A 1920 photo of the group of students and teachers, including Zakir Husain (third row; second from left) who started Jamia Millia Islamia with Lala Lajpat Rai (second row, holding a cane).

100 years of Jamia Millia Islamia: Institute with roots in national struggle

Five years after returning to India for good, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had acquired fairly the next amongst college students who had been struck by his message preaching brotherhood between themselves and non-cooperation in the direction of the colonial rulers. Sample this: On October 12, 1920, when Gandhi visited the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental (MAO) College in Aligarh, he requested the scholars gathered, “How can you remain, even for an hour, in an institution in which you are obliged to put up with the Union Jack and profess your loyalty to a Governor or other high-ranking officials, when, in fact you, are not loyal?”

Moved, a gaggle of scholars, college members and activists together with Mohammad Ali Jauhar and Shaukat Ali — additionally known as the Ali brothers — joined the Non-Cooperation Movement throughout the fortnight. Even earlier than the month was up, the group had established the Independent National University with an purpose to have an indigenous training free from British affect. It was renamed Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), and shifted from Aligarh to New Delhi quickly after. Jauhar grew to become its first vice-chancellor, and Hakim Ajmal Khan its first chancellor. Prominent educationalist Zakir Husain, who went on to change into India’s third President, was related to the college from the beginning.

On October 29, 2020, JMI turns 100, and from short-term quarters in an ashram to working out of a set of tents for 4 years, the academic establishment in the present day has 5 faculties with 9 distinct schools, 39 departments and 30 centres (unfold throughout Nanoscience, Dalit and Minorities Studies, Peace and Conflict Resolution, and even Information Technology) that educate over 21,000 college students of assorted non secular, caste, and sophistication affiliations. The first batch that graduated in 1921 comprised 21 college students — all male. Last yr, almost 2,000 college students graduated from JMI; at the very least 35% of them ladies.


Its alumni span throughout fields from movie, politics and science, to journalism and civil companies, and embody former Chief Election Commissioner SY Qureshi, filmmaker Kiran Rao, and cricketer Virendra Sehwag, amongst others. Even actor Shah Rukh Khan was enrolled on the college’s well-known AJK Mass Communication Research Centre (AJK-MCRC).

Loveleen Tandon, co-director of Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire, known as Jamia a “birthplace of self-discovery”. “In our canteen, you would see people sitting discussing politics, films and speaking about people like (Andrei) Tarkovsky and (Ingmar) Bergman. Being in such an institute opened up a new world for me,” stated Tandon who studied at AJK-MCRC in 1998.

Former lieutenant governor of Delhi and Jamia vice-chancellor between 2009 and 2013, Najeeb Jung, stated: “Jamia is not just a university. It’s a movement started back in 1920 with an aim to provide first-rate modern education. Here modern means secular and nationalist education with the all-round development of students.”

Indigenous establishment

The yr 1920 was an eventful one. Gandhi gave a name to boycott government-run faculties and faculties and the Congress handed a decision of Non-cooperation advising “the gradual withdrawal of children from schools or colleges… controlled by government and… the establishment of national schools and colleges in the various provinces”. In response, plenty of establishments got here up such because the Gujarat Vidyapith, Bihar Vidyapith, Kashi Vidyapith, and Modern School in Delhi, in addition to JMI.

“Jamia, which means a university in Arabic, was born out of Gandhi-ji’s call,” stated Sabiha Zaidi, director of Jamia’s Premchand Archives and Literary Center, which has a group of images, non-public papers and mementos relationship again to its begin.

The new college aimed to be “nationalist” and “indigenous”, Gandhi’s private secretary Mahadev Desai recorded in his journal on the time. By 1924, nonetheless, it had almost run out of cash. “Mohammad Ali had even suggested closing down Jamia but Gandhi-ji was totally against it. He said, ‘Jamia has to run. If you are worried about its finances, I will go about with a begging bowl’,” Zaidi stated.

A yr later, the college shifted to Karol Bagh in New Delhi. Prominent industrialists sustained it — GD Birla, contributed Rs 50,000; Jamnalal Bajaj, raised Rs 6,000 for a brand new constructing — at Gandhi’s behest.

In 1938, Jamia established the Ustadon ka Madarsa, which got here to be known as the Teachers’ Training College at Karol Bagh, and the Idara-e-Talim-o-Taraqqi that would offer night courses for grownup training. “Whenever we talk about the education of Independent India, and more specifically teacher’s education in India, Jamia’s contribution in preparing teachers for an education system free from the British influence cannot be stressed enough,” stated Aejaz Masih, head of the school of training on the college.

“We had no boundaries when it came to learning in Jamia. Though I was an engineering student, I got the opportunity to learn French and read the poetry of Rumi and Tabrez,” stated Hanif Quraishi, secretary, Renewable Energy division, Haryana.

Shohini Ghosh, officiating director at AJK-MCRC stated this was one of many earliest centres for the manufacturing of instructional movies for the University Grants Commission. “Many of us started our careers as producers of these documentaries whose subject ranged from a portrait of Shahjahanabad to the workings of the Railways. Amar Kanwar, who is now a well-known documentary filmmaker and artist, made an award-winning series on the leather industry. Apart from this, AJK-MCRC encouraged us to make independent documentaries that affirmed social justice and questioned discriminatory practices,” she stated.

2019 political protest

On December 15, 2019, policemen entered JMI’s central library in an effort to quell the scholars and residents’ protests in opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The Delhi Police used sticks and fired tear fuel shells. Civil society activists and opposition events condemned the violence and demanded a judicial probe. A National Human Rights Commission report launched in June said that the police was “law bound to contain the activities of the unlawful assembly.”

Many Jamia college students who had been part of the protest, together with Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar, have been arrested and charged by Delhi Police. Vice-chancellor Najma Akhtar stated that the First Information Report primarily based on a grievance made by the institute is but to be filed.

“Jamia believes in Gandhiji’s principle of non-violence. We have restored the library completely and even changed the colour of the chairs with a hope that it does not remind my students of the violence when they return back to the campus,” stated Akhtar.

The student-led protest outdoors the college was suspended after the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March. The matter is presently earlier than the Delhi excessive courtroom.