit of Muslims and it never lost its identity as a Muslim minority educational institution.“

“We find and hold that Jamia Millia Islamia is a minority educational institution covered under Article 30(1) of the Constitution with Section 2 (G) of the NCMEI Act,“ the order said.The institute was founded even before the Constitution was in place, it said.

NCMEI said Jamia's case as different from that of Aligarh Muslim University and Supreme Court's 1967 order in the Aziz Basha case--denying minority status to AMU --had no bearing on the Jamia case. In its judgment, SC had refused to recognise that AMU was established by the Muslim community .

The NCMEI order said, “Jamia did not owe its very existen ce to a statute. Since its founding in 1920 till the enactment of the Jamia Millia Islamia Act in 1988, Jamia never lost its identity. Even prior to the enactment of the Act, Jamia had legal existence of its own.“

The fight to do away with Jamia's secular status goes back to its inception. Perusal of the file on setting up of Jamia reveals that in 1987, when the university became a central university, the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs and the HRD ministry refused to bow to pressure from the then chancellor Khurshid Alam Khan that a specific mention be made that Jamia would “promote especially the educational and cultural advancement of Muslims in India“.

Similarly , there were five other suggestions by Khurshid Alam Khan that the ministry refused to entertain on the ground that none of the other central universities had these features.

2017: 'Not a minority educational institution,' Govt

Centre's U-turn on Jamia's status, August 8, 2017: The Times of India

Contrary to its earlier stand regarding minority status of Jamia Milia Islamia, the Centre is likely to tell the Delhi high court that the university was never intended to be a minority institution as it was set up by an Act of Parliament and is funded by the central government.

The ministry of human resource development (MHRD) is likely to file a fresh affidavit in the Delhi high court where a writ petition is pending.

In 2011, the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) had held that “Jamia was founded by the Muslims for the benefit of Muslims and it never lost its identity as a Muslim minority educational institution“ and was, therefore, “covered under Article 30(1)... read with Section 2(g) of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act“.

When the order was legally challenged, the HRD ministry , under then minister Kapil Sibal, had submitted an affidavit in the Delhi HC stating that the government “respects the declaration made by NCMEI“.

According to government sources, the ministry is now planning to file a fresh affidavit in the high court, stating that its support to the February 22, 2011 order of NCMEI declaring JMI a religious minority institution was an error in the government's understanding about its legal position. On January 15, 2016, the At torney General had advised the HRD ministry that it is entitled to change its view in court and revert to the stand that Jamia is not a minority institution and the order of NCMEI was not in accordance with law.

The NDA government had also taken a stand contrary to its predecessor UPA on the minority status of Aligarh Muslim University before the Supreme Court in January 2016.

Night curfew for women students

2018: Girls oppose, parents support earlier curfew

Students pen open letter to Jamia VC over hostel timings, July 5, 2018: The Times of India

Opposing the change in the timing of the girls’ hostel at Jamia Millia Islamia, a group of students has written an open letter to the Jamia vice-chancellor demanding a rollback of the university’s new prospectus.

In the letter sent to the VC by post, the protesters, who had a few months ago agitated in the campus and managed to get an extension of the curfew timings from 8pm to 10.30pm, said “the prospectus has multiple arbitrary and discriminatory rules which seek to restrict the mobility and freedom of women students of Jamia residing in the university’s hostel”. These rules have been added “regardless of the demands... accepted by the administration in March earlier this year”, it added. The new timings have been set at 9pm.

The students demanded a “newer” prospectus in “conformity with our demands as listed and enumerated in the earlier memorandum”.

According to the Jamia media coordinator, Saima Saeed, the VC will respond after seeing the letter. Saeed said the change was made considering the security concerns in the area as well as in the city. The parents of around 90% of the students told the authority that they were sending their children to Jamia due to the safety assured by the hostel, she added.

Protests, agitations

2019 Dec – 2020

Anam Ajmal, January 13, 2020: The Times of India

The Jamia Millia Islamia protest that began in Dec 2019
From: Anam Ajmal, January 13, 2020: The Times of India

NEW DELHI: There are many faces of resistance outside Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI): a makeshift library along the road, a small cell symbolising detention centres, an art corner where students make posters against the Citizenship Amendment Act, and a stage that hosts different artistes, writers and politicians every day.

Most recently, it was Man Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy. Earlier, actors Zeeshan Ayyub and Swara Bhasker, activist Harsh Mander, lyricist Hussain Haidry and academic Zoya Hasan have taken to the same stage to express solidarity with the students. The students’ protest at JMI began on December 12, the day CAA was passed in the Rajya Sabha. But it was only on December 15 that the university began to be identified as the centrestage against the new law. Delhi Police forcibly entered JMI, its library and washrooms, catapulting the university to national limelight. Several students were injured, including one who lost vision in one of his eyes.

“Jamia is the new Jantar Mantar,” said a girl who was sitting on a hunger strike outside Gate No. 3 of the university. Kumail Fatima, a second-year law student, was one of the five people who have been on “relay hunger” strike for the past nine days. The students fast for seven hours and, then, someone else takes their place. “We have derived our idea of non-violence from Mahatma Gandhi. This is a civil disobedience movement against divisive forces. It’s a fight for the Constitution, which ensures equal treatment for everyone notwithstanding their religion, caste or class,” she said. Fatima added that CAA would be an “assault on the secular values enshrined in the Constitution”.

