Ever since the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in the Parliament, several University campuses have become the hotbeds of political and protest activities. Jamia Milia Islamia University in Delhi was among the first ones to emerge as an instrument of anti-CAA protests. While the protests have continued unabated, academic activity, including examinations, which is central to any College/ University has taken a backseat.
In fact, the protests have led to the Jamia Milia University administration cancelling the semester examinations. A notice issued from the Jamia’s Controller of Examinations stated, “On the demand of the protesting students, the Vice-Chancellor in consultation with Deans, HoDs and other officials announced that the ongoing semester exams stand cancelled till further notice.”
The notice has added that the new dates for examinations will be decided only after consulting the students.
The political activists and so-called free speech warriors within the Jamia Milia Islamia University have virtually taken over the University administration.
First, they were able to get the semester examinations cancelled and now the administration of the minority institution seems to be expressing helplessness by making it clear that it won’t announce the new dates for examinations without consulting students.
Jamia Milia Islamia University has become an example of how a bunch of protesters among students can take the administration of an entire University at the ransom. Not everyone, in fact, an overwhelming majority of students at University campuses, is not interested in political or protest activities. However, certain vested interests are hampering the prospects of that majority of students by forcing the University into a state of inertia.
The foremost goal of any average student at a University is to build a future for himself/ herself and to contribute towards national development. Depending upon the socio-economic conditions of individual students, many of them represent sheer hope for their families. By unnecessarily hampering the academic activity at the university and disrupting the functioning of the administration, the anti CAA protesters at Jamia are seriously jeopardising the ambitions and careers of those who do not even fancy being a part of the irrational protests.
Especially in the case of professional courses where the students are not inclined towards protest activity, unlike the humanities and social sciences students, the ongoing protests at Jamia are particularly detrimental. This is also the reason why the Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics (STEM), law, and management universities largely supported the CAA, while Universities like JNU, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI), Jadavpur University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) resorted to protests, some of which even took shape of widespread violence.
While those who want to build a career in political activism and maybe even organising protest rallies see a direct benefit in protests and suspension of academic activity, what about those who want to build real academic careers?
The final year of the course is crucial for any Engineering student because placements decide the future course of his career. Similarly, in the case of law students, those who want to pursue higher education outside India have to start readying themselves in the final year of their LLB course.
Now, since the semester examinations have been indefinitely delayed and most probably, the final semester of their courses will also get delayed substantially, final year students of professional courses might end up missing crucial deadlines.
There is no denying the fact that India is a constitutional democracy, and all citizens, including students, have the right to protest as much as they want. But no right comes without reasonable restrictions and limitations. Right to protest is not tantamount to protesting at the peril of others. Constitution of India does not give any extra privilege to student protesters either. As such, student protesters have no right to unlawfully hijack the University administration and bring the University functioning to a grinding halt.
Student protesters are free to boycott examinations or skip the registration process at their own peril. However, there is no right to compel others into skipping examinations or boycotting the registration process.
The Jamia administration too is answerable for pandering to the whims and fancies of a bunch of protesters and playing with the futures and careers of hundreds, if not thousands of students, who are not in any way connected with the protests. The minority institution must immediately resume academic activity and conduct examinations. It must not allow vested interests within the student community to hijack the administration and dictate how the University will function.
Modi government must also seriously consider framing appropriate guidelines to curb such political protesters which are trying to hijack the Central Varsities of the country.