For two years, I worked at Jamia Millia Islamia. Each day I entered and exited the campus through gate number 7. Jamia was a beautiful physical space with lush green lawns, a glorious library. While I had an enriching time in my association with Jamia, it was little more than just another workplace for me. Each day, I would wait for the clock to strike 5:30 pm so that I could leave the office and head home.
However, when I went to Jamia in the evening, a few weeks after the brutal attack on December 15, the same space seemed entirely and almost unrecognizably different.
Slogans such as ‘Tera kanoon chalega toh chalega kitna, rokne se koi toofan rukega kitna’, and ‘Desh bachao, samvidhan bachao’ stared back at me as I walked from the Jamia metro station towards gate number 7.
Each of the walls bordering the campus was painted with beautiful visuals, powerfully portraying the students’ struggle for a dignified existence. Indian flags adorned each of the walls and were fluttering everywhere I looked.
Jamia Students will study on the Street till open the Library.@ResistCAA @ndtv @ndtvindia @ndtvfeed @TheLallanTop @thewire_in @ThePrintIndia @TheQuint @CNN @CNNbrk @cnni @BBCWorld @BBCBreaking @BBCNews @BBCHindi @BBCUrdu pic.twitter.com/KbQI3deLx7
— Shahbaz Naseem (@shahbazns84) January 14, 2020
I was deeply moved to see that one of the footpaths had even been converted into a ‘co-working, co-protesting space’, where anyone and everyone was welcome to sit, study, work, protest or just rest! As I approached the campus, I also spotted a small desk where free legal help was available to anyone who required it.
As I kept walking towards the campus, I saw scores of students walking with the national flag in their hands; the chants of ‘Azaadi’ reverberated in the air.
As I neared gate number 7, the same gate which houses the library where the barbaric attacks had taken place, I saw beautiful graffiti that embellished the road, symbolizing united opposition of AMU, DU, JNU and Jamia against NRC, CAA, and NPR. Next to it were some more art, which had faded with time due to vehicular movement on the road. These graffiti, made by the students from the ‘Fine Arts’ department, were a testimony of the daily investment of students in the act of protesting.
— Chand babu IYC (@babu123chand5) January 14, 2020
Gate number 7 was completely covered with posters and flags. I could not believe that this was the same gate that I was so habituated to using—for it looked nothing like before. Next to the gate were a few students who were participating in a sit-in protest. These students were fasting for their rights and had not eaten anything for six days.
Just as I attempted to contain the emotions invoked by this entire scene, I saw students with brooms, cleaning the road and picking the trash.
This activity was undertaken each evening to ensure that the road was not littered due to its occupation for protests. A few students were regulating the traffic to ensure that their activities did not disrupt smooth vehicular movement.
Within a few moments, a crowd gathered in front of gate number 7 for the daily candlelight vigil. In this vigil, women, men and children came together to sing the national anthem and songs of resistance. As I stood there as an observer, I experienced goosebumps.
These goosebumps were a result of the conviction I heard in their voices, the sincerity that was written all over their face and the pain I saw in their eyes. I could feel their fear and insecurity by merely cohabiting this space of protest for a very brief period.
This visit to the Jamia campus is one of the most emotional and compelling experiences I have had recently. It seemed that the socio-political climate had transformed the campus and made it come alive.
The university campus did not feel like just another campus anymore; it felt like so, so much more than that. This was certainly not the space that I had worked in. From a space that seemed restrictive, it had transformed into a space where emancipation was visible in every corner.
— ????? ???? (@whartzjaweds) January 14, 2020
From a space that I was always eager to leave, Jamia had turned into a space that I did not want to leave. The students had taken to the streets and how! Their active citizenship and sustained engagement in the act of dissent against an oppressive regime was inspirational, and invoked in me a strong feeling of patriotism.
Truly, Jamia had been touched by the revolution and the students, undeterred by the long battles that lay ahead, were marching on…