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

Jamia Millia Islamia is on a fast track now: Shahid Mehdi
By Firoz Bakht Ahmed

Shahid Mahdi, Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, maintains that this is a unique university with its unique problems. Presently it happens to be at a very crucial stage of its development and it is of paramount importance to provide this institution with intellectual stimulus and dynamism that it can carve out its place in the comity of universities. According to him the problem with Jamia is that most of the students here are the ones who are either from a rural background or from the backward urban Muslim areas coming into contact for the first time with cosmopolitan city, in a modern and co-educational campus. 

Historically speaking, Jamia is an educational enterprise that was born out of the political ferment during the country’s struggle for independence. But of late this apex institution seems to be in and out of quagmire owing to many issues that relate to anything and everything but education. Without an iota of doubt, in the days of yore, the institution responded to the need for an educational system rooted in the country’s ethos by reflecting nationalist, cultural and Islamic ideals, and by synthesizing the old and the new. 

Jamia started in the form of a school and college in 1920 and was run on a shoestring budget besides whatever funds it could raise for itself. It started imparting education 27 years prior to independence but it was only at the behest of Maulana Abulkalam Azad in 1957, the then Education Minister, that eventually it was granted the status of a "deemed university" (1962) after he died. In 1988, it became a central university. The foundation stone of the university was laid by the renowned Darul Uloom, Deoband Islamic theologian Maulana Mehmood Hasan, a nationalist and a gritty freedom fighter. In 1917 when he was imprisoned by the English at Malta, he came to be known as Aseer-e-Malta.

Within the time Shahid has had at his disposal, not only has he redressed the wrongs and taken care of the long-standing grievances of the community of the teachers and he taught, he has put this historic institution on a fast track that it has gained its pristine glory. He looked into the demands like discipline, parity in scales, seniority in all walks of the university life apart from filling in many vacancies. He believes that the students must be set to the kind of academic ambience that discipline must come from within. He has also launched a web site of Jamia and he reiterates his pledge, "I would like to see Jamia in the golden annals of excellence!" 

Jamia has a lot of substance but hasn’t projected that—like the Faculty of mass communication, Adult and Continuing Education and Extension besides having the best and most well equipped Faculties of Bio-Sciences, Geography and Physics. In the Bio-Sciences Faculty some path breaking projects have been undertaken Similarly the Physics Faculty has a unique course called the "Defence Ministry Project." The Geography Faculty has the GIS remote sensing course that is the latest introduction. The Faculties of Engineering and Technology and University Polytechnic are the one of the most sought-after ones in India. 

The Faculty of Law was established in 1989. The Bar Council of India has given recognition to the Under-graduate law course. The curricula focus upon socio-legal awareness, consumer protection laws, environmental laws and human rights according to its legal head and advisor M Atyab Siddiqui. The two-year MA course at AJ Qidwai Mass Communication Research Centre that has produced the likes of Barkha Dutt and Radhika Bordia of the Star News and the popular anchor Roshan Abbas etc, happens to be the most well-equipped one with most modern and sophisticated audio, video and film hardware. Production of educational material under the aegis of the (UGC)University Grants Commission, is also broadcast from here on the INSAT satellites. 

The Academy of Third World Studies focuses on the issues of developmental experiences of the developing nations of the world. Research projects and publications of the Academy highlight economic partnerships, international and political relations and trends in the Third World. The Zakir Hussain Institute of Islamic Studies has an excellent library on comparative religious studies besides the regular publications — Islam and the Modern Age in English and Islam aur Asr-e-Jadeed (Urdu) and Jamia (Urdu). Quite rightly Yasser Arafat has paid his homage to the University that Jamia Millia Islamia that has carved out a distinguished place for itself within and outside the country as an institution symbolizing international cultural co-operation, scientific development and literary creativity.

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