The fight for a minority status of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in India has been intensifying lately with local political leaders writing to Prime Minister on the issue and students demonstrating on the streets of National Capital, Delhi. Why should AMU get a minority status? What are the various opinion around it? Read along.
AMU - one of the oldest university in the country
Aligarh Muslim University, is one the oldest educational institutions in the country which has been established as 'Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College' (M.A.O. College) by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan the 'father of Muslim Education in India' in the year 1877 at Aligarh to promote Muslim education and make the community well versed with full knowledge of education, the M.A.O. College which has been transformed into the university in the year 1920 by the Act of Parliament.
Since than it has been providing the quality education to the Muslim from not all over the country but from all over the country and Aligarh is said to be the hub of Muslim education.
What is a minority status for a university?
“Minority Educational Institution” means an institution established and administered by the minorities under clause (1) of article 30 of the Constitution and so declared by an Act of Parliament or by the Central Government or declared as a minority educational institution under the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act, 2004.
The following facts should be proved for grant of minority status to an educational institution on religious basis:
(i) that the educational institution was established by a member/members of the religious minority community;
(ii) that the educational institution was established for the benefit of the minority community; and
(iii) that the educational institution is being administered by the minority community.
Minority Status of AMU - the history of a long battle
The demand for minority status of AMU was first raised in 1965. Following a disturbance on campus, the AMU Constitution was suspended and an ordinance, soon to become the AMU (Amendment) Act 1965, was passed that had far-reaching consequences for the minority character of AMU. The controversy erupted again in 2005 during the tenure of Vice Chancellor of AMU Dr. P. K. Abdul Aziz over the reservation of 50% seats for Muslims in Post Graduate Medical courses.
The decision was then accepted and passed by the Indian Government but was subsequently challenged in the Allahabad High Court by 34 different petitioners. The Allahabad High Court ruled in favour of the petitioners, stating that AMU had no right to reserve seats for Muslims. For the supporters of AMU's minority status this stands to be a controversial decision keeping in mind that the University was established to promote the Muslim Education.
What do people say today?
Dr. Rahat Arar, PRO of AMU says, “it is a Minority institution and officially Minority status should be given to the institution and regarding this there is case pending in the Supreme Court and I personally think that AMU should get the Minority status”.
Mr. Shakil Samdani, Reader at Law department says that “yes on technical ground I think that AMU should get the Minority status, so that we can reserve the 50% seats for the Minority students and this is my Humble request to the Congress Govt. That they must pass this Act. And it should get the Minority status 10 -12 years earlier, and if the Govt. Can pass law for Gays and lesbians than why not this Act”.
Prof. Irfan Habib, senior member of AMU, noted Historian and recipient of Padma Bhushan says, "There is no need of minority status for the AMU because it receives grant which is received from the tax of people and there should be therefore, no special treatment given to any one section and all must get equal opportunity."
Some of the students of AMU who are protesting time to time in Aligarh or in Delhi for the Minority status. Zeeshan Khan, one such student of AMU says, "yes, it should get the minority status and Sir Syed Ahmad Khan establish it for the Muslim community so that they get quality education and it must be passed by the Supreme Court."
Jamia Miliya Islamiya University - another case of minority status
Even though AMU has been fighting for its minority status, another similar university Jamia Miliya Islamiya seems to have got their application through. Jamia got its minority status passed even when the students of AMU were fighting for their rights on the city streets.
Mohd. Alam, HOD of Political Science department in Jamia Miliya Islamiya says on the issue, “ I feel Jamia Miliya being situated in Delhi helped the cause of getting its Minority status. Probably Jamia had more attention due to its locational advantage than AMU which has to make its voice heard from Uttar Pradesh.”
According to the National Commission for the Minority educational institutions data overall there are more than 8000 minority institutions. Why can't AMU, one of the oldest university in the country built to promote education among muslims, gets its rights to protect the mission remains a question unanswered to many.