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Jamia: Jana Natya Manch Denied Permission to Perform, Students Call Move Draconian

The students alleged that the administration failed to cite any credible reason for the cancellation.

Image credit: ABP Live

Jamia Millia Islamia, in a controversial move, denied permission to Jana Natya Manch -- a theatre group formed by legendary street theatre activist Safdar Hashmi -- for its performance inside the campus. The troupe was invited by a group of students, Faiz Ahmed Faiz Study Circle to perform on January 12 to celebrate the life and works of Safdar Hashmi in the month of his 34th martyrdom day. The students alleged that the administration failed to cite any credible reason for cancellation.

Sanam Hussain, a member of the study circle, told NewsClick over phone that they were not given any specific reason for the cancellation of the play. She said, "We were made to wait for two days. They took our letter without any acknowledgment. Later, we were informed that the permission for the play was denied. I mean it is quite ironic that a campus that has its amphitheatre named after Safdar Hashmi is denying permission for the performance. The amphitheatre has been closed for a while. The students have been denied permission for every cultural activity. Does it mean that administration wants to confine students to their classes?”

The circle, in a press note said, "Faiz Ahmad Faiz study circle aimed to host the program on 12th January to celebrate the life and works of Safdar Hashmi in the month of his 34th martyrdom day. Despite approaching the proctor several times to seek permission for the performance, we received a negative response on the administration's part. This is a highly shameful act from the administration as they denied permission to the very theatre group which was founded by Safdar Hashmi inside an amphitheatre named after him. Ironically, a prestigious central university like Jamia Millia Islamia with a huge cultural heritage is taking such a stance against the legacy of people like Safdar, who is a symbol of cultural resistance against authoritarianism. It is also deplorable that the Safdar Hashmi amphitheatre is still shut out for the students of the campus.”

It added, "Campus spaces are fertile grounds for the growth and development of ideas and public/cultural spaces inside the campus are of utmost importance for students to have healthy discussions, debates and socialise in general. The administration's move to restrict students from entering such spaces is a direct attack on our democratic rights.”

A student who requested anonymity told NewsClick that the administration has been denying permission for long to curb the growth of students' organisations. She said, "A general tendency of the administration has been to see that no political or cultural activity should take place. When our activists were pasting posters about an event, they were issued show cause notices. Those were withdrawn after much protest. Even the poetry events have been scrutinised and cancelled.”

Komita Dhanda, cultural activist and a member of the theatre group said that they were informed by the students associated with the circle that proctors have been denying permission for every cultural programme inside the campus and the denial was not meant for JANAM alone. She said, "We are witnessing a curb on cultural activities; be it plays, debates or lectures across the campuses in the country. A student is exposed to the contesting ideas and ideologies through these activities and they develop their understanding of our society. When authorities curb these activities, they are indeed prohibiting students from learning.”

The development comes days after the Jamia administration dissolved teachers' association. The teachers' bodies across the country have condemned the move.

Professor Atiqur Rahman, chief proctor of Jamia Millia Islamia, could not be reached for a comment despite multiple attempts.

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