Major challenges for Jamia Millia
Less than 24 hours after winning his university minority status, Jamia Millia Islamia history professor Rizwan Qaiser was back in class on Wednesday, calmly teaching his BA and MA students.delhi Updated: Feb 25, 2011 00:09 IST
Less than 24 hours after winning his university minority status, Jamia Millia Islamia history professor Rizwan Qaiser was back in class on Wednesday, calmly teaching his BA and MA students.
The only concession Qaiser allowed himself was to cut the duration of each of his three lectures by five minutes to field questions from media on Jamia’s minority status.
“We’ve to take this new status as a routine matter and carry on with our regular work,” said Qaiser, secretary of the Jamia Teachers Association, which was one of three petitioners who sought — and obtained — minority status for Jamia from the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, the country’s apex minority education watchdog.
Implicit in Qaiser’s words is the bigger challenge after Tuesday’s victory that Jamia is now bracing itself for - to disprove those prophesying that the university will now decline in standards and suffer the malaise plaguing Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
What was set up in 1875 as Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College by educationist Sir Syed Ahmed Khan became a central university called AMU in 1920, but remained a minority institution in its approach. Critical to this was the Constitution’s Article 30, which gives the minorities the right to establish and administer their educational institutions. A change was forced in 1967 after the Supreme Court held — in a historic judgment — that a government-funded university could not claim to be both established and administered by a particular community.
In 1981, the Centre circumvented the 1967 judgment through legislation — the varsity now belonged to the community after the amendment of the AMU Act. AMU in 2005 approached the human resource development (HRD) ministry with a proposal to reserve 50% seats for Muslims. The ministry gave a no-objection certificate.
But a single-judge bench of the Allahabad high court struck down the plan and a division bench upheld the order, against which the HRD ministry and AMU appealed in the Supreme Court, where the case is being heard. The Supreme Court has stayed the HC order but has also told AMU not to implement its new admission policy.
Many academics have held responsible the back-and-forth struggle over its minority character for the university becoming a hotbed of controversies and law and order problems. AMU is still home to some of the country’s better academic departments. But pitched battles on campus, vice-chancellors being forced to flee the university environs, a strong police presence and a perceived decline in academic standards are crosses AMU today wears.
In contrast, Jamia, set up in 1920 as a concomitant of the freedom struggle, has remained relatively an oasis of peace even during some of modern India’s most turbulent periods, including the one after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Former vice-chancellor Mushirul Hasan publicly opposed minority status for Jamia, but completed his term without ever being jeered for his stand.
Jamia’s battle for minority status was aimed more at avoiding 27% reservations for other backward classes (OBCs) than at asserting a stronger Muslim identity.
But will this change Jamia? The challenge for the university starts now.