Mumbai: Activists from various educational institutes and student organisations in the city on Wednesday staged a protest at University of Mumbai (MU)’s Kalina campus against the recent fee hike at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and to express solidarity with Fathima Lateef, an Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) student who recently committed suicide after allegedly facing discrimination.
The agitating students said that the two incidents are indicative of the shrinking space for students from marginalised sections including poors, dalits, tribals and minorities. They demanded that the government roll-back the hike, while ensuring that education remains accessible and affordable to all. They also want the authorities to probe the death of Fathima, which the protestors termed as ‘instituitional murder’.
“We demand an impartial enquiry and justice for Fathima by strictly punishing those who are found guilty. We also demand a student grievance redressal system in each campus to help out each and every student affected by discrimination based on religion, caste and gender,” said Rafid Shahab from Students islamic Organisation of India (SIO), adding, “We also appeal to student community to voice their opinions, reach out to concerned officials and bravely resist discrimination without giving up their life because suicide is not an option; you are important and your struggle for justice should be continued with courage.”
The protest was organised by the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, a city-based collective of various organisations including Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO), Samta Vidyarthi Aghadi, Samyak Vidyarthi Andolan, Vidyarthi Bharti, All India Students Federation, Chhatra Bharti and Bharat Bachao Andolan.
The protesting students condemned exclusion of marginalised students at public institutes. “Poor students from various parts of the country aspire to study at institutes like JNU. However, the government is busy destroying these institutes, and depriving these students of educational opportunities. When these students do manage to come to these institutes, they are not allowed to study. They are forced to commit suicide, or run away. We have the examples of Rohith Vemula, Payal Tadvi and now Fathima Lateef,” said Chandramani, a research scholar from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
The students also said that they oppose the commodification of education. “This protest is not just for JNU, it’s against a ploy to commodify education and to let a few super-rich to sell it to only those who can afford it. How will poor reach institutes like JNU? We demand that the education must be uniform and free across educational institutes in the country. Only an educationally developed nation can progress,” said Avinash from Disha Student Organisation.