AMU under its present VC is being run in a style that will put even any medieval monarchy to shame. A prestigious Central University with a glorious past is being turned into a concentration camp for the students and faculty alike, with not-too-hidden blessings of the UPA govt at the centre. Continuing with his authoritarian and draconian crackdowns on the students, the AMU VC has suspended one more student, Mohd. Adil Hossain, a student of M.A. (Previous) Mass Communication on 3 June, 2010. The official notice served to Adil Hossain claims that he is being suspended for “incessantly indulging in rumour mongering, canard spreading, defaming the Aligarh Muslim University,” and that he has “lowered down and tarnished the image of the University over the internet”!! Can anything be more absurd and outrageous than this, where a university systematically throws out its students for merely airing their opinions about the institution they study?
We have not forgotten how a senior faculty member, Dr. Siras, was witch-hunted for his homosexual orientation, illegally suspended and finally pushed to death by the AMU administration. The VC and his cohorts orchestrated and enacted this barbaric show even in the face nationwide public outcry and condemnation.
Mired in numerous charges of financial and administrative corruption exposed in the Executive Council of the university itself and facing high-level enquires, the corrupt VC and his administration are hell bent upon quelling any criticism in any form. The paranoia of the corrupt VC has reached such a state that his authoritarian tactics are transgressing all norms of civility and reason.
University or a Prison cell
24X7 Survillence on Students and Faculty : The present AMU VC has installed 57 CCTV cameras, night-vision devices and other high-tech gadgetry worth Rs. 10 crore for a 24×7 vigil on the campus.
Banning of Any Poster in the Campus: In reply to an RTI filed on the issue of pasting of posters within the campus, the proctor’s office has replied that “pasting of news paper cuttings/posters on the walls of the Hall and other premises of the university would also be dealt harshly with the students( they may face severe punishment).” There is no specific board arranged by the university authorities in the whole university where students can paste their posters or any other items. The earlier notice board at the entrance of Moulana Azad Library was also removed making it impossible for students to convey any information through this medium. Clearly, there is no way a student can register dissent on campus – neither through posters and leaflets nor through holding signature campaigns or rallies as that gets them suspended from the university.
Spy Network in the Campus : The current AMU administration has repeatedly proven to be intolerant and undemocratic in its functioning. The existence of the Local Intelligence Unit (LIU) has been a constant source of nuisance and problem on the campus. Its criminal role in the witch-hunt of the senior faculty member Dr. Siras is well known by now. In a report in the Indian Express dated April 10th 2010, AMU Proctor Md Zubair Khan confirmed: “There is such a proctorial team on the university. You can call it a local intelligence unit where students give information about campus activities and unwanted elements.” After a huge public outcry over the presence of a ‘spy agency’ -a first of its kind- in any educational institution in India, the AMU administration, including the Vice-Chancellor, went over to deny its presence and have started calling it a mere “watch and ward” team. but students know that the LIU has remained active in the campus and continued to perform their spy activities. In an RTI filed to confirm details regarding the existence of the LIU, the Proctor’s Office has admitted that the LIU exists in AMU and that they spend 1.2 lakh per month in paying salaries to people employed to carry out its activities. The CPIO(Budget) of AMU in the letter (vide D.No.990/FO dated 30.10.09) stated AMU doesn’t have any fund meant for anything called LIU. So the obvious question that arises is- who pays for the 14 lakh per annum spent by the administration on this spy agency and whether any other funds from the university are being diverted for its functioning? In a subsequent RTI, the proctorial office has denied the existence of an LIU but several other RTI replies mention a body called the LIU.
Adil’s ‘Crime’ : Ostensible ‘reasons’ for Adil’s suspension “that he has been incessantly indulging in rumour mongering, canard spreading, defaming the Aligarh Muslim University,” and that he has “lowered down and tarnished the image of the University over the internet” arise from the fact that Adil has been raising concerns about each of these grave violations of basic democratic rights of the campus community. First time he was suspended last October for being part of the student movement protesting the shocking murder of an AMU student. Subsequently he had criticized the installation of the CCTV cameras on campus and being a resident student was fighting for the right to freedom of expression on the university campus especially after the illegal suspension and subsequent death of Dr. Siras. The question that must be asked is who is tarnishing AMU’s prestige- the VC who has turned this prestigious university into a concentration camp or those who are speaking out to preserve the basic democratic ethos and values sans of which no university can survive?
