An unspoken silence is observed on select matters at the Punjab University. Unfortunately, the students who are silenced belong to the already marginalised parts of our society. Those who have the authority to affect change refuse to do so, chiefly because they remain unaffected.
The story of this ‘silence’ began when a Pushtoon student was brutally beaten in January 2018 by masked students in the university, called ‘Jamiatis’, who are members of Islami Jamiat-e-Taliba (IJT). The Pashtoon student was beaten with sticks and pipes in open daylight while other students watched. In response, condemning statements were made by the administration such as, “We are looking into the issue thoroughly and will act wisely.” But the situation remained unchanged. Furthermore, around 17 students of the IJT who were arrested were soon released.
On the 8th of March, International Women’s Day, a theatre play was organised at the university. The female students participating in the play received threats that promised violence if such a play was staged again. The Jamiatis also tried to cut short the play during the performance. The management absolved itself of any responsibility by opting to stay out of what it called ‘student conflicts’.
The influence of the Jamiat is not only limited to the students. Their allegations resulted in the termination of services of Dr. Ammar Ali Jan, who openly supported Pashtoon students, although many have claimed that external pressures were at play. He was also dubbed as an ‘Indian Agent’ on social media by students who edited a video entirely out of context. Dr. Ammar Ali Jan was a beloved teacher at the Punjab University who was very invested in his students. The administration even denied that a protest to reinstate Dr. Ammar Ali Jan was staged at the university. They distorted the facts, stating that the students were coerced and were ‘instigated’ to protest.
The biggest tragedy is the lack of connection between the authorities and the students. If students collect to talk about issues as simple as women’s rights or even climate change, the university dubs it as a ‘rebellious movement’ and call the students ‘anarchists’. No efforts are made to communicate with the students, which saddens the student body further.
The administration itself is in chaos; the first ever Female Vice Chancellor was appointed for a brief time, and the one that followed was sacked over corruption charges. But that doesn’t excuse the administration for it’s lapses, and there are many. The management cannot continue to ignore the plight of its students.
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