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On the Death of Mudasir Kamran: Achuth Ajit and Ria De

March 5, 2013

This is a guest post by RIA DE and ACHUTH AJIT: English, the language of a united collective; but also a language that found itself wanting today, as if unable to express the most basic of needs, the most just of demands. Of all days today English was at its banal best.  As if clichés had eaten into it, gnawed the life out of it, bent it into prosaicness. Like “We Want Justice.” As we gather here today, at the English and Foreign Languages University – an institution that is just 5 years old with already four student deaths to its tally – to protest the high-handed and insensitive treatment of Mudasir Kamran, to honor his memory, and most of all to claim on his behalf, and on the behalf of all of us, the students at this University demand and urge “We Want Justice”. The prosaic cliché of this oft-repeated slogan was unable to state on our behalf the bare life of it as well as the spontaneity and the enormity of it.

But we continue, hopeful that the voices might pierce through the thickest of walls, and the hearts of those who arbitrate therein.  The English and Foreign Languages University, in the past few days, witnessed the most attended rallies, the loudest of slogans (albeit in mundane English).  Surely there are times when words fail, and not just when one is perturbed by the incapacity to comprehend how a just cause can ever be met with deaf ears, words fail when justifications are none that men (and women) at the helms of power lend the boots, the lathis, the full gear of riot policemen, to talk on their behalf.

The University, in the last two days, also witnessed the highest number of policemen.

Mudasir Kamran, a PhD student in the ELE (English Language Education) Department, succumbed to the atrocities of an insensitive and high-handed administration on the night of 2nd March 2013.  A member of the administration, Proctor Harish Vijra, responded to a scuffle between Mudasir and his friend by handing him over to the police. What could have been dealt with in a sensitive manner within the university, in a space where a student can feel confident and heard, was instead dragged to a police station.

Mudasir now joins the list of Anurag Sinha, Muthyam, and Balaji; their deaths as accidental as their lives in administrative records.

Mudasir Kamran was also one of the rare Kashmiri students on our campus. It is correct to say therefore that he was a representative of Kashmir and a bearer of the collective memory of the Kashmiri people. A police station can mean different things to different people. And as far as a Kashmiri is concerned, especially in the light of recent national developments, there is every reason that a police station would recall fears of being branded a ‘terrorist’. Even with the kindest of policemen around, there is no reason why Mudasir should have felt any less disturbed.

We strongly believe the administration clearly understands the implications and possible consequences of subscribing to police action against a Kashmiri Muslim student in the present context of Afzal Guru’s execution and the bombings in Hyderabad.  Yet the administration chose to turn against the needs of its very own students and treat him like a criminal and a mentally ill person, who ought to be ‘treated’ by the police.

In situations of conflict between students, one can only hope that the administration’s basic response would be to provide counseling services or to create a safe context in which these problems can be resolved, instead of handing the students to the police to be intimidated.

It is not the first time that the Proctor has shown complete absence of empathy towards the needs of students. We should also know that the proctor was well aware of Mudasir’s problems for the last few months and chose to turn a blind eye. Now, the choice for an administration is to either work as an organic extension of the students, teachers and the non-teaching staff; or work as a pre-programmed machinery at a loss for complexity. In the first instance, the administration would not find itself hapless in the face of a distressed student. In the second instance, such an administration finds its closest ally in the police. Proctor Harish Vijra’s insistence on police intervention just goes to show the protocol-philic nature of this administration.

In her initial responses, the Vice-Chancellor who not only refused to join the students in mourning the death of Mudasir, showed utter thoughtlessness in refusing to provide any compensation for Mudasir’s family. Moreover, she continues to protect the proctor, in spite of his clear responsibility in the death of a student. Since Mudasir’s death, most of us have been witness to the unprecedented presence of policemen on campus fully geared to silence any kind of resistance. Our university had turned in to a police campus with the Vice Chancellor openly instructing police to ‘take care’ of the situation. We are aware from recent incidents how the police ‘takes care’ of protesting students.

The EFLU administration showed no sign of remorse and continued to treat its students like a law-and-order problem. Their fraudulent and pompous display of condolence seemed best decorated by the distasteful presence of the police. The conspicuousness of khaki-wardi presence in the condolence meeting organized by the Registrar was in striking contrast to the near-total absence of university students, most of whom were not adequately informed of the meeting.

