Saturday, April 20, 2024

“Islamophobia”: Students at IIMC Delhi say permission for Iftar denied while other religious festivals held on campus

Several students at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) in New Delhi, one of India’s top journalism schools, accused the administration of religious discrimination when the university denied them permission to organize an Iftar party on the institute’s premises while other religious festivals were being celebrated on campus with permission.

Students say it all started when some of them, including both Muslims and non-Muslims, approached the institute’s Dean of Students’ Welfare (DSW) on March 15th with a written application seeking permission for the Iftar party but were subsequently denied without any clarification provided.

The students then revisited the DSW after a few days but were instructed to approach the higher authorities, the Additional Director General (ADG) or Director General (DG), for permission. Despite multiple visits to both authorities by the students, they were unsuccessful in obtaining permission.

Students attempted to persuade the authorities multiple times by pointing out that celebrations of other religious festivals occurred on campus. However, their arguments were met with warnings not to portray the denial of permission as religious discrimination in the media or public sphere, and they were cautioned that it should not sound anti-Muslim.

They alleged that festivals of other religions like Holi, Diwali, and Saraswati Puja are celebrated on the campus with the participation of the administration, students, staff, and faculty.

One of the students, Zafar Alam*, told Maktoob, “The administration’s stance is discriminatory and has left us feeling othered. If the administration doesn’t have any problem with celebrations of other religious events, especially by being a part of them, why do they have issues with allowing Iftar?”

He said, “Iftar is just a feast which is not even held during college hours, but the administration denied permission, showing how Islamophobic and discriminatory the administration and authorities are.”

“India is a country of diverse religions, and to celebrate this diversity, there should be mutual respect for culture, faith, and practices, but we are miserably failing at it. To safeguard this diversity, we thought of organizing the Iftar, and non-Muslim students will also be a part of it,” said Alam.

“But the administration seems to have subscribed to the political ideology of the establishment, which is fascism, and hence discrimination towards Muslims is evident,” he added.

Another digital media student, Sunny Singh, said, “This is an attempt to marginalize the already marginalized. And the government wants to paint everything saffron, like its ideology. I, as a non-Muslim, support the Muslim students because I believe in unity in diversity, unlike those who are opposed to it.”

He added, “The university administration celebrates Hindu festivals with full enthusiasm, so why are they denying the rightful rights of other students only because they are Muslims?”

He also maintained that there have been multiple instances of religious discrimination against Muslims on the IIMC campus, and he is a witness to how differently Muslim students are being treated on the campus.

Maktoob approached the DSW, Promod Kumar, to learn about the allegations leveled against the administration by the students.

Kumar said that he is not an authorized person to speak on the matter and that the reporter should contact the ADG or DG for the information.

When asked about the other festivals being celebrated on the campus, Kumar refused to comment and stated, “I can’t give you any information; you can talk to the DG,” adding that he is unaware of anything related to the Iftar party.

The DJ and ADG have not responded to the multiple calls made by Maktoob. The story will be updated when we hear from them.

However, in verbal communication with the students, the DSW and ADG have maintained that the reason behind not giving permission is the present political situation and the upcoming general elections.

In an audio recording accessed by Maktoob, of the conversation that took place between the Deputy Registrar, ADG, and the students, the authorities can be heard saying, “We can’t give you permission because everything is now being dragged into politics. You will observe the event on the campus, and if the information gets leaked through pictures, it will be amplified by political spectrums.”

The students were told, “You can only organize it in your hostel rooms and not on the premises,” but the students said that there are more than 100 students from all religious communities who want to be a part of the Iftar Party to celebrate ‘secularism and diversity’ on the campus and in the country.

It is important to note that on November 12, 2023, Diwali celebrations took place on the IIMC campus in the lawns, with the presence of IIMC professor Anupama Bhatnagar, who is also the DG of the institution. One faculty member also lit the inaugural lamp for the Diwali celebrations.

Apart from that, on February 14, 2023, Saraswati Puja was organized on the college premises, with students, teaching, and non-teaching staff actively participating in it, which was observed during class timings.

And most recently, Holi celebrations took place within the campus premises with “no objections or retaliation from the administration”.

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