The Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh has been an easy prey to controversies most often.
Renowned social reformer Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817 - 1898) established the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College in 1875 aiming at the educational progress of Muslims. The institution which later came to be known as Aligarh Muslim University (1920), has immensely contributed towards the growth of Indian Muslims pioneering their academic excellence and empowerment. The role played by the institution in the progress of a community that lags much behind all other communities in the educational sector, is clearly evident. Besides the AMU, Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi is yet another prestigious institution (1920) in India pioneered by the Muslims with both the institutions established prior independence. The fact that there aren’t any other academic institutions worth notable founded by the Muslims in the educational sector in the country post-independence implies that the community hasn’t been able to establish one. Given such a scenario, the relevance of AMU is huge. However, several efforts have been made to destroy and tarnish the institution with the Sangh Parivar forces usually in the forefront of all such attacks. Attempts to ruin the minority character of the University are being carried out at the official level coupled with the move to portray it as a terrorist hub. The Sangh Parivar has been targeting the minorities often unleashing rigorous hate propaganda against them and they have been successful to an extent. In a film directed by Keralite Congress leader Aryadan Shoukath, the AMU was portrayed as a hub of terrorism. The extent of intolerance and prejudice towards the institution is clearly understood.
The minority repute of the AMU has always been a topic of contention. The Section 2 (1) of the AMU Amendment Act passed by the Parliament in 1981 fully restored the minority status of the institution and defined AMU as an ‘educational institution of their choice established by the Muslims of India’. At the same time, legal and technical issues related to the authority and control of the Muslim society over the institution’s appointments and other aspects still persist. But the reality is that the governments haven’t so far been willing to seek clarifications in the matter or to restore its minority status eliminating all skepticisms. An affidavit submitted in the Supreme Court by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on behalf of the Central government on January 11, 2016 is what has dragged AMU into the spotlight again. The University had reserved 50 per cent seats for the PG Medical admissions in 2004 for the Muslim community based on the 1981 Act. This decision was annulled by the Allahabad High Court. The then Central government and University authorities approached the Supreme Court. Rohatgi had submitted the affidavit before the bench hearing the case. The new affidavit submitted by the BJP government contradicts the one presented by the erstwhile government. Rohatgi informed the apex court that AMU couldn’t be termed as a minority institution and that the appeal filed by the previous government against the Allahabad High Court ruling was inclined to be withdrawn. But the AMU authorities have decided to proceed with the case.
Others including the BJP usually point out the lack of education as the reason for Muslims to land in ‘terrorism and troubles’. In the case of Aligarh University, however, the Centre has adopted a stance of obstructing even the rarest endeavors of conveniently gaining knowledge. The affidavit that the AMU doesn’t need a minority status is an instance of the Centre’s intolerance and hatred towards Muslims. Its part of their agenda that any effort to improve the plight of a community, that lags behind the Dalits as per the Sachar Committee findings, wouldn’t be allowed. The Sangh Parivar do have the common sense to realize that if a community that makes up to about 14 per cent of the country’s population lags behind , it would only adversely affect the resource capacity of the nation. Those believing in the welfare of the minority communities should form laws to restore the minority repute of the University sans skepticism along with public compulsion from all sides towards achieving this goal.