However, Adil is not the only victim.
According to the RTI data compiled by Shahzad Alam, a former AMU student, Adil Hossain is the 149th student to be suspended or rusticated during the term of the current Vice Chancellor PK Abdul Aziz. RTI reveals that in 2007, 32 students were suspended in September, 6 in August, 26 in October and 15 in November. In 2008, roughly 10 students were suspended. Of the students who were suspended in 2007, 28 students were rusticated in 2008. 31 students were suspended in 2009 of which 18 were suspended in November. Of the suspended students, four were rusticated. In 2010, 12 students had been suspended till April taking the total count to 148 students who had been suspended, rusticated or both.
Recently, another Mass Communication student, Mr. Afaq Ahmed has also been suspended from the university since April 22, 2010 for the ‘crime’ of filming the experiences of the student-managed Dining Hall system at V.M.Hall. This was also a case of total denial of his fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression. Recently suspended Adil filed an RTI to the PIO of AMU ( Ref No. 98/CAPIO/F/10-11 dated 28/04/2010) about the grounds for arbitrary suspension of Mr.Afaq Ahmad. In the reply to the RTI (vide D.No 93/BRH dated 29.05.2010) to the question “whether a student need permission from Provost or not to shoot a video inside a Hall”, Provost accepted “there is no Rule/Ordinances/ Regulation explicitly prohibiting making of video clip of Hall without the permission of the Provost.” And yet Afaq stood suspended!
And now with Adil’s suspension, the VC seeks to assert that students are debarred from airing any opinion even on blogs and websites!!!
With students getting more and more vocal about the official surveillance, the number is likely to rise. “This AMU has no difference with Hitler’s Nazi Regime where dissent was not tolerated at any cost. In a situation where we do not agree to a decision made by the AMU authorities what are the options available to us to register our dissent?” asks Adil Hossain.
All Powerful ‘Irfan Habib Lobby’ of AMU is Backing this Medieval Autocracy!
What is most unfortunate is that in this dangerous and reactionary game of the AMU administration, it has found support from the powerful Prof. Irfan Habib lobby of ‘progressive’ CPI(M). In a shocking stance (reported in Tehelka, UP edition, 30th April), Prof. Habib has justified the presence of spies and LIUs in AMU. According to him, they have been present in AMU since 1980-81. He has said that there is nothing wrong in the existence of such agencies – since it ‘frees teachers from administrative chores’ and enables them to concentrate on academics! It is indeed shocking that such a defence of blatant violation of civil rights in a university campus is coming from a historian of Prof. Habib’s stature. The fact that he commands considerable sway in the AMU campus and draws clout from CPI(M)’s political establishment, makes his stance doubly detrimental and goes against the struggle for democratising the AMU campus.
End the Authoritarian and Barbaric Regime of AMU VC!
Clearly, Adil’s suspension is just the last example in a long list of autocratic decisions that the VC of AMU has taken since his term started. The University was closed Sine Die last September amidst protests regarding the murder of a student on the campus and the bad safety conditions and poor security facilities prevailing on campus. 6 students were then suspended for voicing their protest against the conditions prevailing on campus. The shameful role which the university played in the suspension and subsequent death of Dr. Siras, a reader of Marathi, for indulging in “immoral activities” was nothing short of criminal. Student Union Elections remains banned on campus and clearly so is speaking out against the administration.
We condemn the state to which the students and teachers of the university have been reduced to under the exercise of arbitrary powers by the university administration. It would be a national ignominy and shame if a public funded central university of the country of AMU’s repute is allowed to become the burial ground of the very ideas and values that define a university. We call upon all the democratic voices in different university campuses and larger civil society to join us in this campaign to uphold the right to freedom of expression and basic rights of the students and faculty of AMU.