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Aligarh Muslim University plays secular beat
By Rajeev R Roy

Justice AM Ahmadi

New Delhi: It is time for the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) to spread the message that it is not an institution exclusively for the Muslims, as the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) cannot afford to be an institution exclusively for the Hindus.
"AMU as an institution can't afford to discriminate against anyone on the ground of caste and creed. It is a secular institution. To think that it was set up to serve a particular community won't be correct," Justice AM Ahmadi said in his first interview after his election as the AMU Chancellor.

"These are the secular centres of higher education. We should respect the spirit with which they were set up. The AMU was set up not only to inculcate the spirit of secularism among Muslims but also to spread the feeling for higher education among them," Justice Ahmadi, former Chief Justice of India, said.

"By and large, the Muslim community lacked in higher education. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan's dream was to encourage Muslims to go for higher education and build in them a scientific temper. Similarly, the BHU was another such institution. So far as the non-Muslim population is concerned, they were going for higher education even at that point of time," he said.

"On the other hand, the dropout rate in Muslims, and girls in particular, was very high. They needed an institution which could provide them an opportunity to go for higher education. That objective is still valid. Even today Muslims are relatively backward when it comes to higher education," Justice Ahmadi added.

He felt the Government should continue to provide the Muslims with opportunities and encourage them to go for higher education.

"The reason is simple. We can't afford to have a certain percentage of population unable to contribute to the country's development," he said.

"We must all understand that human resource has to be utilised fully if the country must develop. With this in mind, the minority institutions like the AMU be encouraged. But at the same time, we should guard against these institutions turning into a community exclusive centres," he added.

Reacting to the charges of alleged saffronisation of education, Justice Ahmadi said: "I have only read about it in the media. I feel the ideological differences are one aspect of the matter," he said.

"I haven't read the text books of history. But historians are raising a hue and cry. One has to see how far it is justified. We must understand one thing. So far as India is concerned, it has never adopted an ostrich like attitude. It has always kept the windows open for fresh winds to blow in. Our culture is a blend of different cultures," he added.

Justice Ahmadi minced no words when asked to comment on the privatisation of higher education: "We tend to put all responsibilities on the state. You have to accept various elements which flow there from such as financial constraints, availability of infrastructure."

"It is not advisable to leave everything to the state. The public participation in higher education is a must. The Government could provide guidelines to regulate without any interference in the day to day management of the private institutions. The Government should lay down the norms to be followed at various levels by them," Justice Ahmadi said.

Asked about his priorities as the AMU Chancellor, Justice Ahmadi said he had a responsibility to discharge. "I have certainly a role to play in the policy decisions to enhance the quality of education. However, it should be a collective endeavour to improve the teaching of various disciplines in a University as huge as the AMU," he added.

Asked to comment on campus violence, Justice Ahmadi said: "Any act of violence on the campus is unfortunate. It shouldn't happen anywhere. The campus is a place of learning. There may be some stray incidents of violence. These shouldn't be blown up. Efforts should be made to ensure that unlawful activity doesn't take place within the campus."

"Unfortunately, all the universities across the country have suffered because of diverse reasons. Education has been affected. Thus, there is a need to improve the quality of teachers to improve education," he added. (

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