Fourteen days after the Delhi blasts, eight days after the 'encounter' in Jamia Nagar, and a day after the Mehrauli attack, life is no longer the same for students of Jamia Milia University. Amid rumours of 'plain-clothed policemen' interrogating students, B.Arch final-year student Faraz Husain says: "Friends outside the university joke that Jamia will be banned on the lines of SIMI".
Last week, Husain went for an interview at Larsen & Toubro in Okhla where co-applicants gave him a "cautious look" when he revealed the name of his college.
"Earlier, when Muslim terrorists staged attacks, we would watch the news on TV. But now after Jamia's name has been linked to the blasts, we all feel affected," says Husain.
New jokes have sprung up at the campus. Those who share names with those of suspects are prime targets. “Tera naam Tauqeer hai, tu jaroor pakda jayega (Your name is Tauqeer, you will be caught)”. Mohammad Tauqeer is one of the suspected masterminds behind the Delhi blasts.
"It's not about trivializing the issue," explains Ali Rizvi, a first-year student in Mass Communication. “It's about lightening the mood.”
There is an uneasiness due to the changing profile of terrorists.
Aamir Khan, a student of Masters in Social Work, remembers that while walking near Batla House on the night of the encounter, he was afraid of greeting fellow students. “Who knows who is a member of the Indian Mujahideen?” he says.
"Earlier, terrorists were seen as religious radicals," adds Rizvi. "But now they are portrayed as educated, smart, working professionals." Husain recently started wearing a goatee, but was advised by his cousin to grow a beard since "the police are picking up smart, clean-shaven people.”
Riaz Mohammad, a final-year student in B.Tech — a stream he jokingly describes as a risky choice since "many terrorist suspects are from a technical background" — fears for the Muslim community.
The police are no longer seen as a protecting force. Worried parents call to say, "Talk carefully," and "don't roam after dusk." Nightlife has come to a halt. No more bike rides to the ridge, detours to Noida, or midnight dinners at Comesum, Nizamuddin.
The students have been advised to be careful of what they Google, and also not to share jokes through SMS and e-mail.
Rizvi, an aspiring journalist, is scared of carrying books on controversial themes like terrorism. "The police might think I'm keeping desh-drohi (anti-national) literature." Another student found himself struggling with choices he never imagined before — should he hide his copy of Osama Bin Laden's biography in his hostel room or bury it in the garden? Safdar Ali, a final-year MA student, simply pressed the delete button on all the films on Gujarat riots stored in his desktop. He also deleted Khuda ke Liye, the Pakistani blockbuster starring Naseeruddin Shah.
However, many are nervous about job prospects. "The recent events may affect our placement," says Riaz. "We get companies like TCS, Satyam, L&T, and DLF but if they feel that hiring people from here creates a security risk, they might stop recruiting."
If anything good has emerged, post-encounter, it is that students from different regions, courses, religions, and income groups have come together in a joint sense of pride. "Earlier, I didn't give a damn about my university," says Husain. "But now when I see our VC, teachers and students joining forces to protect our honour, I feel proud of this place." "It's not religion that has united us," adds Rizvi. "It's the insecurity."