50% reservation for Muslims at AMU; anger on Campus
Blatant communalism, appeasement hurts Muslim interests say Irfan Habib
New Delhi, 19th May 2005: (reproduced from The Indian Express):
Brushing aside the angry chorus from academics and scholars and the Left parties, HRD Minister Arjun Singh has for the first time approved ‘‘communal reservation’’ in the 140-year-old Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) whereby 50 per cent of seats in postgraduate disciplines will be reserved for Muslim students. The Ministry is said to be the prime mover of this although, officially, it ratified the decision made by the AMU’s executive council.
Lashing out at the decision, noted historian and AMU professor Irfan Habib said that this was ‘‘blatant communalism’’ and would change the ‘‘secular character of the university.’’Also, it would play right into the hands of the BJP, he said, with Kalyan Singh already making the first noises today.
CPM leaders pointed out that they were no way going to support this form of blatant ‘‘communalism’’ and ‘‘minority appeasement.’’ Habib has been joined by several colleagues, Hindu and Muslim, associated in some way with either Aligarh town or the university proper. Among them is medieval India historian Shireen Moosvi who was the only dissenting voice of the executive council which initiated this reservation.
Under existing rules, 50 per cent of the postgraduate seats are reserved for ‘‘internal candidates’’ (read AMU graduates) who clear the test and 50 per cent for students from outside. All admissions are on merit and are irrespective of faith.
Under the new rules, however, only 25 per cent is earmarked for outside students irrespective of faith. There will be another 20 per cent for internal candidates (AMU graduates) based on merit. And 50 per cent of all seats are to be filled by Muslim candidates who fail to clear under the first two categories.
The remaining five per cent are to be filled by the Vice-Chancellor’s nomination to accommodate candidates who are children of employees or alumni or belong to SC/ST.
HRD Ministry officials justify this using the fig leaf of Section 5 (c) of the AMU (Amendment) Act, 1981, which empowered the university to ‘‘promote especially the educational and cultural advancement of the Muslims of India.’’
For the past 24 years, this clause has never been used the way it’s now. Said an AMU professor on condition of anonymity, reflecting the widespread view on campus: ‘‘
Arjun Singh may try to position himself as the Congress Maulana but, in effect, he is devaluing the Aligarh diploma and degree. Which employer will accept an MBA from a university with 75 per cent reservation? Singh may end up as the new architect of unemployed AMU graduates?’’
Sixty-five members of the AMU faculty (present and former) have brought out a joint statement this evening saying, ‘‘The AMU authorities have recently abandoned the tradition maintained since its foundation of making no discrimination on religious grounds in its admissions. The scheme (of reservation) was approved by the AMU Academic Council on April 28 and by the executive council on May 2 and is being put into effect even for admissions which are currently in process.’’
The teachers said that though Arjun Singh has fallen back on Section 5(c) of the Act, he has not taken a proper look at Sectin 8 (as last amended) ‘‘prescribing that admissions should be open to all irrespective of faith; and that the step is in violation of the established traditions of the institution and is likely to hurt the repute of the AMU and harm the employment prospects of its students.’’
No one in the HRD Ministry would comment tonight but Habib felt that the ministry could have easily turned down the university decision by bringing President A P J Abdul Kalam who is a visitor to the University into the picture.