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Denial of right to continue study to student-activist 'contradicts' the idea of Jamia

Counterview Desk 

Over 150 feminist activists, individuals and groups have come together to appeal to the Vice Chancellor and Faculty Committee of the Jamia Millia Islamia to revoke the cancellation of student-activist Safoora Zargar’s admission, and to allow her to submit her MPhil thesis. Safoora acquired prominence during the anti-Citizenship Ammendment Act (CAA) protests that rocked Delhi in early 2020.
In custody from 10 April until 24 June 2020, Safoora was accused of being part of a conspiracy to cause riots, of making an inflammatory speech, and of being involved in a "sinister design" with the "objective of uprooting a democratically elected government." She was granted bail by the Delhi High Court and released on 24 June 2020.
The statement, floated by the civil rights group Saheli Women's Resource Centre, says, the cancellation of Safoora's admission comes despite the fact that extensions have been granted unconditionally to research scholars en masse by the UGC because of the havoc wreaked by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020-21. First she was asked to apply for an extension specifically for women scholars, but now she has even been denied that on the grounds that her work is ‘unsatisfactory.’
"This is in direct contradiction to earlier evaluations where she was told that she had 'made good headway' with her research", the statement says, underlining, "The bedrock of Jamia Millia Islamia has always been dialogue and progressive politics, Safoora’s values belong to that progressive idea of the university as an intellectual space. To deny her education in that very university seems to go against the fundamental values of such an esteemed institution."


We, the undersigned women’s rights activists and women’s groups, are dismayed at the denial of the routine extensions to Safoora Zargar to complete her MPhil degree.
Safoora needs no introduction. She is a student activist who gained prominence during the anti-CAA movement, and has been targeted for standing up for the right to peaceful protest and dissent, as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. Instead of standing by her through what have been several extremely challenging years for Safoora, and supporting her to finish her degree, the university has systematically denied her the rights routinely extended to all other students.
All women have to struggle in a brahminical patriarchal society to access education, the struggle increases manifold when the woman belongs to a marginalised community which has been increasingly under attack by the State. While the persecution of the Muslim community in India is making international headlines, Indian society and the State continue to deny it, on the one hand, and enable increased intolerance and discrimination, on the other. Being a Muslim woman activist who stood for the constitutional rights of not only her community but also of society, Safoora has suffered incarceration and multiple attacks, both politically and personally. The horror of what tomorrow might bring for her, continues to haunt her at every moment.
To add to her suffering, Jamia Millia has denied extensions to complete her degree in the Department of Sociology. These have been granted unconditionally to research scholars en masse by the UGC because of the havoc wreaked by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020-21. Since the universities and departments were shut down, and access to libraries closed off, all research scholars were granted multiple extensions. Yet Safoora was deemed ineligible for more than one extension without any legitimate justification.
She was subsequently asked to apply for an extension specifically for women scholars. Now she has even been denied that on the grounds that her work is ‘unsatisfactory.’ This is in direct contradiction to earlier evaluations where she was told that she had “made good headway” with her research and that she had “identified the categories and concepts through which to articulate (her) research topic”.
A Muslim woman who stood for constitutional rights, Safoora has suffered incarceration and multiple attacks politically and personally
It is commendable that Safoora has managed to meet work deadlines through her pregnancy, incarceration and childbirth, despite the severe mental duress she is undergoing as someone being prosecuted on unfair grounds. We fail to understand why her repeated pleas and rightful asks have gone unanswered, and why she is being discriminated against when extensions have been approved by the UGC and have been provided to all research scholars across the board. The discrimination shown by the department and the university adds to the violence that she has already been through, and continues to undergo in both online and offline spaces.
Education is not only about degrees, but about learning, growing, and nurturing of minds. However, we are all too aware that universities have routinely functioned as spaces of exclusion, be it by way of caste, gender, class, religion, sexuality or any other marginalised identity. The bedrock of Jamia Millia Islamia university has always been dialogue and progressive politics, Safoora’s values belong to that progressive idea of the university as an intellectual space. To deny her education in that very university seems to go against the fundamental values of such an esteemed institution.
Today, after all her attempts to seek fair treatment were denied within the Sociology department, Safoora has petitioned the Vice Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia University, for justice.
We unequivocally stand with her and join our voices to her appeal to the Vice Chancellor and the faculty committee to revoke the cancellation of her admission and grant her the rightful extension as a woman scholar and allow her to submit her thesis and complete the requirements of her MPhil degree.
This grave injustice on Safoora Zargar must be undone immediately.
Click here for signatories



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