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Published in the 1-15 Feb 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Saffronites target Muslim education
By N Jamal Ansari

In the latest attempt to undermine the autonomy of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), the University Grants Commission (UGC) has ordered AMU "not to organise its admission tests for professional courses". Prof Ved Prakash, UGC secretary, has categorically advised the university authorities to "desist from holding admission tests for all the courses falling under AICT because these tests will be organised on all India level by central agencies".

It is interesting to note that the letter of the UGC is against the spirit of AMU (Amendment) Act 62 of 1981. Right from the explanation of AMU Act XL of 1920 to the AMU Act 1981, it is clearly evident that AMU is an autonomous body and has right to hold its own examinations and admission tests. Article 29 of this Act specifically provides the University with minority character whereas Article 5(2)(c) grants it the responsibility to generate educational and cultural activities among Muslims. The history of the University indicate that it was established for educating Muslim masses primarily.

Despite historical facts, there were several attempts made by the different governments from time to time to subjugate the functioning of the AMU. Few universities have had such an important role to play in the social and political life of the nation as the AMU and ironically no other educational institution has been the object of malicious bias as this seat of higher learning established by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. The administration of the AMU from its very beginning in 1920 until today stands vindicated that far from it being a University only for Muslims, it had on its rolls the non-Muslim students also. Thus beyond doubt the national character of the AMU has been proved that despite it being bestowed with minority character, it is a house of learning for almost every category of students irrespective of caste, creed or religion who come here to obtain education from across the nation as well as abroad. Herein lies the difference between AMU and other Universities.

It will be appropriate to refer to the assurances given by successive prime ministers and Human Resource Development ministers for the preservation of the Muslim minority character of the University and its autonomy. The futile attempts made by some ultra nationalists and proponents of fascist Hindutva ideology now seem to have gained upper hand, and regimentation and control by the Government in the name of uniform all India tests seem to hold sway. The entire Muslim community in the country has been traumatised, alarmed and stands disillusioned at the interference by the Government in the affairs of AMU through UGC. The erstwhile governments and the rulers of the day always held the view that the AMU was not established by the Muslim community. Rather it was the Aligarh Muslim University Act 1920 which played an important role in establishing the "University". In fact the Government failed to make distinction between incorporation of an existing institution already functioning with its buildings, laboratories and other facilities and being merely conferred the status of a "University" and the act of "founding" afresh an institution with the construction of buildings, furniture and amenities. It was ignored that infrastructures of a University were readily made available by the Muslim community prior to the incorporation of the MAO college in 1877 and which was already affiliated to the Allahabad University. The Allahabad University never claimed that the MAO College was established and founded by the Allahabad University. This MAO College was incorporated as Aligarh Muslim University in 1920. As MAO College was established by the Muslim community, hence logically AMU should also be recognised as an institution established by Muslim community. 

The Statement of Objects and Reasons" published at the time of incorporation of MAO College into the Aligarh Muslim University by Bill 21 of 1920 which later became Act 40 of 1920 clearly states : "The Muslim University Association having requested the foundation of a University and certain funds and property being available to this end, it is proposed to dissolve that Association and the MAO College, Aligarh and to transfer the property of these Societies to a new body called The Aligarh Muslim University. Special features of the University will be the imparting of Muslim religious education to Muslims and the inclusion of Departments of Islamic Studies".

The above quoted statement indicates the real purpose behind the establishment and functioning of the Aligarh Muslim University. Some people believe that since the Central Government is footing the expenditure of the AMU to the extent of 75 to 80 per cent of its recurring expenses, the University cannot be treated as a minority institution. This argument is however without any substance. The Government is bound under the present Constitution to continue to bear expenses of the AMU in view of the rights guaranteed to the minority communities under Articles 25 to 30 of the Constitution. The minority community (Muslims in this case) under the Article 30(1) of the Constitution is entitled to "establish and administer educational institutions of its choice". I am not aware under which Article of the Constitution the Government could claim that, since it pays grants, they should cease to be minority institutions and become "government administered institutions". Further, Muslims also pay taxes to the public exchequer and they cannot be deprived of the benefit thereof. In fact, justice and equality require that more funds be provided by the Central Government in order to enable the backward Muslin community to gain education and become useful citizens for their country.

Today in order to promote Hindutva ideology, there are many attempts to enforce restrictions on the freedom of minority communities. The above mentioned "letter" of the UGC is another such attempt. According to indologist TK John, "The Gandhi-Nehru-Ambedkar vision of India having economic freedom, social transformation, democratic socialism, secular idealism, religious pluralism and multi-culturalism is being re-written and replaced, by an entirely different vision." That different vision introduced and pursued is that of Savarkar, Hedgewar and Golwalkar. The Hindutva agenda is being implemented in all areas, be it research, history, archeology, language, school syllabus or controlling minority institutions through back door. Ever since the October 1998, Education Minister's Conference held by Murli Manohar Joshi to declare the "agenda of Indianisation, nationalisation and spiritualisation", the Human Resources Development ministry under Mr Joshi has been relentlessly pushing forward the Hindutva agenda.

The issue at stake is not simply of admission tests or attack on the autonomy of AMU but it also involves Constitutional Rights of the Minorities and the forcing of Hindutva ideology on them. Threat to the AMU's internal systems has larger ramifications. It becomes necessary to question the move of the UGC. The countrymen prefer a diverse and plural India against a few who want to make it a "Hindu Rashtra". Attempts of the Central Government to take control of the administration of Aligarh Muslim University through UGC should be challenged by saner elements of the Indian society.

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