A university topper three years in a row, 22-year old Hamidur Rahman should have been attending lectures at a course of his choice at his university. He is attending court hearings instead.
Having been refused a seat in all seven courses he applied to at the Jamia Milia Islamia University, he seems to be paying the price for demanding the restoration of democracy on his campus.
His decision earlier this year to knock on the doors of the High Court to reinstate students union in Jamia – suspended since 2006 – hasn’t gone down well with the University.
“Mr Rahman is litigatious and has been argumentative in his three years as an undergraduate student in Jamia Milia Islamia. He has done nothing that has been in the interest of University and has not been actively participating in the campus,” read the character certificate that was issued to him shortly after he filed the petition.
As it turns out Rahman has represented his university at the national level, won several prizes is writing and debate competitions, was joint secretary of his political science department and was class representative two years in a row.
“After I got my character certificate, I filed an RTI application. I asked the university whether there were any complaints against me and on what grounds this certificate was issued. I was handed the same certificate again. I challenged it in the High Court. A fresh certificate was issued within a week,” says the student from Bihar’s Siwan district.
The High Court was stinging in its observations on the University’s behaviour. “…the petitioner (Rahman) cannot be penalized for approaching the court. We expect the University as an educational institution not to take such a vindictive attitude against the petitioner and to issue a proper character certificate.”
But the High Court’s remarks seem to have had no impact on the University which has come back with a vengeance at Rahman.
Despite his excellent record, both in academics and extra-curricular activities, he has been refused a seat in all seven MA courses he applied to, forcing him to return to the High Court for justice.
What motivated a student with a stellar academic career and a promising future to risk it all?
“When I left Bihar for Delhi, I believed that Jamia, a central university, would broaden my outlook, provide a platform for debate and discussion. That is what I came here for. But here students are allowed hold public c debates, put up posters, stage street plays or hold public meetings. I wondered why our university couldn’t be like Delhi University or JNU.
“We are not allowed raise questions. Students who raised their voice have been removed, banned from campus. A fear psychosis has been created on campus. In democratic India, an undemocratic Jamia is being created. Our legal fundamental human rights are being suppressed. That is when I decided I should go to court to restore students union on campus,” says the undaunted student of political science.
Responding to Rahman’s petition challenging the Vice-chancellor’s decision to deny him admission, the Registrar of Jamia Milia Islamia quotes Jamia Act, 1988, which gives the Vice-Chancellor the power to expel, rusticate or refuse admission to a student.
Denying Rahman admission, states the Registrar, is a “preventive measure,” given Rahman’s “troublesome and painful acts of indiscipline.” And that the university is “justified in the face of the fact that he misconducted himself during proceedings of the interview…it is evident that he is trying to secure admission to create disarray and annoyance and to disturb the carefully established peace on the campus”.
Despite the volley of charges that have been leveled against him by his University, Rahman remains unperturbed. “My case is strong. All they have are allegations. The court needs evidence.”
How are the students on campus reacting to him? “The students support me. But they are afraid to come forward. They are afraid to talk to me on campus because of the CCTV cameras. They are worried that they will also be implicated.”
Not unsurprisingly, Rahman is an avid user of the Right to Information Act.
“I have filed many RTIs in the last five years. For example, where does the student union fee go – the university collects Rs 50 as student union fee from every student even though we don’t have a students union. It has been discontinued from this year after I filed a petition in court. What is the Aid fund for? How much money does Jamia get from abroad? In some cases, I’ve been asked to withdraw my RTI application.”
Asked what his parents make of his fight for democracy and his legal venture, he smiles. “They don’t know. I will tell them soon.”
Rahman is an aspiring IAS officer.
He says: “We have to fight for our rights. Those who get scared die many deaths. The brave die only once. The world remembers those who fight.”