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Institutionalised Oppression of Students in Public Universities

Institutionalised Oppression of Students in Public Universities

Momina Khan
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The ongoing issue of establishing student committees on campus at public universities has surely come under a lot of scrutiny and surveillance. Speaking to one of the final year MPhil students at Pakistan City Centre at Punjab University – engaged in mobilising students for the students solidarity march faced a lot of resistance from the university administration. A six to eight month old case was reinstated against him in which they were carrying out a peaceful demonstration against the shortage of buses on campus .The other party, “Islaami Jamiat Taleba” – a dominant party at the campus and has also garnered ample amount of support from the university administration, became extremely violent with them . The issue was reinstated against this particular student who they knew was engaged in mobilizing students for the students solidarity march.

While, absolutely no action was taken against the other party who actually used violence to silence their peaceful demonstration to discuss transport issues- a fundamental issue that needed to be addressed.

Suspension of students for their involvement in student politics

The student was barred from entering the student campus because he was involved in student politics. Another important point is that the “Islaami Jamiat Taleba” party is a radical right wing party. It has strong ties within the administration and many a times, the students affiliated with the Jamaiat Taleba party tend to get extremely violent if the other students fail to adhere to their specific demands . Interestingly, this trend also trickles into controlling and patrolling the campus premises if a girl or a boy are seen together . According to the student who was suspended , a student is surveilled by the administration if they are involved in any form of student politics. The instil control and fear in the students through their ties with the administration. which breeds another an institutionalised form of harassment and oppression.

A female student who is studying at the “Jamiah Punjab Sociology department “ at Punjab University and is in her fifth semester described the condition of student representation as “horrific. She further elaborated that a student has to think several times before they finally decide to take a stand for their rights. They have to face harassment and threats not only from the establishment ; but also from their own university administration if they decide to take a political stance.

On-Campus harassment and moral policing

She spoke of the need to address student concerns through the lived experiences of the students; it has to come from within the student body to make it more realistic. Furthermore, she told me how she was blackmailed by a university professor for participating in a student march with in the university campus. He saw her giving an interview to a news channel and threatened to call her parents.

The radical right wing Islamist policy is intimately weaving into the internal fabric of the dominant student body; inside the hostels female students are morally policed . For instance ,if a girl is wearing jeans or tights she would be condemned and called out by her fellow room mates .Who religiously abide by the Jamiat’s teachings and if the girl goes and complaints she would be silenced into believing that she is at fault.

Controlling and patrolling a woman’s body

Ultimately, this ideology is used as a tool to morally
police what a woman should or should not wear. She is given absolutely no
choice; her body is controlled, and morally policed and ultimately, is shamed for
standing up for their basic rights.

Intersection of male and female experiences

Interestingly, both male and female experiences have many intersections; they both have to face harassment but it has different manifestations . In the final analysis their right to voice any issue they are facing as students is taken away from them by the dominant radical Islamic ideology.

In a way it does become more challenging for women because they have to face pressures from home. For instance, the female student spoke of the teacher threatening her to call her parents, which again is a form of bullying and harassment on multiple levels. She was fearful of the university administration finding out and now she also has to bear the burden of her family finding out and shaming her. 

In short, the underlying ideology of the administration and the radical right wing party is rooted in power through establishing control and fear. Leaving absolutely no space for the students to voice their concerns.