Roadblocking Expansion of AMU

The Hindutva brigade is opposing the establishment of the Aligarh Muslim University centres in order to keep Muslims perpetually backward and illiterate. Their opposition is understandable because they do not want to see the emergence of educationally empowered Muslim society. Unfortunately opposition is also coming from those who are “old boys” of AMU and claim to be Muslim “leaders”. This seems surprising but personally the author is not at all surprised.

After considering the globalization in every walk of life including education and taking into account backwardness of the Muslims in education and their limited resources for acquiring education, the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, Prof P. K. Abdul Azis embarked upon massive development in the campus and establishing AMU Centres in five states across the country. Fortunately, some states like West Bengal, Bihar and Kerala readily came forward to establish the proposed centres but two states, namely Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, continued dithering on the issue. After the approval of all the concerned bodies like the Academic Council, Executive Council and Court and the President of India in her capacity as the Visitor, groundwork on three Centres, i.e., Murshidabad (W. Bengal), Kishanganj (Bihar) and Mallappuram (Kerala) was speeded up.

Kerala government initiated the process of acquiring 400 acres land for the centre in Mallapuram district. Government of Bihar agreed to provide 250 acres of land in Kishanganj district. Likewise, the government of West Bengal identified 355.67 acres under Jangipur Sub-Division of Murshidabad district. AMU team led by the Vice-Chancellor has visited all the three states where they were welcomed by eminent citizens as well as common men because they were witnessing the realization of their dream of quality education at their own doorstep. AMU announced that the centres of Murshidabad and Mallapuram will begin functioning from the next academic session. Meeting of the Academic Council held on 9 June, 2010 approved to begin BALLB and MBA courses in the above-mentioned two centres.

On the one hand. Vice-Chancellor of AMU and his team was burning mid-night lamps to establish and make functional maximum possible centres, on the other hand a minority group consisting of vested interests was playing its own game. AMU Old Boys Association, which has been captured by a few people, began to oppose the very idea of establishing centres in such far off locations. They announced to hold a meeting of like-minded people on 19 June at Aligarh instead of calling a Convention in a democratic way to discuss the issue from all angles. An old boy of the University, Advocate ZK Faizan filed a writ petition (Z.K. Faizan vs. AMU and others, 33872/2010) in the Allahabad High Court against the centres. The case will come up for hearing before the Chief Justice on 5 July. In the meantime, a two-member Bench of Kerala High Court consisting of Justice CN Ramachandaran Nayar and Justice PS Gopinathan, has asked the AMU, state and Central governments to file affidavit on the legal viability of the centres and available infrastructure therein within ten days. The High Court has delivered this order on a writ petition filed by a Senior Advocate of Kerala High Court, K. Janardan (K. Janardan vs. AMU, Aligarh, writ no. 15091/2010). It should also be recalled that the student wing of BJP, the ABVP, was strongly opposing these centres and had launched an agitation in Bihar to oppose the AMU centre at Kishanganj.

There is a need to identify and analyze those who are opposing such task of spreading education among deprived classes of India. Saner elements of the Indian society and majority of the Muslims are in favour of the establishment of AMU Centres because these Centres are being opened in areas which are historically backward and deprived from all angles. The Hindutva brigade is opposing the establishment of the centres in order to keep Muslims perpetually backward and illiterate. Their opposition is understandable because they do not want to see the emergence of educationally empowered Muslim society. Unfortunately opposition is also coming from those who are “old boys” of AMU and claim to be Muslim “leaders”. This seems surprising but personally I am not surprised at all.

I am associated with AMU since 1969 in different capacities. In India, Zamindari system may have been abolished but in AMU it continued. A handful of people had captured the University and the Old Boys Association and utilised their positions to reap rich harvest. I have no personal grudge against office bearers of the Old Boys Association but why all decisions are being taken among and by a few? Why old boys outside this small lobby are not being given due representation? Why no audit of accounts has taken place since long? Why Convention of only like-minded old boys and why not a healthy debate on the issue?

There is another angle. As far as I could gather information, K. Janardan is a senior Advocate of Kerala High Court who has filed the writ petition on which Hon’able High Court has granted stay. He is also associated with a hardcore Hindutva organization and may perhaps have filed the petition at the behest of his ideological fathers.

It is shocking that some Muslims and AMU old boys are hand-in-glove with Hindutva Brigade to oppose AMU Centres. Everybody has a right to support or oppose any issue but at the same time it should be logical, analytical and with a commitment for the betterment of the masses. Shaking hands with Hindutva Brigade for some personal gains or in the zeal of opposing present Vice-Chancellor on every count is unpardonable.

Let us see why the establishment of the proposed centres should be supported. The AMU has never been a mere educational institution. The founder of the institution never wished it to be like an ordinary institution of higher learning. He wanted it to be a seat of learning and culture of truly national importance with an all India character. In spite of some failings, AMU can look back with satisfaction and pride to the rich contribution it has made to all walks of Indian life and thought. Its founder, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had said at the time of the stone-laying ceremony of MAO college that, "From the seed which we sow today there may spring up a mighty tree, whose branches, like those of the banyan of the soil, shall in their turn strike firm roots into the earth and themselves send fourth new and vigorous saplings. This college may expand into a university whose sons shall go forth throughout the length and breadth of the land to preach the gospel of free enquiry, of large-hearted toleration and of pure morality."

The AMU (Amendment) Act, 1981 has entrusted responsibilities on AMU to promote educational and cultural advancement among Indian Muslims. Discharging its legal and moral responsibilities the AMU had established a Centre for Promotion of Educational and Cultural Advancement of Muslims of India (CEPECAMI) under section 5(2)(C) of AMU (Amendment) Act, 1981. This particular section confers on the AMU the power to carry out extension work of educating Muslim masses all over the country. That was the first step. In the second, the AMU decided to fulfill its responsibilities of empowering Muslim masses educationally under the very section of the same Act by establishing satellite centres.

We should face certain truth around which a system of evasion and concealment has been built, not only concealing vested interests but also shielding association with communal forces. Aligarians of goodwill are bound to be concerned over the fact that a particular lobby in AMU and some members of AMU Old Boys Association have joined hands with Hindutva Brigade to oppose every move of the present Vice-Chancellor without considering its plus points or long-term consequences. The question is not simply one of the establishment of centres, its relates to the overall development of the Indian Muslim society and empowering our brothers and sisters educationally in remote areas.

Closed creeds are a threat to both spirituality and humanity. They badly need some sort of glasnost and perestroika. Muslim masses can play an important role. It is high time when the current Vice-Chancellor of AMU must be supported and all those who are roadblocking AMU’s expansion or empowerment of Muslims, should be boycotted and sidelined. We must realize that we should pass on the legacy of Sir Syed and Aligarh Movement to our next generation in a better way.

The writer is Aligarh-based social and political commentator.