Ten students of Jamia Millia Islamia have alleged that they were barred from participating in a National Cadet Corps (NCC) camp in Rohini since they were sporting a beard. The students alleged that the authorities told them to “shave their beards overnight” or leave the camp. Their refusal to do so met with an eviction order.
The 10 students also alleged that they asked the authorities to mention the reason for their “eviction” on the notice, but were simply given notices for “indiscipline”. The students camped outside the NCC camp at Rohini Sunday night, and reached Jamia Monday morning where student organisations protested the “discrimination”. The NCC cadets also met the Jamia V-C.
Dilshad Ahmed, one of the students, said, “We were evicted only because of our beard. I have been to Attachment Training camp, National Integration Camp, but our beards have never been a problem. This time also on the first day of our camp we had written an application saying our beards have a religious importance and we should be told if there is a problem. But suddenly on the sixth day of the camp, the authorities said either shave your beard or leave.”
“We decided not to shave and asked them to give us an out pass or movement border so that we can leave. But we were refused that. We didn’t want to leave without that because later it could be alleged that we ran away from the camp. So, our belongings were thrown out of the gates,” he said.
Another student said while the Indian Army only allowed Sikhs to wear turbans and sport beards, the Act through which NCC was set up does not mention anything about beard. “We asked the commanding officer to mention the specific charge but he just said indiscipline,” the NCC cadet, said, requesting anonymity.
CO Lieutenant Colonel S B S Yadav told The Indian Express that it was a “discipline” issue. “We did not throw them out, we told them to shave as part of discipline of NCC. They said they have their religious beliefs. I told them it is their wish if they wanted to follow their religion… and if they’re not comfortable, they’re at liberty to move out… I have been in the Army for 26 years and that’s the discipline I understand that everyone has to shave, barring Sikh gentlemen.”
Jamia V-C Talat Ahmad said he met the students. “I said I would have to check the NCC protocol, asked them to give me their grievances in writing. We will look into it and approach the NCC officials,” he said.
Student organisations such as the Jamia Students’ Forum and the All India Students’ Association staged a protest against the incident.