I came to Jamia two years ago to pursue my post-graduation in media studies. And now, when I look back, I am surprised to see how I have evolved as a person – from being an ignorant and clumsy introvert to a more responsible and self-aware human being. While the course in itself played a major part in instigating this transition, my daily interactions with people from different courses in the campus was also instrumental in making me what I am today. Coming from a Hindu upper-caste household, I did have a lot of inhibition initially – but it subsided soon after I started talking to the people around who never ever made me feel unsafe in any way because of my religious affiliation. There was not a single instance where my identity was questioned or mocked in any sense.
Unlike other institutions in Delhi, there are certain things here which you might find unique and different. But eventually, you will realise that those are just a part of the cultural beliefs that a majority of the candidates follow. Apart from the periodic sher-o-shaayari sessions or Urdu fillers (like Inshallah) punctuating the conversations, there is nothing that you will find to be different from the other campuses in Delhi. In fact, you will definitely have some awe-inspiring moments when strangers may politely address you as ‘aap‘ or give you space to talk freely about anything and everything.
Other than that, the problems that the students face here are similar to those faced by the students of any other college in the country. From attendance problems and issues of administrative laxity to a collective discontent over canteen food and a trail of protests (like the recent Pinjra Tod campaign) against the set rules, there is nothing really that makes this institution any different from other campuses. Contrary to the general perceptions, there are only a few people in the campus who speak in Urdu. The majority of the population here speaks in the usual Hinglish (a combination of Hindi and English) – and there are no restriction as such on cracking jokes of any kind.
Other than this, you will often catch a glimpse of women in burqa (or hijab) walking around – but it is not that everyone in the campus wears a burqa or skullcap or hijab. You will also find many people in western attires. Moreover, it is not implied that all the people wearing a burqa or skullcap have regressive mindsets. I have had numerous conversations with women wearing burqa – and I have always been amazed to see their progressive outlook towards life and how vocal they are about things they don’t necessarily identify with.
Through those interactions, I have realised that one’s attire is not emblematic of what one feels strongly for. Everyone has their own way of rebellion – and one must respect that – unless it harms individual or others in any way. This is one of the biggest lessons that I have learnt after coming to Jamia. And it is also important to mention here that in all those conversations that I had, I was never looked down upon or cut short mid-way for having a conflicting viewpoint. In an interview with one of them, I also learnt that it is not compulsory to wear a hijab in Islamic tradition. One has all the right to either wear it or abandon it as per one’s choice.
Apart from all these instances where I got to learn so many things, there were also certain conversations which I couldn’t personally identify with. There were some people who had prejudiced mindsets and had opinions different from mine. But differences of opinion are something which are (and should be) present in every institutional sphere – educational, professional or familial. And therefore, it’s never justifiable to excessively highlight only the negative aspects of any educational institution to deliberately malign its stature. Jamia has students from different cultures – and going by what I have experienced, every culture is treated with utmost respect regardless of whether it is a majority or a minority one. Both Eid and Holi are celebrated with equal fervour, and no one tries to impose one’s culture over the other.
I believe that the misconstrued idea of this institution comes from how we perceive Islamic cultures in general. Our beliefs are mostly based on what we are shown and what we are ‘made’ to believe. In my opinion, the recent incident where the right-wing activists barged into Jamia’s campus carrying placards (which said “Hindus are unsafe in Jamia”) is based on a generally-perceived idea about Muslims or Islam. And this is how such brutal action acquires legitimacy among the general populace who don’t make the efforts to find out the truth and blindly follow whatever is served to them through different mediums.
Yes, the institution has both good and bad aspects, but I don’t think it has stooped to a level where those who hold a different opinion will feel vulnerable and ‘unsafe’. I have had the most wonderful time in Jamia in the past two years – and never have I, even for a second, felt unsafe or uncomfortable about anything. To all those who have certain issues with the institution, please feel free to stroll around the campus some day – and you will definitely go back home with something you didn’t know about, or get rid of something which you wrongly and blindly believed.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.