The Dean of Students Welfare (DSW), Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), in a notice dated 26 October stated that the university's 102nd Foundation day would be missing a key events – one that its students and alumni look forward to the most – the Talimi Mela.
The notice referred to an earlier announcement made on 10 October wherein the DSW said that the university will not be organising the Talimi Mela for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
"This has reference to our letter dated 10 October 2022 regarding organising Talimi Mela during 102nd Foundation Day celebrations from 29-31October. Due to some unavoidable circumstances and paucity of funds the Talimi Mela programme has been cancelled as per the direction of the Hon’ble Vice Chancellor," the notice said.
A cultural fair open to the general public, the Talimi Mela showcases Jamia's educational legacy. Among the fair's highlights are theatre and food festivals organised by the students.
Students believe that the reason for the fair's cancellation is the imposition of section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in the southeast Delhi district from 19 September to 17 November. Since the imposition, multiple events in JMI including a peaceful protest march and an alumni meet have been cancelled.
Professor Majid Jamil, President of the Jamia Teacher’s Association told The Quint that the exclusion of the Talimi Mela from the JMI Foundation Day celebrations is not an anomaly.
“The Talimi Mela is not a regular annual feature. The DSW has stated clearly the reasons why they have cancelled the Talimi Mela this time around. Other events amid the Foundation Day celebrations will still be held."Majid Jamil, President of the Jamia Teacher's Association
Several departments of the university host their own events to commemorate the foundation of Jamia. The Talimi Mela, however, is the main attraction. Professor Jamil also said that even though it has been cancelled a few times in the past, the fair is a part of the university's legacy and has been organised since the foundation of Jamia.
'Heartbreaking and Disappointing'
The Quint spoke to several current and former students of Jamia who said that they are not happy with the cancellation of the fair.
“The sudden cancellation of the Talimi Mela is heartbreaking. I was really looking forward to it this year. I feel like the spirit of the university is being crushed by the administration as they impose section 144 inside the university campus,” said Anusuya Chakraborty, an ex-student of the university.
On 26 September, the Chief Proctor of JMI issued a circular stating that the students of Jamia will not be allowed to assemble in groups, take out marches, or organise agitations, dharnas, and meetings as the Delhi Police has imposed section 144 of the CrPC in the southeast Delhi district.
Jamia, which is located in Okhla, falls under the southeast Delhi district.
“I don’t think the mela has been cancelled because of section 144. Recently an Ayush exhibition took place in the campus, and the university also celebrated Diwali by making rangolis. So, this is not true,” said Professor Jamil.
Some students had already started preparations, before the announcement struck. Taha Khan, a student of the Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management was recently elected as the General Secretary of his department. The plans he had for this year’s Talimi Mela, however, have been laid to waste.
“We had bought t-shirts and done all the budgeting for the stalls we would set up in the mela. All of it is paid for and non-refundable. It is very disappointing. Now we have been advised to use those t-shirts for future events, when all we wanted to do was to wear them during the Foundation Day celebrations,” Taha said.
'Opportunity to Network'
Ramsha Khan, currently pursuing a master's in Development Communication from JMI, reminisced about week-long Foundation Day celebrations. “It used to be a celebratory week for students and their families. We had a few other events planned this past month that got cancelled because of the implementation of section 144. That might be the reason this time as well. But at this point, students of Jamia deserve some sort of celebration,” said Ramsha.
The University has a strong alumni network and the Talimi Mela is an opportunity for the ex-students to catch up.
Humaira Subzwari graduated from Jamia in the 90s and still attends the Foundation Day celebrations every year. “The Jamia’s alumni network is such that even those who have gone and settled abroad make their plans around the Foundation Day. It is an opportunity for us to catch up with people we've grown up with. This year we had the same expectations. This announcement is disheartening," Subzwari said.