Special Reports

Nitish’s covert agenda pushes AMU off-campus to the backburner

All hopes of Kishangnaj of getting a special centre of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) were dashed with the sudden transfer order of its longest serving District Magistrate, Feraque Ahmad. The DM’s transfer order came at a time when the movement of AMU campus in Kishanganj had gathered momentum. Every hurdle was being removed. After a high profile visit of an AMU team led by Vice Chancellor, Dr. P.K. Abdul Azis to the proposed site on 24 May 2010, the academicians and the Alig fraternity of Kishanganj were all awaiting the good news. But Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s July 4 visit made it clear what he had in mind.

Seen above (L/R) are Kishanganj SP Dr. Chaurasiya Chandra Shekhar Azad (in uniform), DM Feraque Ahmed, AMU VC Dr. P.K. Abdul Azis and Kishanganj MP, Maulana Asrarul Haque Qasmi. Kishanganj MLA Akhtarul Imaan is seen behind the AMU VC. 
Seen above (L/R) are Kishanganj SP Dr. Chaurasiya Chandra Shekhar Azad (in uniform), DM Feraque Ahmed, AMU VC Dr. P.K. Abdul Azis and Kishanganj MP, Maulana Asrarul Haque Qasmi. Kishanganj MLA Akhtarul Imaan is seen behind the AMU VC.

His statement in the Ruidhasa ground of Kishanganj that the state government had given the land to the University and it was only the University authorities’ responsibility to utilize it, smacked of his secret agenda. There couldn’t be anything more childish than this statement of the CM “Mainne to zameen de di hai ab yeh centre or university ka kam hai woh aakar apna kam shuroo karein”. As if it wasn’t enough, the CM further said, “Hamarey karney ko aur kuch nahin hai. Ham dehat ke log hain. Ham jab khana khanay baithte hain to kuch makhkhiyan bhinbhinati hain. Ham unko pahle bandook se goli mar kar saaf nahin kar dete hain balki ek haat se khate hain to dusre haath se makhkhian bhi bhagate rahte hain.” (There is nothing more I could do. We are rural people, when we sit to eat, some flies start buzzing. We do not shoot them with bullets. We eat with one hand and shoo the flies with the other hand).

His intention was obvious. He was pointing to the illegal occupants of the proposed land. His statement put the future of the centre in doubt. This has made people think to give up the idea of an AMU Centre in Kishanganj. Once again, the fate of quality education seems to have been blurred in political shenanigans.

Nitish Kumar went ahead to pass this illogical remark that the Congress had the knack of bursting on the scene in a ‘’new avatar’’ every fifteenth or twentieth year. He held the Congress squarely responsible for all the ills plaguing the country. Does it have anything to do with the establishment of AMU centre in Bihar where the Nitish-led NDA rules the roost?

It is pertinent to mention here that DM Feraque Ahmad had taken keen personal interest in the move to set up the AMU Campus at Kishanganj. There were many hiccups though, but the DM had convinced the University authorities to get the required land at one place and he was working on modalities to secure a single chunk of land for the proposed campus. He had drawn three blueprints -- the final being the land in one place. There were around 15-20 families with whom the DM was about to negotiate. He wanted those families to shift to nearby places either on government land or on purchased land. He also wanted to give them better returns in exchange for shifting. But all his plans went in vain with his transfer which was due after Assembly Elections in Bihar.

On July 4, Nitish Kumar visited Kishanganj. People stood on roads and streets with placards and banners in their hands expecting the CM to announce allotment of land for AMU Extension Centre. The same day brought a big shock for the locals as people’s favourite District Magistrate Feraque Ahmad had been transferred to Patna as the Special Secretary, Department of Minority Welfare, Government of Bihar. Feraque Ahmad’s tenure as a DM had been exceptional and he had kept a good balance between official commitments and humanitarian association with locals.

Feraque Ahmad was an exception and he changed the perception of District Magistrate in common man’s mind. A firm believer in Islam, he provided a new definition to the post of DM. From youth to elders, literate to illiterate, almost every section of the society was aware of his unique persona. All this happened due to farsightedness of Ahmad, who never tried to show bossiness while handling his responsibilities.

