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

UGC belling Central varsities
Minority institutions under attack
By Andalib Akhter

New Delhi: Several leaders and the representatives of Minority Educational Institutions have appealed to the President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam, to direct the outside agencies, the Ministry, the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to desist from unduly pressurising the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and other minority institutions in their own interest and in the larger interest of the freedom and sanctity of higher education in the country. The president is also the Visitor of the AMU.

After an emergency meeting on 28 December of the Executive Committee of the Minority Educational Institutions Association (MEIA), it urged the president to take urgent notice of the UGC circular asking for Common Admission Test (CAT). "If the purpose and objective of our educational plan, inter alia, is to promote higher education for deprived and backward communities, the common admission tests, if applied to their institutions shall become a limiting, even a negative, factor", the MEIA said in a statement. 

The UGC in the latest circular asked the minority institutions particularly the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), the Jamia Millia Islamia and the Jamia Hamdard which have, as minority educational institutions, traditionally catered to largely, but not exclusively Muslim students, not to take admission test on its own and not to advertise for the admission. The HRD ministry will take the test for admission at the all India level and it will provide students to these institutions too.

The President of the All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat (AIMMM), Syed Shahabuddin said: "The UGC circular will hinder the educational and economic advancement of the Muslim youths. The implementation of the circular is a clear advice to further deprive the already deprived Muslim community from professional courses. "
He said, the AIMMM will protest against the official scheme of common admission tests for all professional degree and post graduate courses to all central and deemed universities. "It is an attack on their autonomy and an unjustifiable extension of the authority of the statutory bodies like the UGC, the IMC or the CBSC" he alleged.

Talking to this correspondent the chancellor of Jamia Hamdard, Sayed Hamid termed the move as 'harmful for the minorities'. "The Muslims should jointly fight for the repeal of the new circular. It will affect our wards", he said. The Executive Committee, of the Minorities Educational Institutions Association, UP, expressed its deep concern and strong resentment over the unwarranted move of the UGC and AICTE to browbeat the autonomous Central Universities and Institutions, to surrender to their order. 

The Intended thrust of this unexpected move in the farcical garb of avoiding mental, physical and financial burden on students, due to multiplicity of entrance tests, spread over the length and breadth of the country, is directed at the autonomy of these educational Institutions of higher learning, in general and a few minority institutions including the Aligarh Muslim University in particular, with a view to deprive them of their statutory rights and unique age-old historical character.

In fact neither the Ministry nor the UGC nor any other statutory outside agency is empowered with over-riding powers to impose their will/sanctions on the Central Statutory Organisations, established and empowered by the Acts of the Parliament and made autonomous for all purposes of higher education in the country.

"As a matter of fact, the UGC etc. are merely funding and recommendatory bodies. As such, their recommendations and suggestions are not mandatory" contends the MEIA statement. 

So far as the AMU is concerned, it has made it clear in no uncertain terms that the Aligarh Muslim University Amendment Act of 1981 has very clear provision under Section 29(1)(a) to formulate its own admission policy and nearly half a century-old existing system of entrance tests for admission to professional courses conducted by AMU, on an all India basis with complete transparency and without any domicile restriction has stood the test of time, in terms of its efficiency and academic standard and fairness and was even endorsed by the Supreme Court of India. 

It may be recalled that the existing unique provision of the AMU Act. 1981, contained in Section 5(2)(C) which inter alia, empowers the University “to promote especially the educational and cultural advancement of Muslims of India”, incorporated to endorse the historical Minority status of the University after a long struggle by the Muslims and well-wishers of the University. Further, the rejection of the UGC and AICTE proposals by the competent Academic Council of the University at its meeting held in December 2003, should settle the issue once and for all, in favour of the University. 

The government and its agencies are taking cover in the 11-judge and 5-Judge judgments (31st October, 2002 and 14th August, 2003 respectively). It is quite clear and unambiguous that in the first place, the AMU and other Statutory Autonomous Central Institutions (irrespective of the fact that they are fully aided) are not intended to be covered by these judgments because their duties, functions and rights are provided in their respective Acts. The extent of interference by the Ministry, UGC etc., is stipulated in the event of only unsatisfactory functioning of these statutory organisations, but are limited to pointing out or sounding warnings (through the visitor as the case may be) to rectify the situation and in no case, the intention is to authorize the Ministry or UGC to take charge and control the process itself.

The Supreme Court has made exceptions for those institutions which enjoyed special status and those which have been following a particular pattern for the last twenty five years. Even the order issued recently by the UGC in this connection, enables the IITs retain their autonomy.

The leaders have called upon all the minority communities to protest against the deliberate infringement of their right to 'establish educational institutions and to administer' them under Article 30 of the constitution.
The president of Jamiatul Ulema-e-Hind, Maulana Asad Madani has dubbed the move as part of a conspiracy against the minorities, particularly the Muslims. "Efforts are on to crush Muslims in all spheres of life and putting them down educationally is part of a well planned strategy," he said. 

Former MP and a member of AMU court Wasim Ahmad said he requested his party leaders to raise the issue in parliament. "The Common Admission Test will cut the number of Muslim students entering the professional streams which will hinder their progress," he felt.

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