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Panic in AMU as 18 professors die of Covid in 20 days, V-C wants campus samples probed

Several retired professors of the AMU are also believed to have lost their lives to Covid-19. Students say it is hard to keep up with classes amid the gloom.

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New Delhi: Shadaab Khan, a 58-year-old doctor and head of the medicine department. Shakil Ahmed Samdani, 59, Dean at the Faculty of Law. Khalid Bin Yusuf, 60, noted Sanskrit scholar and the first Indian Muslim to earn a PhD in the Rigveda. These are just three of over a dozen professors the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) has lost to Covid-19 in the last 20 days.

The spate of fatalities has led to panic and gloom at the university, with the administration scrambling to control the situation. 

“We have lost several of our very senior faculty members, the situation is very alarming here,” Shafey Kidwai, professor of mass communication and in-charge of the Public Relations Office (PRO) at AMU, told ThePrint. 

“We have lost 18 serving teachers in the last 20 days, and it is a matter of huge concern for the university.” 

Over 100 patients are admitted in the university’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College (JNMC), he said. 

There are fears on the campus about the possibility of a more virulent strain of the virus wreaking havoc at AMU. 

Vice-Chancellor (V-C) Tariq Mansoor, who lost his brother to Covid-19 last week, Sunday wrote to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), asking the body to analyse samples of the virus from the campus and conduct viral genome sequencing to ascertain if the fears are true.

The spate of deaths is “giving rise to suspicion that a particular viral variant may be circulating in the Civil Lines area of Aligarh in which AMU and many other adjoining localities are situated”, Mansoor said in the letter. 

“I kindly request you to instruct the concerned section/department of ICMR to perform analysis of Covid-19 samples sent from our lab to investigate for any particular viral variants of Covid-19 virus circulating in Aligarh, which may be giving rise to greater severity of disease, so that we may consider other epidemiological links and measures to control the same,” he added.

According to sources in the AMU, several retired professors of the university — all of whom had been admitted in the JNMC, along with the active faculty members — have lost their lives to Covid-19 as well. Including them, the sources said, the toll would be about 40.

Also read: DU loses nearly 15 teachers & staff to Covid, writes to Modi govt to set up care facility

‘An irreparable academic loss’ 

A student at the AMU’s school of social work said there “is complete panic and gloom on campus”. 

“The authorities are doing what they can, but it is not enough. There is shortage of oxygen in the hospital, and we are making informal groups to fund and purchase cylinders and refill them,” the student added. 

Tariq Rashid, another student, said the “academic loss for the university is irreparable”. 

“We are losing heads of department and deans… We don’t even have the time to think how the university will replace them,” he added. “For example, there is no way the Sanskrit professor who has died can be replaced… He, a Muslim, was one of the most celebrated Vedic scholars in India.” 

Speaking to ThePrint in 2017, Khalid had identified himself as a “Ved ka sevak” who had fought with Muslim orthodoxy all his life to contribute to Sanskrit. His two daughters, Ila and Ibra, sing bhajans. 

Samdani, the dean of the law department, published two books titled ‘Uniform Civil Code: Problems And Prospects’ and ‘Maintenance of The Muslim Divorcee‘, and had received the Herz Dr Gerhard Glinzerer Award for his social service.

Classes continue, but ‘it is hard to keep up’

Even as the university struggles to keep up with the mounting cases and the rising toll, classes are going on online. 

“In accordance with the lockdown restrictions imposed by the UP government, physical classes have been stopped on campus, but online classes are going on,” Kidwai said. 

However, students say the atmosphere on campus, with several students losing their teachers, has made it hard to keep up. 

“We have lost our dean, even the other faculty members are in a state of shock,” said Yasmeen, a law student in the university. “Across the board, students are struggling to cope with the loss of their teachers, faculty members, etc. I don’t know how and when the university can come out of this shock,” she added. 

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also read: How universities are tweaking admission process as Covid surge leads to delayed boards


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