Hundreds of us, led by student organisations (TSA, DABMSA, SIO, MSF, BSU, TVV), gathered today to express our solidarity with Mudasir and to protest police surveillance on campus.  We refused to initiate any dialogue with the authorities until the last policeman was flushed off the campus. But members of the administration continued to claim they had not solicited the presence of police on campus. This is completely contrary to what our university constitution guarantees; no police intervention without the permission of the Vice-Chancellor.

However, there were moments of doubt when one couldn’t distinguish between the administration and the police. While the police basked in the VC’s lawn, the administration was at its enterprising best; they employed a photographer to profile protesting students.

Following the persistent protests of the students, the VC could only promise a fact-finding committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding Mudasir’s death, and expects the students to trust in its impartiality even as Harish Vijra continues to be the Proctor.  While we earned the smallest of our victories as the administration requested the policemen to leave the campus, our spirits were soon dampened. The administration denied the students their right to represent themselves in the fact-finding committee.

Today we concluded our protest with renewed energy, with the promise to return tomorrow, in greater numbers to mourn the loss of a friend who enlivens our protest today, for a student community, more fearless, more democratic.  Join us in protest, in solidarity.

Our demands remain,

1. Suspension of Proctor Harish Vijra immediately
2. University has to lodge a criminal case against Proctor Vijra
3. Monetary compensation of Rs.20 Lakhs to the deceased family
4. Provision of Employment to a member of the deceased family
5. Establishing a proper administrative system to prevent any further incidents of this sort.
6. Resolve all the existing pending cases filed by the students by taking an appropriate action against the erring authorities.

See also:

19 Comments leave one →
  1. Firoz permalink
    March 5, 2013 10:52 AM

    LIke a bystander said in Maachis, “aatankwadi kheton mein nahi ugte, aatankwadi aise paida hote hain”

  2. Amir Khan permalink
    March 5, 2013 11:13 AM

    Instead of promoting democratic environment in universities, they are resorting to authoritarian attitude………..Jamia Millia Islamia is also a Victim of such authoritarian regime……….My deep condolence to the deceased family and I condemn such barbaric and brutal action of the University Administration.

  3. dark lord permalink
    March 5, 2013 12:32 PM

    However unfortunate the death of the student is, I fear that you are barking up the wrong tree. I do not see any reason why the administration is being blamed. The student was involved in a fight and if the administration had not reported it, it would be culpable for any harm had the fight escalated. Having lived in campus across the country, I have to say that the harm done by trying to solve issues ‘internally’ has had a more disturbing effect on behavior and attitude.

    • the observer permalink
      March 5, 2013 5:03 PM

      I’m a student of EFLU who has heard a different account from the insider source(sig)… and was very surprised to learn that the incident was more complex than what people were saying on facebook and what appeared to be on news pages. It involved homosexuality and threats and another roommate. Of course a ‘rush to get the police involvement’ done by the proctor should be blamed too…but it’s not the only thing! and if this is true, I think what needs to be looked at,particularly in this case, rather than political assumptions related to religion, region, or personal political beliefs is the person’s relationship, psyche and sexuality. Why has this become a problem? and If such problem occurs, how can we properly deal with it? I hope someday soon the indian society will be more open to publicly talk about this topic.

  4. March 5, 2013 1:24 PM

    Educational institutions and their accommodations have become like jails. More so in Kashmir than anywhere else. Many proctors imagine themselves as extensions of the police/surveillance system, even while they use their assumed authority and powers for personal advantage. I have seen this as a student in the University of Delhi as well as Kashmir. Either the students must take over the role of managing their own affairs or the the system needs be revamped completely to avoid such ugly incidents. We had a student removed from his room because he was found with his girlfriend by the raiding ‘authorities’. He would have been publicly shamed and made to leave his course had the progressive students not intervened. Shockingly some conservative right wing bastards were on the side of the prying proctor.

    In Kashmir a boy was slapped by the proctor and physically thrown out of the campus because he was publicly sitting with a girl having a completely chaste conversation, only because he did not carry his identity card!

    Another duly sanctioned art performance was halted by the so called ‘authorities’ at the behest of a few morons who found a particular public performance offensive to their fragile sensibilities because boys and girls were performing in it together! Authoritarian morons and control freaks are emboldened by the increasing militarization and gradual take over of our societies by the police, especially so for people who live under occupation.

