December 26, Amita Singh, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), allegedly made Islamophobic comments at Aejaz Ahmed Rather, the General Secretary of the JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU). She allegedly addressed Rather, in the presence of several other students, as someone who “looks like a terrorist who has committed 10 bomb blasts.”
Aejaz was having tea with his friends near the canteen of Sanskrit Centre, JNU on the afternoon of December 26, when Prof. Singh of the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance (CSLG), to the shock of the students, allegedly started raising questions about the students’ social and religious backgrounds. Talking to NewsClick, he said, “She asked for our names, demanded that we show her our identity cards, and, in a brazen display of arrogance, made comments about our religious backgrounds.” He said that Prof. Singh would have known his identity, as he is a known activist in the campus as well as the students’ representative, and has had several encounters with her at protests and meetings with the administrative staff, but she still asked about his identity just to provoke him. “She made communal and hateful comments regarding my religious background. She even suggested that I had come here at the behest of some other Muslim students,” he said.
The students refused to show their identity cards to her. Aejaz said, “Since Professor Amita Singh holds no authority to demand us to prove our identity, we refused to do so.” After that, the Professor allegedly told the students, “You people are outsiders, you look very vulgar and uncultured, and lack the minimum decency to be a JNU student,” and hurled abuses at them, insisting that they show their identity cards. He added, “When Prof. Singh persisted with her forced interrogation, we asked her as to what authority did she have to demand us to show our identity cards and why should we as registered students agree to such surveillance. The Professor took this as an opportunity to personally target me and started making anti-minority and Islamophobic comments towards me.”
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To the utter shock and horror of everyone present there, the Professor allegedly said to Aejaz, “From your appearance it looks like you are a convict in ten bomb blast cases and that is why you are not telling your name.” He said he was taken away from the spot by the students present there, in a state of shock. He has filed a complaint with the JNU administration, demanding that the Equal Opportunity Office of the University immediately launch an inquiry and take disciplinary action against Professor Amita Singh according to the rules of JNU.
Aejaz told NewsClick, “If a member of JNU faculty is making me feel as an outcaste, questioning my social background, it is not just a violation of my Fundamental Rights that the Constitution provides through Article 15, but also a violation of human rights.”
The JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) also released a statement in solidarity with Aejaz, condemning the comments of communal nature made by Prof. Singh. They said, “This incident amounts to the profiling of students from different regions and religious persuasions. JNUTA finds such communal profiling most reprehensible. JNUTA firmly believes that Jawaharlal Nehru University truly stands for inclusivity as has been mandated by the JNU Act.”
“JNUTA demands that a formal inquiry be instituted to look into this incident so that such attempts at disturbing the peace of the campus through deliberate profiling and criminalisation of JNU community may be nipped in the bud,” they said in the statement.
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