As Jamia Teachers Association calls for a candelight vigil at India Gate TODAY at 5 pm (December 23, 2019), we are publishing an earlier Facebook post by FAIZ ULLAH on Jamia written soon after the police violence at the university during the anti-CAA protests there.
Dayaar-e-shauq mera is the anthem of Jamia Milia Islamia. Translation of the lyrics at this link.
FAIZ ULLAH writes:
Jamia Millia Islamia for me, and many like me who grew up in the small neighbourhoods around it, is not just a institution of higher education. It is our nursery, our playground, and where we came of age. My family moved from Bara Hindu Rao to Jamia Nagar area in the mid 1980s because my father thought living in the vicinity of an educational institution would be good for us. I am not very sure if the anti-Sikh violence of 1984 Delhi was a decisive reason for him to move us to a place he thought would be safe, but looking back I think he did kind of foresaw the shape of things.
Over the next couple of decades my elder brother studied History, My sister Social Work, and I, Mass Communication at Jamia. My niece will graduate this year from the same university in which her grandfather also enrolled for a while for his fourth degree – he had to drop out in the first year because he was already running a small primary school with my mother and practicing law on the side.
My brother was active in the students’ politics circles and served as the joint secretary of the university’s students’ union. This often translated into arguments between him and my father, not over his politics but that he would be too involved in it and would disappear for days without any information.
My sister studied mathematics and social work and it is by mostly failed attempts at reading the books she issued from the Jamia library, the best south of JNU in Delhi, I learned about social justice and empathy. It is in Jamia where she and my brother-in-law met. They shared cycle rickshaw rides between their departments, on either ends of the campus, and would get stared at. This was 1990s and according to the unwritten campus code only committed couples shared cycle rickshaws. They got married a few years later in one of the venues Jamia makes available to the local community for their social events.
We, as kids, played in its playgrounds, where its Director of Physical Education issued us equipment meant for only for bonafide students. Jamia students often yielded to our requests to let us play in parts of its open spaces. We ate from its canteen and drank cold water from its water fountains when both electricity and ice were luxuries. We went out to pick mulberries and jamuns from under its bountiful trees. When our world barely extended beyond Ashram, Bhogal, Nizamuddin, we got to attend amazing talks, concerts, and the annual Taaleemi Mela. Much of what the then Chief Justice of India AM Ahmedi said did not make sense to me, I sat through his address because I knew it was important. I heard Ustad Bismillah Khan’s recital here. He said he is too frail to play Kajri but would try for us as he had not played before such a well-behaved audience in a long time.
Jamia shared its boundary with contiguous neighbourhoods of New Friends Colony, Zakir Nagar, Joga Bai, Batla House, Okhla, Ghaffar Manzil, and Sukhdev Vihar. We did not fully know it then where our mohalla ends and where the campus begins. This always did not work out well for Jamia as some part of its land was usurped by local land sharks.
While the subsequently built perimeter wall did limit the the residents-campus interactions, it did little to block the tear gas from reaching its neighbours last Sunday. Everybody knew, their ‘Jamia ke Bachche’ were under unprecedented and brutal attack.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Jamia where I, a timid and introverted person, began to develop an independent and confident voice. I hated the regimented school life and did everything to get away from it, but university was different – it allowed us to be free. With free DTC bus passes in our pockets we would go out and see parts of the city we had never seen before.
My MA programme was a portal to a whole new world for me. It opened up a so many different ways of seeing and being for me – I just had to choose. We watched cinema from all over and had access to the some of the best equipment and infrastructure in the country. I met teachers who, for the first time, took me seriously. No idea was taboo or too radical for them. If there was any intolerance it was only for the instances when students undermined their own capacities to imagine better, do better.
I found enduring friendships here, all-weather friendships. Ours was and remains a wildly diverse group. We celebrated Eid, Diwali, Christmas, Durga Puja together. Even now when we are in different places, we keep in touch and meet often. My friends go to my place even when I am not there, if only to eat kebabs my bhabhi makes. I just wish we argued a little less with each other!
I found love here. I am sure and she is sure that we could not have met anywhere else but Jamia. We got married earlier this year.
Today all of us are sad and angry at the attack on our alma mater, our dayaar-e-shauq, our sheher-e-aarzu. Land of our hopes, land of our dreams.
Jamia is a uniquely Indian institution, a child of Independence movement, an experiment in secularism, a successful one I daresay. But it’s more than just an institution of higher education. It is, to borrow from Maxim Gorky, my university, but also my world, my childhood.
Faiz Ullah works at School of Media and Cultural Studies, TISS, Mumbai