    • Amir Khan permalink
      March 5, 2013 5:22 PM

      Such harassment have been continuously ignored by our so called “Democratic Institution” because of their own involvement in such despotic activities, Time has come to raised our voice for the democratic atmosphere in all Institution, wherein no one will Dictate the students as their subjects.

  5. Vandana permalink
    March 5, 2013 5:39 PM

    Education.
    Sometimes institutes offer more than the courses.

    They are offering a ripe environment for change. The language of violence based on insecurity is ‘foreign’ indeed and qualifies for better comprehension by all.

    The present trends are calling out loud for a non-authoritative approach to resolving behavioral issues through a human perspective minus branding of religious or ethnicity.

    Sometimes a disagreement just needs to heard in a calm setting vs. Police action. Are we so insecure of ourselves as educators? What are we saying?

    Is education= facts+method+money+pass/fail+come/sit/go?

    There has to be a departmentment which helps resolves issues where people speak human languages free of insecurities.

  6. March 5, 2013 10:42 PM

    junk article. go and beg elsewhere for manufactured sympathy

  7. Bim permalink
    March 5, 2013 10:54 PM

    In most universities, in case of fights beteen students/ student groups, the authorities call the police and ask them to deal with the situation. Even FIRs are fired and people get locked up for a number of days.

    I wonder why should someone get a different treatment just because he is a Kashmiri. You break the law, the police takes over.

    Don’t make it a pathetic charade of victimhood as if this is happening only to Kashmiri students.

  8. Sunalini permalink*
    March 11, 2013 5:30 PM

    This is a statement from a collective of EFLU teachers:

    Teachers’ Front for Justice and Democracy

    We are a collective of the EFL University teachers to support the culture of democracy and stand for justice on the campus. We strongly believe that an academic space should be free from prejudices, hierarchies, dominations and discriminations and promote rational thinking and unbiased views. Teachers’ Front for Justice and Democracy is a space to intervene, debate and discuss issues concerning to the campus and think beyond the stock responses and set patterns of hierarchical affiliations that EFLU has inherited over the years. As members of a higher educational space, we are committed to self reflexive academic practices that connect to wider socio-political realities.
    We are extremely disturbed by the events that have lead to the current impasse on campus. As we feel that we are also part of a system whose manifold failures have precipitated in the death of a student, we extend our sincere apology to the student community and the friends and family of Mudassir Kamran. Having said so, we express our disagreement with the ways in which the administration has handled this situation, going in tune with the opinion and interests of certain dominant and conservative groups. We are worried that unless corrective measures have been designed and implemented at this particular moment the stubborn administration may further bring forth tragedies in the cases of students like Sreeramulu.
    EFLU-TA for the past few years has been functioning as stooges to the administration. It is not transparent democratic or secular, but has been used by casteist and communal elements to propagate their ideas and interests. This defunct association invokes the teaching fraternity and comes alive only to save certain vested interests. We feel that the administration and TA cannot shrug off their responsibilities in aggravating the general air of discontent among the student community mourning the death of one among them. By failing to engage with the demands raised by the students, and acting in a defensive mode the administration has brought in the suspension of one week’s class and now is further proposing to complicate the situation by instigating strife and polarization among the student community. We are shocked at the reluctance of an accused to step down from his office to face the enquiry and all the more startled by the stubborn reiterations that ‘we would not allow him to resign.’ We are uncomfortable about this antagonism towards the students, denying them a space for negotiation. If there are problems with the modes of student-protests we feel that it also is due to the continuous indifference and disengagement that the university administration has extended towards grave issues relating to student lives on campus. We feel academic activities are not to be done under police protection or through totalitarian measures. We demand the administration to budge from its obstinacy and democratically engage with the demands made by the students.

    -TFJD

  9. Do I Dare? permalink
    March 12, 2013 10:25 PM

    What a bunch of lies! If you repeat a lie a thousand times, somebody in the last century believed, it would become the truth for the people. The Proctor did not send Kamran to the police, his friend did. Kamran persecuted and harassed his friend for several months, until it became unbearable for him—in the last instance of violence, K tried to strangle him, and friends had to intervene and separate them. There is a steady stream of complaints regarding these events in the official records. Without administrative intervention, it might very well have been this friend who took his life. He had been given a separate room and membership in a separate mess a long time back.

