Following an RTI response by the JNU administration regarding the abysmal ratio of Muslim students in JNU – this year the JNUSU has demanded five Minority (Muslim) deprivation points to be given to Muslim students applying to JNU.
Currently, deprivation points are given to people who have done their schooling from backward areas, women, etc. In the recent Academic Council (AC) meeting, this issue was on the agenda, but could not be taken up amid the protests against the increasing of CGPA for B.A. and M.A. courses. In this context, the Informer team met people around the campus to ask their opinions on the issue.
The current Indian education system distinguishes between reservation and deprivation points. Reservation is an affirmative action that was introduced to address the caste bias in governmental institutions. Later this reservation was extended to other marginalized groups such as physically handicapped persons, women (in some cases), etc. Reservation is a constitutionally enacted state policy, regulated currently by The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admissions) Act, 2006 that specifies the guidelines and the percentage of seats reserved for the SCs, STs, and the OBCs.
Deprivation points on the other hand, are a policy formed and regulated (if at all) by the educational institutions themselves. Many universities in India give additional points (or preference) in entrance exams to students coming from different backgrounds. States like, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, etc. have a lower cut off for students belonging to their respective states, than those coming from outside. This policy is not applicable in the Delhi NCR region. JNU, however, has standardized this policy, where precisely stated number of marks would be given to students coming from certain areas, women, sexual minorities (as of last year), etc.
The idea of deprivation points based on religion is not unknown in India. Institutions like St. Stephen’s, Jamia Milia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University, etc. are allowed to address the concerns of specific minority religious communities with state/central funding. For example, according to its prospectus 2016-17 JMI has 30% seats reserved for Muslim male students, 10% for Muslim female and 10% for OBC non-creamy layer. AMU, on the other hand, reserves 50% of seats for Muslims in professional courses which accounts for around 1/15th of its total student intake.
The idea of preference on religion is not unknown in JNU either. In School of Languages, HUPA languages (Hindi, Urdu, Persian and Arabic) have some seats reserved for non-Muslim applicants, as these centers have applicants hailing from mostly Muslim backgrounds. Students groups that are demanding deprivation points for Muslim students refer to the Sachar Committee Report released in 2006 which dwelled into the status of Muslim communities in India on social, economic and educational issues. The committee report suggested that Muslims are more under-represented in Indian Universities than STs and SCs.
Following the same, the JNU administration released the number of Muslim students enrolled in the University. Except the HUPA centers, the highest intake of Muslim students is in SSS — where the figures are slightly more than half of what they should be, 8.66% for the total population of 14.2% Muslims in India. Other Schools fare even worse. Hence, those in favour of deprivation points argue that there is “ample ground for affirmative action based on socio-educational backwardness of minorities” (as stated by Aditi SLl&CS councilor from AISA.) This issue came up during elections when parties like BAPSA, Left Unity, DSF, etc. demanded Muslim minority points. This demand has been opposed by the ABVP on campus.
The demand for MDP is justified by those in favor on the grounds that Muslims have been “educationally backward” in the Indian education system. YFDA and SIO are pushing for deprivation points to be given to Muslim students differentially which will account for the intra-community backwardness. Wherein the Muslim concentrated districts of India are to be divided into quartiles, based on degrees of backwardness. Students from Quartile 1 will be awarded 5 points and those from Quartile 2 to be given 3 points. This demand by the Left Unity led JNUSU has been supported by DSF whose parcha dated 5.10.2016 states that “JNU must take concrete steps to address the poor representation of socially, economically and educationally backward Muslim students.”
On the other hand, the ABVP claims that the demand for a Minority Cell (which is also a demand put up by the JNUSU) and Minority deprivation points are “divisive.” The ABVP parcha dated 8.10.2016 says “These Sharia-Bolsheviks also want to create a communal divide in the campus by demanding separate affirmative policies for the religious minorities in the JNU entrance exam. This demand which is not only against the spirit of secularism (of any context, be it Indian or European) cannot be supported in any state funded institution.”
This view is staunchly opposed by Left parties and groups such as SIO and YFDA. SIO’s Habeel Fee Zilal states that “this is propaganda by the right wing students groups for denying the opportunity for the students from the Muslim community to enter institutions of higher education.”
Ordinary students that The Informer met on campus agree with the systematic discrimination of Muslim students in our educational system, however show apprehensions about the success of MDP. “In these situations, the people within the community that are well placed reap all the benefits. Even my community recently got minority status in Maharashtra, but I am not sure how it will benefit us as our community is already well off.” says Dorith Benjamin who recently completed her M.A. in CFFS.
Another student from CIL (whose name is withheld on request) says that,
“Discrimination against Muslims run so deep that MDP will not solve anything, on the contrary given the current situation in the country, it may actually backfire. Muslims may now be discriminated for asking for deprivation points.”
–The Informer Team