President of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) Students Union, Attaullah Niazi talks about change in student politics after Rohith Vemula suicide, attitude of BJP and HCU administration towards minorities, and campus politics in MANUU during an interview with Fasiullah SM.
Below are excerpts:
You have been in MANUU for over three years. What’s your understanding of politics here and in other campuses like HCU, OU and EFLU?
As you know all these universities have a long history of their establishment. But MANUU is established in 1998 and almost all regular courses were started in 2006. Today, we have a strength of 2500 regular students here and majority of the students are from economically and politically weaker sections of the society. They are still fighting for their basic needs and are not much aware of student politics and activism.
Things are gradually changing here. We have two panels AUSF [Azad United Students Federation] and ANSA [Azad National Students Association]. Other two organizations SIO [Students Islamic Organisation] and ASA [Amedkar Students Association] have appeared in the scene recently. In others universities, students are well-aware of politics and they take out time for understanding everyday politics.
As for this university is concerned, it’s established in the name of Maulana Azad, who was first education minister of independent India and founder of UGC and IITs. He also worked for Hindu-Muslim unity. I think that MANUU will be the place from where alternate politics of India will come up in next 4 to 5 years. It will be in the top universities of India and touch a new height in the student’s politics.
When do you think national political parties would enter MANUU campus?
In our campus, students have started raising their voices against major national issues and are actively participating in discussions and protests. Whether it was the issue of JNU, HCU, BHU or lynching of minorities on the name of cow, or other big issues of the country like GST, demonetization etc., our students showed keen interest in understanding these socio-political issues and government policies. If this activism continues, I believe national political parties will definitely show interest in entering the MANUU campus sooner than later.
What are the major issues within MANUU that you would want to address in your tenure as the Student Union President?
It’s a language minority institute. The university has its own identity. It is the first national Urdu university in India. We still don’t have enough basic books and material in Urdu, without which quality education is not possible anywhere. We want to address this issue in my tenure.
We also want to create an environment of debates, discussions and seminars. We have also started a weekly open discussion here in which students are showing growing interest.
Another pertinent issue is Health center. Though we have a health center, it doesn’t have a good stock of medicines and a ambulance facility. Even for seasonal diseases, our students have to go out for treatment. Also, we need an ATM and a railway reservation counter within the campus. We would do our best to address these major issues during my tenure.
Student politics apparently entered a new face in Indian campuses after Rohith Vemula suicide. Your Comment?
Yes, after Rohith Vemula’s institutional murder. It was a black dot on the largest democracy of the world. India’s student community became critical of the BJP government since then, and started raising questions on BJP’s policies and administrations. In return, the BJP government began targeting the student community and higher educational institutions. Particularly, it targeted minority institutions and students from minority communities. We haven’t heard anything about JNU scholar Najeeb yet.
We saw sedition charges being imposed on JNU students, fee hike in Punjab University, moral policing in BHU, and much more in last few years of the BJP government. In fact, the BJP’s approach and dealing of students in the Indian campuses is undemocratic and unconstitutional.
India is a nation with more than 50 percent population of youth. They need employment, food and peace in the country. These are the real issues of students and youth in India. Student politics would take a new shape in Indian campuses if these issues are ignored for a long time.
What’s your take on higher education sliding down in priority list of the BJP government?
Education was never the priority of the BJP government. As you know, BJP won election by polarizing people on the basis of religion and on the slogan of saffronisation. BJP doesn’t seem to care about future of students and youth. Their only focus is polarization of public and getting votes.
BJP promised higher employment rate to youth, but miserably failed in it. We have seen that it cut research seats and higher education funds to silence the student community. But it apparently backfired. Students have risen up to the challenge. They stood up as a strong opposition to the BJP government.
Being a tribal yourself who fought for issues of Gujjar’s in J&K, how do you see treatment of Dalits and minorities in HCU?
As I belong to a Gujjar tribal family of J&K, I strongly condemned the BJP brutality against Gujjars in Jammu. And the students being lathicharged by local police when they were protesting for their rights. It shows the BJP’s atrocious attitude towards minorities in India.
In HCU, after Rohit Vemula incident now we see the Appa Rao administration suspending more than 10 students. It’s a clear message that the HCU administration doesn’t mend its ways. And it continues to subjugate Dalits, Muslims and other minorities. This attitude must change.