Is Aligarh Muslim University really Allah Miyan’s University or is it already a national university of great repute? Is AMU a succession state of Mughals? Are AMU authorities ‘incestuous clubs’? Is it necessary to abolish the university’s Court? I ask these questions after reading ThePrint article titled ‘AMU can be Indian National University, not remain Allah Miyan’s University in Ashraaf hands’, authored by one Ibn Khaldun Bharati.
Education in India has been a liberating force. The classical Indian educational system founded by Hindu sages paved the way for the great Indian civilisation. The hallmark of India’s ancient educational system was the complete autonomy to the Gurukuls. Our new National Education Policy (2020) does talk about greater autonomy to the educational institutions that perform well. A university must bring the universe of knowledge to its campus. The democratic governance model of the university envisages autonomy to the university bodies under the watchful eyes of the government.
AMU as national university
AMU has A+ rank from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). It has always been ranked among the top Indian universities by national and international agencies and therefore the analogy of “lotus eaters” used by the author for the people running the university is wrong. To expand AMU acronym as Allah Miyan’s University is in bad taste and nothing less than negating the Constitution. Entry number 63 of Union List mentions AMU, BHU (Banaras Hindu University) and DU (Delhi University) as the institutions under the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament. In fact, if one reads entries 62-65, it would become clear that the Constituent Assembly deemed AMU as ‘National Institution’.
Assuming one has a problem with the word ‘Muslim’ in AMU but then Muslim does not mean that one is anti-national. Muslims are very much national. Love of their country is half of their religion. All great minority institutions like St Stephen’s College in Delhi and Christian Medical College in Vellore are indeed national institutions. BHU similarly is not Bhagwan’s Hindu University; it too is a national university, one that the whole nation is proud of. AMU and BHU did originate as ‘denominational universities’ and have a great historical significance. Both were community initiatives.
Calling AMU as Allah Miyan’s University is also to oppose Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s accurate description of AMU as ‘Mini India’.
Wherever in the world they go, AMU alumni represent the rich heritage & culture of India…In its 100 years of history, AMU has crafted & polished millions of lives, giving them modern & scientific thinking & inspiring them to do something for the society & the nation: PM Modi https://t.co/shpioCosuo pic.twitter.com/gb2giQLTkp
— ANI (@ANI) December 22, 2020
It also undermines the constructive and highly significant role that the government of India plays in the affairs of the university. The President of India is the Visitor of AMU with a supervisory role in all the decisions of the university. The President’s nominee is an ex-officio member of all the selection committees. The President has three nominees in the Executive Council and five in the Court. To term AMU vice-chancellor as “Amir-ul Momineen” is an insult to the government and the President, who would never appoint a person who thinks of himself as the Caliph of Muslims. One former VC, Dr Zakir Hussain, indeed served as President of India.
All stakeholders such as students, teachers, President’s nominees, non-teaching staff, members of Parliament, etc. participate in AMU VC’s appointment through its Executive Council and Court. In a democratic fashion, they select three names. The President has absolute power to reject the names recommended by the EC and Court. In all other universities, the EC nominates two members, which means 66% control in the appointment of VCs is exercised by the universities themselves. Influencing search committees is much easier in comparison to large bodies of EC and Court. In the recent past, several VCs appointed through search committees proved to be incompetent and corrupt. Some of them had to be terminated .
The Indian Parliament has powers to do anything for the promotion of fundamental rights. Accordingly, nothing in the Constitution bars Parliament from making explicit what was implicit in 1920, which is that the AMU has the power to “to promote especially the educational and cultural advancement of Muslims of India”. This provision inserted by Parliament in 1981, though under challenge in the Supreme Court, is basically in tune with the PM’s slogan ‘sabka, saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishvas’. Similarly, Article 30(2) in giving aid prohibits the government from discriminating against the minority institutions.
