India’s prestigious educational institution Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) is once again in the news. Two years ago, students of this university had agitated against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that discriminates against Muslims in the course of granting citizenship. In return, Hindu nationalists branded this prestigious university with a historic significance as a “jihadi factory”.
The university’s Centre for Coaching and Career Planning, commonly known as Residential Coaching Academy (RCA), has held the distinction of securing the top position in Indian civil service — one of the toughest exams — that ensures a place in the country’s top bureaucracy. A Delhi girl Shruti Sharma, a student of this institution, claimed the top position in the civil service exam and will soon be joining India’s elite foreign service.
Established in 2010, RCA has so far churned out 270 top bureaucrats for India. While providing free coaching to students preparing for competitive examinations, the university had set up the centre to assist women and those belonging to weaker sections like Dalits and minorities to appear for the elite exam.
At a time when religious intolerance is scaling new heights in the country, an institution perceived as belonging to Muslims and a target of the Hindu right-wing, giving top-notch bureaucrats to the country has left many faces red.
Last year a private Hindi news channel known for running a hate campaign against the Muslims called RCA as a part of the project steering UPSC Jihad. UPSC is the abbreviation for Union Public Service Commission, which conducts competitive exams in the country for central government jobs. The RCA was labelled as a part of a conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims into the civil services.
Along with Shruti Sharma, 22 other students from the centre cleared the civil service exam this year. Ironically, while everyone from the university’s vice-chancellor to the alumni of RCA celebrated her success, there was no word of appreciation from any arm of the Indian government that owns this central university.
Besides RCA, the government had selected five other universities under a central government scheme to assist women and students belonging to marginalised sections. But so far only JMI has shown results.
No words of appreciation from the government
Even the Education Ministry, which funds the RCA program, had no words of appreciation for the university, apparently because of its association with Muslims even just namesake.
“We are a very inclusive institution and do not discriminate between any students. Our role as an institution is to participate in nation-building and we work as a team to provide the best learning environment to all our students. It is the result of this teamwork that we have so many success stories,” said Abid Haleem, professor in charge of RCA.
But amid all this, the morale of the university and its students remains unshaken.
“This is the true Jamia spirit. No matter how big the adversity, even if the world is turned against us, the faculty and students do not lose focus and perform their duties in all honesty,” said Mohammad Wasim, an alumnus of the university.
In 2019, at the time of protests against the CAA, Delhi Police had stormed into the Jamia campus, used tear gas shells and charged at students with batons who were sitting in libraries. The gruesome visuals of that day that emerged later would send chills down one’s spine.
A fact-finding report by the university documented that several students suffered injuries on their heads, and have had bone fractures from police beatings.
One student has even lost vision in his left eye, and another had to get rod transplants in his legs. University guards and female students too were not spared by the police. And while the government and Education Ministry, which is the custodian of the institution, kept looking in the other direction, the mainstream Indian media left no stone unturned to tarnish Jamia’s image.
But the university and its students have taken sweet revenge. Instead of sulking, they have replied to the hate mongers by doubling efforts to show results. Besides churning out nearly two dozen bureaucrats this year, the university has managed to secure an A++ Grade, the highest grade given by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) — an agency that evaluates the performance of higher education institutes in India.
From being called a ‘jihadi factory’ to producing top notch civil servants- JMI leaves fanatics red faced.