Unnecessary focus on AMU library

Afew days back, a meaningless banter by Lt Gen Zameeruddin Shah, Vice Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University, created quite an outrage in the society, thanks to sensationalised and distorted version by a certain section of the media. The VC, during the installation ceremony of the Women’s College Students’ Union on demand by undergraduate girl students for allowing access and membership of prestigious Maulana Azad Library (Central Library] of AMU, in a lighter sense or what the VC define as “simile”, said that if girls are allowed, there will be four times the boys in attendance in the library and make the already crowded library more crowded.

Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani called the VC’s remarks as “insult to daughters.” With the media blowing the issue out of proportion directly hitting at AMU, the vibrant AMU Students’ Union condemned it and took out a large protest march of thousands of students including a large number of girls, against the biased and defamatory reporting by certain media houses. A protest resolution passed by the AMUSU took the issue in totality, largely covering three major points.

Firstly, AMUSU and women’s college strongly condemns the malicious and defamatory reporting by certain media houses. Secondly, condemns the distortion of facts by certain media houses that girls are not allowed in Maulana Azad Library and further placed the correct fact that Research, Post graduate and professional courses girls are members and study in Maulana Azad Library without any restriction.

Further, the undergraduate girls have their own independent library having all books required by girl students in the premises of the Abdullah Women’s College and furthermore the AMUSU demand for upgrade/extension of library for undergraduate girls. The Students’ Union condemned the statement of the VC and resolved that the VC should stop making the statements unbecoming of his stature and should look into the problems of the students and particularly the girl students.

Now, the VC has demanded a grant of Rs 20 crore from the ministry for extension of library and purchase of exclusive buses for women’s college girls to take them to Maulana Azad Library. A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in Allahabad High Court and the VC has submitted in writing that the undergraduate girl students will be allowed access to the Maulana Azad Library and can also become members of the Library.

Genuine demand
The whole episode was nothing but a simple and genuine demand of under-graduate girl students to have a permission to access the library so that they can also have exposure to books and study material which is available to their male counterparts. The demand of girls is genuine and should be allowed and if not possible as on date, due to inadequate space, at least for the time being, an extension of central library be made available in the independent library of Abdullah Girls College with all the books which are provided in Maulana Azad Library along with its membership. With the VC allowing membership of the library to undergraduate girls as well, this will, for the time being, serve the purpose of access to the books and material but the extension of the library is the need of the hour for providing equal space for girls.

Now the issue of shortage of funds is a small hurdle for a spacious and better equipped library. The HRD minister, already gone through a lot of pain due to “insult to the daughter” by the statement of VC, has a golden opportunity to lessen her pain and transform that pain into action by granting an additional amount of Rs 20 crore so that the daughters of the country be given equal opportunity, which is their fundamental right.

The AMU is a historic and progressive university and an institute of national importance. Being an alumni and a former secretary of Students Union of AMU, I can say with authority that neither the students, nor the VC, nor the teachers are regressive but every institution has its own culture and traditions, which has to be respected and not defamed without knowing the values it stands for. The AMU has always been a centre of excellence and will continue to do so and any discrimination would not have allowed the vibrant and healthy atmosphere it has. Its rich culture and traditions are its identity and everyone including the media houses must respect it without presuming and inferring the university as regressive and gender biased.

(The writer is an advocate, Supreme Court)

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