Is there a spy wing in Aligarh Muslim University?
It's an open secret in the Aligarh Muslim University that an 'intelligence wing' of the varsity snoops on students and teachers. The administration flatly denies the allegation though it admits that a "watchdog keeps an eye on outsiders and anti-social elements".
The purported 'local intelligence unit' (LIU) came into news with two recent unsavoury incidents on the campus.
This unit was allegedly behind the expose on Srinivas Ramachandra, a gay teacher caught on camera in a compromising position with a rickshaw puller in his campus residence. Ramachandra was suspended, then reinstated and later found dead in his house outside the campus.
One of the three people who posed as a journalist and installed cameras in Ramachandra's house allegedly belonged to this so-called intelligence unit.
"I don't understand the logic behind maintaining such an intelligence agency in an educational institute. No institution except the government has the right to spy on others," Traiqul Islam, a reader in the department of philosophy, told IANS.
He also said the AMU is run in a disorganised manner where the higher authorities don't trust other members.
Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal told IANS: "The vice chancellor is authorised to form any committee or agency to maintain law and order in the university. If there is a misuse of that agency then he will be responsible for any mishap."
A teacher in the department of wildlife sciences said: "There indeed exists such an intelligence unit where students as well as others are employed to snoop on students and teachers.
"Different proctorial regimes have extended many doles and favours to those spying for the authorities," said the teacher, requesting anonymity.
The other case of an M.Phil student, recently suspended for allegedly sending a threat letter to Vice Chancellor P.K. Abdul Aziz, also sparked allegations of the unit's involvement.
The student, Afaq Ahmad, alleged that intelligence unit members and officials of his hostel forged his signature on the letter sent to the vice chancellor.
The AMU is spread over a 25-sq km campus and has nearly 30,000 students from across the country on its rolls. The AMU administration has all along denied the existence of such an intelligence unit and said an agency or a watchdog keeps an eye on outsiders and anti-social elements.
AMU proctor Zubair Khan said: "We have a watchdog kind of agency whose main work is to keep an eye on outsiders and anti-social elements who seek to create disturbances in the campus."
He flatly denied that students were employed for spying purposes.
But in reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query, a copy of which is in the possession of IANS, the university administration has admitted the existence of LIU, which aims to collect information and helps take preventive measures in maintaining law and order on the campus.
Mohammed Chaman, a varsity employee, had in November last year filed the RTI.
The RTI also states that "the UGC (University Grant Commission) and the human resource development (HRD) ministry have not been informed by the proctor's office about the existence of the LIU".
Adil Hossain, a first year masters student, said: "The name of a spy agency itself creates a feeling of insecurity. And the existence of a spy unit in an educational institution creates a fear psychosis in the minds of students. Students are being implicated and suspended on the basis of false reports filed by LIU."