“We wish they were Human enough.. but, alas! they were Muslims.” (M.T. Ansari)
Asif is neither a liberal nor an ultra-nationalist. He is a Muslim that makes him most vulnerable in the fascist regime. The purpose of this write up is to share memories of an awe-inspiring leader Asif Iqbal Thanha who is been slapped with charges including the draconian UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act)
In a chilling winter of December 15, I woke up to birthday wishes from many of my family members. For many students like other Jamians, that day is very important in personal and political memory. Being a student of India’s one of the best universities, I walked to the library with a book written by Yuvan Noval Harrai.. The book which describes a century… I was wearing a shawl gifted by my friend Aslam Ali. Everything was usual and we were aware of the discriminatory Citizens Amendment Bill.
By the evening Delhi police attacked the campus brutally. The memory of violence inflicted on students reminds us of Nazi Germany. My purpose in writing this piece is to say about Asif Iqbal with whom I spent a very few minutes, which I consider to be very important in my life.
As most of the students inside the campus, I was also beaten up without a reason. Obviously there are no reasons for most of the violence happening around. Like most of the students, I was beaten up badly. I remember police calling students terrorists. Police throwing tear gas. After a few days, we came to know that three students of Jamia Millia Islamia have been charged for the violence. A violent lathi charge, policemen stating us terrorists, a broken library, and my lost book ever are the memories of Dec 15.
Most of the time students gathered in the central canteen to express their dissent. I met Asif for the first time from the canteen. Asif was speaking about Najeeb and his Ammi. Asif with a poignant and beautiful smile ostensibly spoke about Fatima Nafees and he said she is the powerful woman of our times. Asif, I am slipping words here, but at this moment if couldn’t write, its more or less equal to surrender and to surrender in front of a fascist regime to die like a coward. Asif who lived in the campus never loved to surrender in front of tyrants.
A leader who has been part of most of the protests happened. You shared a sip of tea in a chilling winter day and you spoke about every day in just happing. A few moments over tea, a hug after being attacked by police, and your beautiful smile is the best memory about you. Moreover, the way you sloganeer in the protests and your impeccable ability to be the leader of the moment.
Now the beautiful Jamia, imagined and established by Ali brothers is silent. A campus which was part of the anti colonial struggle is silent. This silence is all about the nearby future to come and about the birth of a decolonial campus . Where Jouhar shall resurrect. We are waiting to walk with the comrade and to have a sip of tea.
Students got calls every time from the police for interrogation, academic deadlines were very closer. Many of us were not bothered about the deadlines. Asif was very much sure of being arrested, I remember his friends sharing an incident a day before he got arrested. Asif painfully remembered his brother Meeran Haider being arrested and he was asked his friends to console and give strength to Meeran’s family. Surveillance, interrogation nothing could take him away from his political activism.
Asif, do you remember the day when police brutality attacked our friends including Emaan? I remember you apologize and hug many for not being there when police inflicted the violence. You were being part of the movement by speaking in the rural belts of this nation. You conveyed the message of being educated throughout and the vulnerability of being an uneducated community. Even after being named in the FIR and constantly interrogated you chose a path, which is horribly dangerous and very hard to walk.
Do you remember the way Jamia spouted to resistance against the fascist regime? The way many including you, Safoora, and Meeran lead the protest. Jamia shall raise again, Jamia shall raise again…
I am slipping out of the words dearest leaders, to remember everything about you and smile on the face of fascism is to say we never broke, we are the community from Jamia questioned the colonial tyrants, We started our struggle from Jouhar, Jouhar shall resurrect and we shall question the fascist until they fall down.
I shall dream, I hope and I believe Asif shall walk free.
Sibahathulla Sakib currently studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.