    We did not experience the most attended rallies on campus, we did experience the most noise, including high-decibel drumming. You tried to destroy the house of the Proctor when he and his family were inside. This is all too familiar to a Kashmiri, especially if you happened to be a Muslim who did not believe in separatism, or of course, a Pandit. It may sound okay for you. I wonder why there are no criminal cases filed against you. There was never more than a hundred students at the most at any one rally on campus—that too, with outside ‘contributions,’ that is. There are roughly 3000 students living on campus. So that is not even 10% on a day when the libraries were shut, and there were no classes.

    The negotiators of the Vice Chancellor were apparently always asking the protestors to send 3 or 4 of their representatives to meet her for discussion every single day of the so-called student agitation. We were never informed of this. Instead, on our behalf, you insisted on summoning her to your kangaroo court, your Khap Panchayat, as someone called it. These negotiators were willing to have student representatives on what was merely a fact-finding committee—the agitators wanted a student to be the chair and convenor! I notice that this is not on your list of demands here–very clever of you to suppress that. There is a copy of your ‘official’ demands circulating, by the way. While it is theoretically possible to imagine a student of stature enough to claim such a position, sadly, I haven’t found such students amongst us. The result was that you made students look like a vicious mob of lynchers both in your demonstrations and vandalisms and in your unreasonable ‘demands.’ You succeeded in completely alienating staff and faculty from students.

    From the moment Kamran’s body was found hanging, to the time it was released to his family, your thugs tried to extract the maximum advantage out of it. The students who handled his body were the ones who handled this agitation, and it is not at all clear they knew what they were doing. Foucauldian ideas about the police state are not the best rational companions when dealing with real life situations or even agitations. You live in a virtual reality sponsored by your ‘radical’ teachers. Why is it that you draw little sympathy from ELT or Linguistics students?

    The police, when they did appear on campus, didn’t ever hurt a single student. They should have been there when you stormed the Proctor’s residence—they were not there then. You keep talking about the police and the police state. Is this because of your unconscious fear of drawing police attention to your criminal activities, perhaps? You stormed into the Vice Chancellor’s office—it is said that your negotiators apologized for this yesterday to the VC—when all the time she was asking you to send 3 or 4 representatives. You never told us this—you wanted us to believe that the VC was refusing to negotiate. We have just started hearing the other side, now that your ‘agitation’ is over.

    The police do not need the permission of the VC or the administration to enter the campus. The moment they get a complaint, they have the right to come in. Contrary to what your informants tell you, in real life, they do not wait outside the gate until the Registrar or VC grants them permission. If there is an explosion on campus, for example, or a fight, or a drugs issue. I wish the police had been called in a few more times to stop your vandalism.

    The VC was prevented from attending the condolence meeting by your thugs. And now you say she didn’t attend it! A clear case of you ‘manufacturing’ truth. Remember that ‘Open Session’ you held? Did you see how some of us left? We left out of fear.

    Mudassir committed suicide. It was his decision. Nobody pays compensation for this kind of death. Again, a spurious demand. How about contributing part of your fellowships to his family for a few months? Will you write a letter telling the administration to cut this amount from your fellowships and send it to his family? It has been said, everybody loves a good famine. You’ve had your tamasha. You have achieved nothing. For us, a death that we don’t clearly understand, needless surely, and an agitation that merely rolled the clock back for us. Ten days of our lives wasted. All for nothing. Each one of you imagined you were a Che Guevara, I have no doubt. At our expense. Each of you thought you were fighting for justice and truth and reason and democracy. All at our expense, remember. You are research scholars, so a week or a month is no problem for you, and you will still get your fellowships. What about our time and money?

    The least you could have done is provide an example of democratic leadership, with every student allowed to express his or her opinion. We were never consulted about the agitation. Never asked what we felt. We were just told what to feel, what to believe, what to be. And always threatened with violence. You are the students and the students are you. Reminds you of something, does that, comrade?

