By Shamaila Fatima:
Welcome to Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), where the right to vote for electing the Aligarh Muslim University Students Union (AMUSU) is denied to almost 2500 women students. Women students have a separate college for a few undergraduate courses, which is 3 kilometres away from the main campus, where most other colleges of the University are located. They have their own students union known as Women’s College Students Union, for which they elect the president, vice-president, honourary secretary and members of the cabinet.
The argument given by the administration is that segregation of the students union is done in line with the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations. According to the recommendations, “Subject to the autonomy of the universities in respect of the choice of the mode of election, all universities must institute an apex student representative body that represents all students, colleges, and departments coming under the particular university. In the event that the university is geographically widespread, individual colleges may constitute their own representative bodies, which would further elect representatives for the apex university body.” Even Delhi University has a very widespread campus and yet, it only elects one students’ union for most of its colleges. The colleges that have their own students’ union, do it out of choice. Does the Womens’ College have a separate union out of choice? If so, why? It was only in the 2010 elections that a students’ union for all was elected, and no segregation took place. However, in 2012, the Vice-Chancellor ended up splitting the unions again and the tradition is being followed till date.
The discrimination doesn’t end here. The number of seats at Women’s College is much less than in the main campus. The infrastructure, facilities and faculty available at the Women’s College are also insufficient; classrooms are old and the lab equipment is inadequate. Many times, lab samples are not available in the college. So, students have to go to the main campus to see those samples. For many national level competitions, where students are invited from AMU, students from the Women’s College never get a chance to represent the University.
Having separate elections for the college deprives women of full political representation. Shadab Bano, a history professor at Women’s College, throws light on this issue and says, “If there can be one Aligarh Muslim University Teachers Association comprising of teachers both from the University and Women’s College, then why not one AMUSU? These girls are the future of tomorrow. If they can’t represent themselves at university level, then how would they be able to represent themselves in national politics? This issue has been raised several times but it never got any solution. If you are not allowed to be a part of the system then how can you bring a change in the society? There are several issues which are never heard because of this segregation.”
The most progressive, inspiring and dynamic segment of the country’s population is the student community. Student politics enables one to be a part of the change they want to see in society. Segregation in elections affects the overall development of women students. It implies that the administration thinks that girls aren’t capable of leading the University and shows their patriarchal mindset. The issue has been raised from time to time, but to no avail. A new committee should be made and changes should be made, so these girls are not deprived of their rights and get equal participation in the university.
This time, let’s just not, ‘vote, support and dua‘, a popular slogan used for campaigning at AMU. But also ask for equal access and representation for all students, irrespective of course, geographical distance and gender.