JMI, which does not have a students’ union, has, however, formed a Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC) to organise the protests. JCC now has several departments, including crowd, traffic, media and stage management. “The students felt the need to organise themselves to make sure everything functions smoothly. We have nearly 100 members right now who serve as decision makers, but it will only grow. We also have a steady inflow of volunteers who work round the clock,” said Arbaz Mevati, a polytechnic student.

The university, which reopened on January 6, is also trying to return to normalcy. “A lot of our exams were postponed. Some students even boycotted their papers. But our appeal to the students is to ensure that we continue the protests without jeopardising our futures. This may be a long fight, but we are prepared. We won’t back down until CAA is repealed,” said Mevati.

Even as students try to return to their daily lives, reminders of police brutality still haunt the campus. The walls of the university speak the language of resistance. They have been covered in graffiti by students to represent the right to dissent and the rise of “authoritarianism”. A open photo-exhibition called “Hum Dekhenge” and curated by Md Maharban, depicts scenes from December 15 — smoke from teargas shells, broken glasses and injured students. “This is a small effort to showcase how the events unfolded in reality,” reads the description of the exhibition.

“Pictures don’t lie. What happened at the university that day was an intimidation tactic. But we won’t back down,” said Maharban, a student of the Mass Communication Research Centre at the university, who is also one of the contributing photographers.

One of the most striking features of the Jamia protest installation is a prison made of wood. It’s meant to remind people of the fate of those in Assam, who were declared foreigners and, then, shifted to detention centres. Another quiet revolution outside Gate No. 7 is a street library, called “Read for Revolution”. JCC has put up a poster announcing its purpose. “Dear reader, On December 15, 2019, Zakir Hussain Library was vandalised. However, this could not deter the spirits of students for education...” it reads.

Gaurab Roy Dasgupta, a reader who comes to the library every day, told TOI that he was there because “protest and dissent are the state of my mind right now”. He added: “We are told that students should only study. But the purpose of education is awareness. We are not here only for Jamia. We are fighting for the country, we are raising our voice so that this does not happen to any other university,” he said.

The residents of Jamia Nagar have also lent their support to the student movement. Several locals reach the university early in the morning to distribute free water, tea and snacks to the agitating students. Shiraz, who owns a business in Batla House, told TOI that he and his friends came to Jamia Millia Islamia to show their support after the students shook the “nation’s conscience”.

The determination of the students has baffled many and inspired some, who turn up at Okhla to lend their support. But one thing has emerged strongly. As Fatima put it, Jamia truly has become an alternate Jantar Mantar, a voice of dissent, and an example non-violent struggle.

Court verdict on 2019 violence

Vineet Upadhyay, February 5, 2023: The Times of India

New Delhi : In a big setback to the prosecution, a Delhi court discharged student activists SharjeelImam, Safoora Zargar, Asif Iqbal Tanha and eight others in a case related to the violence that took place at Jamia Millia Islamia in December 2019 saying they had been made “scapegoats” because police couldn’t catch the actual perpetrators. 
Coming down heavily on police, the court said there was no evidence that the accused were part of a conspiracy and had acted in tandem or had participated in the mob violence or even used weapons or thrown stones. It said that prosecutions cannot be launched on the basis of “conjectures and surmises” and chargesheets cannot be filed on the “basis of probabilities”.


Dissent has to be given space: Court

Additional sessions judge Arul Verma rapped police for filing an "ill-conceived" chargesheet, adding that their case was "devoid of irrefragable evidence". Discharging 11 of the 12 accused, the judge observed, “Marshalling the facts as brought forth from a perusal of the chargesheet and three supplementary chargesheets, this court cannot but arrive at the conclusion that police were unable to apprehend the actual perpetrators behind commission of the offence, but surely managed to rope in the persons herein as scapegoats."

Upholding the citizen’s right to protest, the judge observed: "Liberty of protesting citizens should not have been lightly interfered with. It would be pertinent to underscore that dissent is nothing but an extension of the invaluable fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression contained in Article 19 of the Constitution of India, subject to the restrictions contained therein. It is therefore a right which we are sworn to uphold. This court is duty-bound to lean towards an interpretation which protects the rights of the accused, given the ubiquitous power disparity between them and the state machinery."
 “The desideratum is for the investigative agencies to discern the difference between dissent and insurrection. The latter has to be quelled indisputably. However, the former has to be given space, a forum,” the court observed.

Describing the belated recording of the statements of witnesses, almost after a year of the incident, as “equally strange”, the court noted that even after identifying one Bilal Ibnu Shahul in the crowd, police didn’t make him an accused but a police witness. “It is apparent that police has arbitrarily chosen to array some people from the crowd as accused and others from the same crowd as police witnesses.”

Asserting that the answer to the question whether the accused persons were even prima facie complicit in taking part inthe mayhem was “an unequivocal no”, the court stated that prima facie there was no evidence that the accused resisted the execution of any law. “There are no eyewitnesses who could substantiate the version of police that the accused persons were in anyway involved in the commission of the offences,” said the court.

The FIR was registered for alleged offences under Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting) 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 333 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees), 435 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage to amount of one hundred or (in case of agricultural produce) ten rupees, 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of IPC.

“Needless to say, the investigative agency is not precluded from conducting further investigation in a fair manner, with the leave of the court, in order to bring to book the actual perpetrators, with the adjuration not to blur the lines between dissenters and rioters and to desist from henceforth arraigning innocent protesters," said the court.

Observing that the prosecution had been launched in a “perfunctory and cavalier fashion" against the accused persons, except Mohammad Ilyas, aka Allen, the court asserted that the investigative agencies should have incorporated the use of technology, or gathered credible intelligence, and then only should have “embarked on galvanising the judicial system”.

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