Two years after Safoora Zargar was booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or the UAPA, the MPhil student has alleged that New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia is denying her submission of the thesis.
She has alleged that “Jamia has given her only one COVID extension while there are provisions for five as per the University Grants Commission (UGC).” She alleged that the university has “refused” to provide her with any more extensions.
A senior official of Jamia, meanwhile, shared a response on behalf of the university administration with The Quint, in which they claimed that Zargar “did not complete her dissertation before the expiry of her COVID extension.”
In a note, the official said, “The scholar’s progress has been very unsatisfactory, the application had been filed more than two months after the expiry of stipulated time and therefore extension cannot be given.”
What are Safoora Zargar’s Claims?
Zargar is currently enrolled with the Department of Sociology in the integrated MPhil and PhD programme and the subject of her research is, ‘Socio-Spatial Segregation of Muslims in Urban Areas,’ which she began in 2019.
In April 2020, Zargar, who was pregnant at the time, was arrested under UAPA for her alleged involvement in the communal violence that broke out in northeast Delhi in February 2020, in which 53 people were killed.
She was granted bail in June 2020.
At the same time, Jamia shut down its premises due to the COVID-induced lockdown, which was a major setback for research scholars.
Cut to 2022. On 24 August, Zargar wrote to the vice chancellor of the university that she had been facing departmental and administrative issues.
On the same day, she tweeted, “Since December 2021, I have been made to run from pillar to post for extensions that are easily given to other scholars in the university. I have faced severe abuse at the hands of my supervisor and my department. While the UGC has granted five consecutive COVID extensions, I have been given only one.”
'After UAPA, Attempts Made to Snatch My Right to Education,’ Alleges Safoora Zargar
In her letter, Zargar claimed that her progress report was accepted by members of the Research Advisory Committee (RAC) in August 2020. After her second RAC in February 2021, she was allowed an extension of 4.5 months. She contended that the extension should have been extended by six months, as was mandated by the UGC COVID extension letter.
In her letter to the VC, she said that this extension was given on the grounds of the UGC letter dated 3 December 2020.
“However, my extension was approved only up to 30 June 2021 instead of 7 August 2021, as per the spirit of the UGC COVID extension letter,” she further wrote in her letter.
Soon after this, she was granted another extension up till December 2021. Zargar claimed that the university had written a letter on 22 December 2021 giving an extension to all students whose date of submission expired before July 2022 – except her.
"My application for the same was rejected by the department and I was asked to file an extension application under women’s category as per relevant Jamia ordinance."
She said that while awaiting a response to her third COVID extension application, she received an email on 8 April 2022 from her supervisor “informing me that I was not eligible for COVID extension and that I should have applied for extension under the women’s category.”
Zargar further claimed that the supervisor said that “since the time for application… had already expired, the department is moving ahead with cancellation of my registration and admission to the MPhil/PhD Integrated Programme.”
Zargar added that she emailed back that she “did not receive any response to previous extension application” and that she “wishes to submit her work and avail of any extension that would be applicable to her.”
Soon after, Zargar claimed that she received an email from her supervisor acknowledging her application under the women’s category and asking her to submit a detailed progress report of her thesis and other documents, to which she complied.
After this, however, Zargar said that she did not receive a response regarding her work.
She said, “My RAC meeting was finally convened on 05.07.2022, and in the meeting, I was orally informed that my work is not up to mark and that I would not be granted the extension under the women’s category as well and final decision on this would be taken in the Departmental Research Committee (DRC) and there has been no communication since then.”
She tweeted, saying, “For them, it was not enough to slap UAPA on me and send me to jail. All possible attempts have been made to snatch my right to education. I am deeply saddened by the dishonesty and betrayal of my professors who I have always held in high regard.”
‘There Was Delay in Application’, Says Admin
The Quint reached out to the head of department, Dr Manisha Tripathi Pandey, and her supervisor, Dr Kulvinder Kaur, who refused to comment on the matter.
A senior official on behalf of the administration, however, claimed that Zargar was given three extensions and that there was no provision for any further COVID extensions.
“As per the UGC guidelines and as per the relevant JMI ordinance, the MPhil dissertation has to be submitted after the completion of three semesters. After that, there is a maximum provision of two more extensions ie the 4th and then 5th semester,” said the official.
The official said that Zargar was given these two extensions. “Over and above those two extensions, she was also given COVID extension of a semester ie the 6th semester, as per UGC notification. She did not complete her dissertation before the expiry of the COVID extension that came to an end on 6 February 2022. There is no provision for any further COVID extension as per the UGC notification as the scholar has been claiming,” he said.
The university alleged that Zargar had not applied for the extension as a woman scholar within the stipulated time.
The administration statement read,
"And as per JMI ordinance 9 (IX) dated 13.10.2017, that governs the scholar, this extension is given by the Vice Chancellor, as per the recommendation of the RAC and the supervisor. The RAC looks at the scholar’s progress and considers all the circumstances of the scholar. The scholar’s progress has been very unsatisfactory, the application had been filed more than two months after the expiry of stipulated time and therefore extension cannot be given."Statement by a senior official on behalf of the university administration
The administration also claimed, “From time to time, the scholar was encouraged by the supervisor to do fieldwork and complete her work from time to time. But the scholar did not make any progress in her work as suggested by the RAC. Her past report had also been showing unsatisfactory progress. But she was given three extensions to finish her work but she did not complete her work.”
Support Pours in for Safoora
Soon after her tweets, support poured in from students and activists alike. A statement issued by various student organisations including All India Students’ Association (AISA), Fraternity Movement, Students’ Federation of India (SFI), among others, stated, “The student community this relentless harassment and unfair treatment of a research scholar who has also faced a brutal witch hunt and smear campaign by the state after the CAA-NRC protests.”
The statement added, “We stand in full unflinching solidarity with Safoora Zargar and demand that she should be granted an extension and allowed to submit her dissertation. The delay that has happened in granting her extension must also be condemned.”