Keep minority status of AMU intact

Keep minority status of AMU intact

More and more pressure is being brought on Aligarh Muslim University in various ways, weeks after the government had questioned the minority status and autonomy of the university. New issues are being invented for this. Local BJP leaders, including a party MP, Satish Gautam, have written to AMU Vice-Chancellor Lt Gen (Rtd) Zameer Uddin Shah, warning him against holding any “anti-government and anti-BJP meetings” on the campus. The letter cited the controversy in JNU and stated that “anti-national” activities had taken place in the university. Another controversy was sought to be created, this time by the mayor of Aligarh, who charged that beef was being served in the university’s canteen. The canteen was forced to close down, though it turned out that the charge was base-less. The “beef” was actually buffalo meat. AMU had banned beef on its campus more than 100 years ago.

The warning against anti-national activities follows a pattern seen earlier in the University of Hyderabad and in JNU. The vice-chancellor has done well to stand his ground by saying that while no anti-national activity has taken place or will be allowed on the campus, he would not accept any curbs on the right to freedom of speech and expression. It should also be noted that the no one in the government has come out in support of the vice-chancellor or the status of the university. The government does not now accept the university’s minority status, as attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi told the Supreme Court recently. The minority status of AMU has been challenged in the past. Appeals against rulings which held that parliament
cannot confer minority status on a university by legislation are before the Supreme Court now. Governments in the past have brought forward legislation to ensure the university’s minority status.

The NDA government’s position on the matter is wrong and provocative. It may have been meant to be provocative too, and may be an attempt to create another issue of contention. If the government felt there was a technical or legal flaw in the conferment of minority status on the university, what it should have done was to remove the flaw. The BJP and its senior leaders in the past had endorsed and even championed the case of AMU on the matter. Only the present NDA government has taken a contrary position. It is self-serving and erroneous to hold that in a secular country, parliament cannot confer minority status on a university. It cannot also be denied that the university was set up by Muslims.
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