Also read: AMU can be Indian National University, not remain Allah Miyan’s University in Ashraaf hands
Diversity in universities
Reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in admissions started only in 2006. Though Article 15(5) exempted Article 30 institutions from this constitutional reservation, India’s minority institutions should walk an extra mile to enhance the number of Dalit and OBC students in their campuses. The number of Dalit and OBC vice chancellors in some 900 Indian universities is not even 1 percent. Moreover, there can be no reservation for the one-person post of vice chancellor. Interestingly, two AMU vice-chancellors in recent times were OBCs and therefore to term AMU as the university of Ashraafs or elite is factually wrong. Several Pro-Vice-Chancellors, Deans, Heads and Proctors have been/are OBCs.
AMU authorities as ‘incestuous clubs’
To term AMU bodies as ‘incestuous clubs’ is clearly a case of class defamation. To say “everyone is someone’s someone” does not mean incest. To call the eight nominees of the President of India in EC and Court as members of an incestuous club is an insult to their dignity. Most of the members of AMU’s Academic Council, just like any other Indian university, are ex-officio members by virtue of them being the Head of Department. In fact, in the Academic Council, out of some 120 or so members, the VC’s nominees — two provosts, secretary (university games committee) and proctor — are only four who cannot really affect the AC’s decision-making. In the EC, out of 28 members, only proctor and senior most provost hold office during the “pleasure of the Vice-Chancellor”. All other members, just like in other central universities, are ex-officio members.
Similar to other universities, the AMU Court elects six members of the EC. Out of over 180 members, just six owe their membership to the VC’s pleasure. AMU Court has 25 alumni, 10 donors, 14 Members of Parliament, 5 President’s nominees, 10 representatives of learned professions, 5 representatives of non-teaching staff, and 15 students — similar to how it is in other universities. Since several waqf properties were given to the MAO College/AMU, waqf boards had been given a token representation. The Muslim Education Conference and Muslim Cultural Associations had played a leading role in the foundation of the university and therefore some small representation for historic reasons has been given to them.
Also read: Modi is reaching out. AMU has a chance to take Muslims away from path of confrontation
Representative University Courts/Senates
Why should the Court in AMU be abolished when it has not been abolished in Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Madras University, and Calcutta University? It is true that the majority of members in the AMU’s Court, EC and AC are employees of the university. But that is the policy of the government for all other universities. This is what the university’s democratic model of governance is all about.
Section 11 of the JNU Act 1966 makes JNU Court as the university’s supreme authority with powers identical to AMU Court. The emergency power of AMU VC under Section 19(3) is identical to emergency powers of VCs of other universities. The JNU Court is also a huge body with almost all Executive Council members as its members; it also has Rectors; ten Members of Parliament; all deans; all chairpersons; all professors, associate professors, assistant professors; six representatives of industry, commerce, labor and agriculture, etc.
Just like AMU, Delhi University Court has all the former vice-chancellors as members; ten alumni; ten people of learned professions like medicine, law, engineering etc. elected like AMU by the Court; six representatives of the industry elected by the Court. DU Court, just like AMU Court, elects four members of the EC.
The Calcutta University Senate (Court) has 15 students; 5 non-teaching staff; and 25 alumni. While the AMU has just 10 donors’ representatives, Madras University’s Senate has all persons who have given donations of Rs 20,000 as members and like AMU has 25 alumni as members. Madras University’s Syndicate (EC), just like AMU, has 6 members elected by the Senate (Court).
AMU and BHU Acts were indeed amended in 1951 to make them consistent with the new constitutional values. Thus, the provision that only a Hindu would be a member of BHU Court and only a Muslim would be a member of AMU Court were deleted. The provisions of compulsory religious instruction too were deleted from the two Acts. The provision that the AMU VC would be elected by the Court from among its members was deleted. The provision that VC shall be eligible for the re-appointment was also deleted.
AMU’s governance model is consistent with India’s other central universities. Universities can bring the universe of knowledge to their campuses only when people of all walks of life get a representation on their bodies. This is the logic of big Courts. All universities do need reforms. AMU too must debate what kinds of reforms can make it a more efficient vehicle of modern, liberal, progressive and inclusive education.
The author is Professor of Law, Aligarh Muslim University, and former Vice-Chancellor of NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad. He tweets @ProfFMustafa. Views are personal.
(Edited by Prashant)