“Marks are fine…but understanding the subject will build your character”
This is the first lesson that I had learnt from him. He spoke to us, not just about how we would become future lawyers but also he taught us to be human beings. To him, we were a future that he cared for.
Professor Mohammad Salim taught me Jurisprudence that shaped my individuality. He built me as a person and his classes shaped my curiosity and relationship with law. To me, he is the definition of a ‘teacher’. He teaches life…values and strength. Throughout my legal education, I have never found a teacher of higher scholarship. Yet his classes were most interesting and his jokes lit us up. We too, never missed a chance to imitate him and he was so very sporting with our humor. He loved us and we were a family.
He became the Director of Lloyd Law School, around a year back. And the college was instantly a on track to impart quality education.
In the recent turn of events, however, I have been extremely disturbed and grieved by the sheer disrespect that few of his students accorded him in the institution.
Salim Sir, was the foundation on which, we, as students were beginning to build our aspiration. As soon as he became our director, the UGC and BCI guidelines were implemented and 75% attendance became compulsory to appear for examinations. He not only brought excellent books to the library but also, let us, individually, have those books or the entire semester. He had really begun thinking about our intellectual development. We began participating in a number of co curricular activities and it was so much easier for us to prepare. He arranged for, the access to the best of Online Legal Databases and arranged for scholars from across the globe to visit our college and share their perspectives. Instantly, there was an atmosphere of learning at Lloyd like never before. His emphasis on disciple enhanced our commitment towards co curricular and extracurricular participation. He lead us with example and passion.
He failed. He did not realize that by demanding excellence , he was displaying ‘incivility’. A man, who never spoke aloud, must certainly have offended too many for his ‘rudeness’.
I remember, skipping my breakfast, in order to reach college early, to be able to attend Salim Sir’s lectures. I was not under any pressure. My entire class wanted to hear him and we had a thirst for knowledge. Unfortunately, not every applicant in Law schools feels like we do, as students. I see videos being circulated, where those who call themselves students; address their professors as ‘the white shirt professor’ in their last semester. I really wonder, what other objectives can a true student have, that attending lectures, thinking and participating in the process of informed speech and dialogue? Is it so criminal if the Director implements college discipline? Yes, indeed, he had suspended students from appearing in tests without regular attendance. And, yes, he did utter in Hindi “Why do these students waste their unearned money?”
My grandfather was the Vice Principle of a college that he built with all his vision. I have heard him scold even his own son with much more anger than Salim Sir. Aren’t professors meant to do that? If we keep on disregarding our elders, our mentors, what shall we learn? Perhaps, that day is not far when we accuse our mothers of ‘incivility’ for trying to correct us. I am ashamed.
Apparently, a student had appeared late for a class. In her final semester, she did take for granted, the idea, that coming a hour and a half late for her classes, would make absolutely no difference. Having said that, why do we, indeed have classes in our universities? Is it only for a monotonous formality to pass time and resources as the learned men bark like our paid servants? Or instead, is it a try to build an atmosphere of education, debate, discussions and endless evolutions and future promise? Is this the kind of honor we have for knowledge?
Did Salim Sir, actually commit a blunder? Or was he only performing his responsibility as the Director of an institution that strives to nurture ambition.
Today, it is easy for us to implicate our teachers for trying to build our values but is it really fair? Student uproar has enough power in it, to make a difference. Now, it is up to us, that how we choose to use this power. We could either be informed, thoughtful and sensitive to our surroundings or we could use our fire to camouflage our mediocrities. Our Professors are like our fathers, if we have disagreements with them, we do not replace them. Professors cannot be replaced. And without humility and love, we are not worthy of being called students. If only, the woman in the circulated video was a bit more educated, her language would be much more refined and she would reflect the self esteem of a human being of character and rigid sense of morality. Such an image of perversion of the youth is depressing.
‘Incivility’ is a strong word. And ‘Behen ki gaali’ is a mean accusation. His standard is not low enough to stoop to such levels. His deep knowledge in poetry and literature makes, even his rudeness sound witty. A crude and disinterested student would not know that. Salim Sir, has never raised a voice to any student, even upon worst provocations. Though, the entire college heard his voice, when he taught us.
That was the level of his involvement. Perhaps, he said ‘Saala’ a couple of times. So do all of us in our daily conversations.
It didn’t matter to us, really. We respect his knowledge. We respect learning. And of what I understand, that is the purpose of enrolling into institutions. Students, across the country, protest for not having classes. Yet, some of us complain for being insisted upon attending lectures. Surprisingly, a media that has little to say about the most delicate student opinions within the country, wasted no time in covering such ‘misbehavior by the director’. And soon, ABVP workers crowded the campus with rage and hooliganism. We, the students who stood up for Salim Sir were threatened and constant communal slur was uttered. No wonder, I do not have the courage to write this letter without staying anonymous.
I know, the story of a private law college of Greater Noida, shall obviously not have enough readers, especially when BJP is the new undisputed ruler of the state. But are these the values, even ABVP stands for? Does the student win g of BJP encourage its members to use the organization to camouflage their insincerity? Has the ‘Vidhyarhi’ become a ‘Vinashak’ of its own future?
In an unfounded protest against an honest professor, trying to build our future and provide vision, where do we really see ourselves? Do we really intend to spend our youth dwelling in such dishonest and vengeful actions to only be ashamed in the future? As a strong believer in student protests, feminist rights, equality and the youth, I personally feel such, actions only vitiate our larger cause to speak up and be heard. Like Coleman Silk in Philip Roth’s ‘Human Stain’, a free speech of an open minded professor can label him racist and finally have him leave the job. Yet, ultimately, we, as students would stand on the losing side and never again shall a learned man aspire to impart knowledge in us. If we really wish to defeat anyone, let’s not hide in cowardice. We can gain higher knowledge and win with learning. Professors like Salim Sir, only envisage that dream. Only, we did not understand him.
As for Professor Silk, the uproar ended in Professor Silk’s resignation. Salim Sir, too, may leave us and never return. His knowledge, character and values shall take him anywhere he chooses to go. Only, us, his students would lose a very valuable part of our upbringing. Above everything else, we shall lose what can never be redeemed- Our Conscience.