Ahmad opened his doors for common people round the week. His office became a counseling table for the people of the district. People used to visit the DM office to get their problems solved. Not only this, DM Feraque was easily accessible over the phone any time of the day for any genuine concern. Even his subordinates were closely attached to him and they used to act fast on his orders.

Surprisingly, a section of society considered Ahmad the main culprit of the AMU land imbroglio, without knowing the ground realities. In fact, many groups, which were established in the name of AMU off-campus in Kishanganj, targeted the DM and tried to tarnish his image. Some called him the agent of the Nitish-led NDA government. Some even questioned his integrity. However, apart from newspaper statements and television reports, the groups never tried to directly talk to the DM to find solution for the land issue and know the difficulties.

When informed that the Bihar cabinet had given approval for the required land, said Shah Faisal, Administrator of Holy Vision School, Kishnagnaj, “It was a gimmick”. It was just a word of mouth; otherwise no paper was handed over to the District Magistrate confirming that the Nitish government had given the land to set up the AMU campus. People here feel that the AMU administration would not start anything on the given piece of land as it does not fulfill the criteria laid by the varsity authorities as per the guidelines of the HRD ministry, viz., the land being i) contiguous, ii) free of cost, iii) free from any encumbrance, etc.

Feraque Ahmad was silently working to find a solution to the issue of land acquisition and had prepared three new proposals for the AMU off-campus at Kishanganj. He discussed his proposals with local MP Maulana Mohammad Asrarul Haque Qasmi and also submitted a copy to the Union HRD ministry on June 30, 2010. On July 2, he was scheduled to meet AMU VC Prof. P.K. Abdul Azis. But he had to postpone this meeting due to CM Nitish Kumar’s planned visit to Kishanganj.

On July 4, 2010 the Ruidhasa Maidan of Kishanganj echoed with chants of Janata Dal (U) supporters and party workers. Nitish Kumar attended the huge rally of JD (U) and also shook hands with former MP and one time RJD leader, Mohammed Tasleemuddin. Both Nitish and Tasleemuddin shared the same stage and vowed to take the Seemanchal region to the path of progress. But at the same time, Kishanganj had silently lost a sincere District Magistrate. Following the transfer of Feraque Ahmed, Kishanganj MP, Maulana Asrarul Haque Qasmi wrote a letter to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar drawing his attention to the fact that the land earmarked by the state government was in three different places which was against the plans of the AMU authorities. He said that “it is needless to reiterate the wishes/aspirations of the people of this region who have accorded top priority to the establishment of an AMU Campus at Kishangnaj and are very eager to give their personal contributions” for this cause. Maulana Qasmi asked the CM to “issue time-bound instructions to the government authorities” regarding provision of 250 acres of land at one place as desired by the AMU authorities and directed by the HRD ministry.

Despite the transfer of Mr Ahmed, some people are still optimistic that the campus movement will continue. Although things have taken a different turn, it may be a momentary phase which every big movement faces in the way to its fulfillment, said Maulana Asrarul Haque Qasmi, Member of Parliament from Kishaganj and president of All India Talimi Wa Milli Foundation.

As the new DM Dr. Sandeep Kumar R. Pudakalkatti (IAS) took charge on 7 July, the youth and those interested in the campus at Kishanganj are now contacting him to take up the issue and take it forward. The AMU Kishanganj Co-ordination Committee, that has some highly educated youth in its panel, has called for various meetings in the past and conceived some new strategic plans to impress upon the district and state authorities to speed up the work so that the campus is started soon.

In view of the conspiracy theories and the helplessness of public representatives, a big drama seems to be played behind the public glare to push the area back to the abysmal poverty and low literacy. Will the Sun shine over Kishanganj, would be interesting to see. Looking at the recent political drama staged both within and without the Bihar Assembly, it would be safe to say that we cannot expect roses when flowerpots are broken!

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 August 2010 on page no. 17

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