April 20, 2021
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How To Break A University

The dictatorial and anti-academic attitude of the Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia has neither attracted media attention nor elicited any discussion within the teaching community

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How To Break A University

While the half baked measure of Delhi University Vice Chancellor has attracted considerable scrutiny and criticism, the dictatorial and anti-academic attitude of the Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia has neither attracted media attention nor has it elicited any discussion within the teaching community.

Ever since Mr Najeeb Jung has become the VC of Jamia, he has either suspended or terminated 25 employees of the University, 15 of them teachers and some very senior professors. This is an unprecedented number for any university and yet there is not even a hint of protest either within the campus or outside. In a recent question raised in the Rajya Sabha, the university admitted that since Mr Jung has taken over, 37 university employees have left the university, which includes some senior professors like Professor Radha Kumar, who did a remarkable job in establishing the Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution. No attempt was made to stop this flight of academic talent from the university. Rather one should say that conditions were created so as to make some professors leave the university. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the present VC is encouraging people to resign and quit because of an opaque system of leave rules that he is following. Thus while some favourite acolytes have been granted leave, other deserving candidates had either to resign or saw their academic mobility blocked.

Mr Jung has maintained his iron grip on the university by promoting factionalism between different departments and centres. Moreover, he has promoted ad-hocism in the University by not making permanent appointments for senior and important positions in the University. Thus the registrar, the dean of students, the finance officer, etc are all professors of the university without having any fixed term of office. Not having a tenured position, the officials of the University are hardly in a position to question him. Similarly, he has ensured that the Executive Committee of the University virtually acts as a rubber stamp legitimizing his whimsical and dictatorial rule. The lone dissenter within the EC, a historian of repute from Delhi University, has altogether stopped attending EC meetings due to the attitude of the Vice Chancellor.

In cahoots with the most reactionary elements within the Muslim community, Mr Jung saw to it that Jamia become a minority institution. Post Sachar Committee Report, everyone knows that Muslims in India lag behind economically. But this VC, although he never stops claiming himself to be the champion of the Muslim cause, has gone ahead with one fee hike after another. All protests from the University students have been handled sternly and some of these students have been removed from the rolls of the University for daring to file RTI applications. Despite a High Court order directing the university to conduct student union elections, the university, under the express instructions of the VC, has so far not held any students’ elections but has rather devised an opaque system of student nominations. Without having a Union of their own, students are completely at the mercy of the administration and have nowhere to go.

While there is murmur within the Jamia teaching community, there is not even a hint of opposition from the elected teachers’ body, the Jamia Teachers’ Association (JTA). The character of the JTA has historically been a story of compromises. After being elected to Union offices, these teacher representatives have been known to lobby for their personal ends rather than fight for teachers’ rights. Thus the JTA so far has not even convened a single meeting to discuss the suspension/termination of so many teachers in the university. It was partly to stem this pathetic state of affairs that some teachers got together and decided to do political work under the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA). However, over the years a mutual accommodation of interest seems to have developed between some members of JTSA and the administration. Today the JTSA stands thoroughly compromised with not even a hint of dissent coming out from this group.

It is extremely sad but true that within Jamia, there has been a section of teaching community who claim to be progressive. Some of them are very closely associated with the dominant Indian left. It is astonishing, to say the least, that rather than mounting an effective challenge to this anti-teacher administration, their whole politics has revolved around getting close to the administration and be in its good books. As someone who taught in Jamia for six years, one is extremely pained to see that the so called left and progressive forces have remained mute and meek spectators to the brazenness of a Vice Chancellor who only has contempt for the teaching community.

Arshad Alam is Assistant Professor with the Center for the Study of Social Systems, JNU

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