Academic Terrorism

Nothing makes my blood boil more than when educators indulge in hate mongering, which is just too common in Pakistan. And they get away with it over and over again. They get away with hate speech and they get away with the most heinous crimes like threatening students based on their beliefs. It happens all the time without notice, without noise, without media attention. Anyone remember the case of the Ahmadi student who was expelled from Comsats because of her belief? Jahanzaib Haque blogged about it and asked “How do you fight an enemy planted inside the mind itself?” How indeed. All we can do is make noise.

So in the spirit of making noise, I stand by Arsalan Bilal who was recently unfairly rusticated (seriously hate using this archaic word but it’s fitting since targetting someone based on their belief should be archaic) from Bahria University, Islamabad. Details from The Nation:

A student of Bahria University, who was rusticated on the charges of threatening his faculty members by emailing them revolutionary poems, has decided to go on hunger strike on Friday (today), alleging victimisation at the hands of university administration for questioning the governing of the institution.

Arsalan Bilal, a student of Department of Humanities and Social Science, Bahria University, has decided to go on a hunger strike for an indefinite time period from Friday (today) in front of the university.

According to him, he has been subjected to the most appalling form of “academic terrorism” on campus as he was discriminated against and victimised by the university management and purported academics.

He said that he was rusticated from the university on the pretext that he is psychologically unstable, and had threatened his faculty members by emailing them revolutionary poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Noon Meem Rashid.

The student who has been studying on merit scholarship in the university believes that he was victimised for raising questions, in various discussion sessions, over the manner in which the military management and ‘pseudo intellectuals’ of Bahria University were governing the institution.

He alleges that he was marginalized as he belonged to a minority sect, which is pervasively persecuted across the country. It is noteworthy that Bilal was repeatedly discouraged from conducting his undergraduate research on “Politicisation of religion in Pakistan”.

It is worth mentioning that a lecturer of the university, Qamar Riaz, was also maltreated and fired by the management on raising a question at a seminar regarding governing of the institution.

“The students had protested to reinstate him and I have been victimised for being an active student in the movement, Bilal alleged.

Demanding dignified restoration with apology from university management Bilal has resolved not to call off his hunger strike until his demands are fulfilled. He sought cessation of all kinds of discrimination on the basis of race, caste, creed, religion, affiliation, etc. on campus.

He has demanded abolishment of dress code at the university and to render more need-based scholarships to students by eliminating fee discounts for children of naval officers.

He has also sought the replacement of all retired military officers in the university gradually by qualified civilians and all serving military officers in the university be directed to quit their jobs and return to purely military functions.

He said the post of director campus should be occupied by a highly qualified academic and the plagiarism check policy on faculty members be tighten.

When an official of the university was contacted to have his comments he said there is no official spokesperson of the university right now so it is better not to include the official version of the university in the story.

This is the press release I was sent:

Announcement of indefinite Hunger Strike by Mr. Arsalan Bilal

Arsalan Bilal, a student of Bahria University, has decided to go on a hunger strike for an indefinite time period from Friday, April 6, 2012 in front of Bahria University Headquarters, Margalla Road, Islamabad. Bilal was subjected to the most appalling form of “Academic Terrorism” on campus as he was discriminated against and victimized by Bahria University’s top management and purported academics. Arsalan Bilal was rusticated from the university on the pretext that he is psychologically unstable, and had threatened his faculty members by emailing them revolutionary poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Noon Meem Rashid.

Bilal, who has been studying on merit scholarship in that same university, believes that he was victimized for raising questions, in various discussion sessions, over the manner in which the military management and pseudo intellectuals of Bahria University were governing the institution. Moreover, Bilal was marginalized as he belonged to a minority sect, which is pervasively persecuted across the country. It is noteworthy that Bilal was repeatedly discouraged from conducting his undergraduate research on “Politicization of religion in Pakistan”.

Bilal has resolved not to call off his hunger strike until the following 14 demands are fulfilled:

1- Dignified restoration of Arsalan Bilal with apology from university’s management
2- Redress all grievances by reprimanding those responsible for committing atrocities on Bilal
3- Cessation of all kinds of discrimination on basis of race, caste, creed, religion, affiliation, etc. on campus
4- All serving military officers in the university be directed to quit their jobs and return to purely military functions
5- All retired military officers in the university be gradually supplanted by qualified civilians
6- Post of Director Campus should be occupied by a highly qualified academic
7- Purge the university of pseudo intellectuals
8- Constitute a special autonomous body of academics to ensure checks on faculty members
9- Tighten the plagiarism check policy on faculty members
10- Decision to retain faculty members should hinge on students’ feedback
11- Empower Students’ Affairs department for allaying apprehensions of students
12- Public proceedings of all cases before the discipline committee
13- Abolish dress code
14- Render more need-based scholarships to students by eliminating fee discounts for children of naval officers
If you’d like to know more on the subject, or schedule an interview with Mr. Arsalan Bilal, please call his media spokesperson, Mohammad Hissan Khan on +92 (0)321 5899 478, or email him at hissankhan@hotmail.com.

 Here is Arsalan explaining what happened:

You can find updates on this facebook page.

Arsalan’s hunger strike alone won’t change anything. As someone who was worked in the education sector, I know the sector as a whole couldn’t care less. What will make a difference is supporting Arsalan and other students like him who want to make a change and aren’t afraid to challenge the powers that be.