    • seeta permalink
      March 13, 2013 11:13 AM

      what sort of violence have you been threatened with?
      you mean the violence of people telling you that you should grow up and stop sniffling about not being given enough attention- the kind you are used to, as a privileged and rich kid? or the violence of finally having to encounter minorities or so called subalterns whose very presence makes you so uncomfortable you rush and hide behind whoever would comfort you (the police, the VC, some opportunistic teachers, fellow privileged pretties) at your perplexity at having to concede ground to an other you have been taught to ignore and erase all your life?
      i understand that it is difficult, when you first encounter people so very different, to suddenly unlearn years and years of privilege, and you will find many others like you who wont want to give it up, and they will all employ the same language that those in power employ, calling protests/protestors liars, vandals, maoists/china’s pr, few speaking for others, non inclusive, and so on.
      but this logic can be used ad infinitum and doesnt really involve any responsibility or recognition of otherness, but more harmfully, it doesnt let you grow. maybe the ‘protestors’ could have been more inclusive, maybe you would have ‘participated’ then, maybe you would have become very radical/political and been the figurehead of the protest itself.
      maybe the police is fabulous and very concerned about the population’s well being, maybe the VC is the very picture of generosity, maybe those that are complaining at not being included are the new subalterns!
      or maybe you are just a rich, snot nosed, self righteous opportunist hanging on to every word that would insulate you from confronting your privilege(s).
      (disclaimer, i am not anymore a student at eflu, just a ‘casual’ observer who’s followed whatever she could find-the internet is a wonderful thing, after all-and someone who recognises the repeatability of certain kinds of rhetoric)
      freedom of speech, ah, and the wonder it is! but of course it must be the freedom of brahmins/majorities/men/those that are powerful and anyone who poses a challenge to this necessarily violent/unreasonable/vandal/criminal/emotional…
      and thus we reach the great impasse within the University and the Indian polity, where asking for the recognition of difference is met with gandhian goodwill/charity on the one hand and afspa or modi like godheadedness on the other.
      oh to be intractable! and yet have the space to speak, without wonderful hearted people telling you what a favour they are doing you by ‘allowing’ you to do so.

  10. Do I Dare? permalink
    March 13, 2013 3:49 PM

    Dear Seeta, I take it that your first question is a rhetorical one. No use bothering with that—besides, you already know the answers to that question all too well, and your post is full of that assurance. What can one do when one’s supposed class and caste (and religion too?) draw so much ire from the enlightened revolutionary? From what you say, I can clearly guess what sorts of courses might have fulfilled the 80 credits of your MA (or higher? can’t guess!) programme here. In a strange way, you demonstrate all the weird ways in which students are taught to prejudge issues and people. I laugh here because you are so wrong about my own socio-political, economic, and cultural background! Frankly speaking, though, I can’t say I can guess yours on the evidence of your post. I don’t know if your parents were wealthy urban middle-class bourgeois brahmin protobrahmin reactionaries or poor rural dalit revolutionary folk. It doesn’t matter. You were not here. You don’t believe there was overt nor covert violence on campus. You are not here, but you know, don’t you? That is the benefit of a real education: you will always know what to know. When you don’t have answers, use the drum. When you don’t like the questions, go ad hominem.

    • seeta permalink
      March 14, 2013 1:20 AM

      privilege can be of various kinds. but the rhetoric remains the same. there’s many an eager minority rep in modi’s bjp too!
      …i’ve read everything you so called dissenters (of the protest) have put up, and while you may not be a homogenous group (something you hardly concede to the other side), the whining is just that-whining. it mostly goes in the tone of oh you didnt include us, you didnt ask for our opinion, and we had to walk/walked out of the public meetings called because of threats/violence. what threats? since none of you who are protesting against the protests have bothered to say it, why not take the opportunity here and tell us about the so called violence instead of being all oooh you werent here so you dont know. bad strategy too, in addition to reeking of privilege-of one kind or another, or at any rate a certain kind of aspiration to mobility.
      as for my parents, though they would identify as neither reactionaries nor revolutionaries, they swerve from one to the other with alarming frequency!
      as for civilities and niceties, excuse me if i am too jaded by the same old kinds of rhetoric to observe them anymore. my apologies for not taking your effort into consideration, though it would help a lot if you actually made the effort of listing out your questions instead of accusing others of not listening to your pretty (and very bourgeios) whining (such as graffiti is ugly, we’re missing classes-shock, horror! you want to undo admin hierarchy-shock, horror again, theory isnt real, how dare you demand compensation, and so on)

Trackbacks

  1. A Modest Proposal from EFLU Students, Hyderabad: Anonymous | Kafila
  2. Mourning for Mudasir by Anomitra Biswas – thebanjaranmanifesto
  3. Seeking Solidarity for Justice for Mudasir Kamran #mustshare | kracktivist

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