Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) grew out of the efforts of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, a great visionary, activist and social reformer. It is an institution of national importance (Seventh Schedule, Article 246 of the Indian Constitution). Since Sir Syed himself was himself an activist with a missionary zeal, youth, or student activism at AMU has been a prominent feature of student life. Youth activists have played a significant role in bringing about changes which are important for both AMU, and the nation. Free of any favouritism on the lines of caste, creed, and regionalism, youth have fought for equal rights for all.
If we define youth activism, it may simply mean participation of youth in any movement seeking social change. Youth in AMU have played lead roles in public protests and advocacy against issues of crime, corruption, injustice against marginalised groups like minorities, national events that impact the life of the general public and even international matters like war, etc. AMU youth have been regularly organising peace marches, debates and group discussions to sensitise students on campus, national and international happenings.
Recently, AMU students took up the cause of two campus deaths. One was that of Hyderabad Central University research scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide, which is suspected to have been triggered by the university administration’s pressure on since he was a Dalit and an activist himself. The other was the murder of Alamgir, an AMU student, right in the heart of the campus in broad daylight. Students are demanding justice for the deaths of both of these students.
Currently, the Aligarh Activist Society (AAS) is playing a major role in voicing the concerns of students regarding various social issues. AAS is a group of students formed to promote intellectual discourses and student activism in AMU.
AAS recently raised funds for the AMU chapter of the Occupy UGC movement. Several students of AMU travelled to Delhi and took part in the movement against the HRD Ministry’s decision of doing away with non-net fellowships. Well, the matter is under a review committee and it is hoped that it will be resolved soon in favour of the students.
In January, a delegation of 10 research scholars met the Vice-Chancellor Lt. Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah, demanding the withdrawal of the Academic Council’s verdict to consider the children of AMU employees as internal students in university admissions. They convinced the V-C of the discriminatory ills of this decision which led to the V-C calling an emergency meeting of the Academic Council. He later announced the withdrawal of the decision through media.
These days, the matter of AMU’s minority ‘character’ is under intense discussion. A delegation of social activists from AMU met Congress president Sonia Gandhi. It was to draw her attention to the central NDA government’s stand on the minority character of AMU. Ms. Gandhi said that she was well aware of the issue and assured the delegation that her party would take all the necessary measures required to put pressure on the NDA government.
Several other examples can also be given to highlight work of youth activists at AMU. Some young Aligarian activists are trying to bring together students of all backgrounds to raise their voice against campus issues like discrimination in selection to various student clubs, allotment of scholarships and admission into the Ph.D. programme etc.
Senior students like Yasir Arafat Turk, Ameen Ahmad and others are playing a vital role in organising various social activities in AMU. The latter is the coordinator of AAS while the former is highly popular among students that are from economically weak backgrounds. He works independently and claims that he does not need the help of any banner for fighting for the causes he believes in.
Many argued that the student activism would disappear in an era of competition among students to pursue professional courses to ensure a better career, or for going for higher education. People also say that as most students now come from a ‘non-elite’ background, they might not be attracted towards social and political activism because of a lack of resources for them to be able to manage their study and activism simultaneously. But, this clearly has not been the case in AMU. Students remain a potent political and social force and only the modes of their involvement in activism have been changing.
Students are less likely to vote and less likely to join political parties. But they are more likely to take part in online petitions, join boycotts, express views on online forums, involve themselves in advocacy social networks and participate in demonstrations and protest movements.
People should come together and help students build their campaigns. Help youth activism and let the message of students travel to a larger audience.
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