Clarify stand on quota or lose funding, scheduled castes panel chief tells AMU
Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) leader and chairperson of the national commission for scheduled castes, Ram Shankar Katheria, on Tuesday met the administrators of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) to renew the demand for implementing caste-based quotas in the institution, adding to the growing chorus of such calls.
AMU does not reserve seats for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes as all educational institutions supported by the University Grants Commission are expected to.
Katheria, who represents Agra in Parliament, said he would write to the ministry of human resource development to review the grants being given to the university that has “refused to implement quotas” and also raise the issue with the national commission for minorities.
“The university officials have failed to prove that AMU is a minority institution. A letter in this regard (giving status of minority institution) was provided to AMU by the ministry of human resource development in 1981. The matter is before the Supreme Court since 2005. The question arises as to why AMU did not implement reservation before it received the letter from the ministry in 1981,” Katheria told reporters in Aligarh.
He added that he had given AMU a month to address the issue, failing which he would petition the ministry.
The BJP, which has been accused of fostering anti-Dalit and anti-minority sentiments by its political opponents, has, in turn, flayed central universities such as AMU and the Jamia Milia Islamia for not adhering to the reservation policy. The party has made concerted efforts to reach out to the Dalits and the OBCs, even as the Opposition has charged it with wooing the communities with an eye on winning elections.
Union minister for minority affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, recently said that AMU and other minority institutions must rethink reservation as SCs are weaker sections, and the door should not be shut on them. Earlier, the minister for social justice and empowerment, Thawar Chand Gehlot, pointed out that the government is keen to ensure that universities funded by the central government must have provisions of reservation for SC, ST and OBCs as per the Central government rules.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath too has demanded the same and his push for implementing the reservation policy in these government-funded universities was dubbed by political opponents as a move to polarise voters and also impinge on the autonomy of these universities.
Katheria, however, denied this charge and said the BJP is not asking for reservation in minority institutions, but only in those that do not have the legal sanction of a minority institution.
The Allahabad high court held in 2006 that AMU is not a minority institution.
A clutch of petitions appealing this judgement were filed in the Supreme Court, including one by the UPA government and AMU, challenging the finding of the high court.
The BJP-led government in 2016 took a stand different from that of the UPA government, and told SC that it would withdraw its appeal challenging the Allahabad high court verdict.
It filed a new application that said AMU is not a minority institution, referring to an apex court verdict of 1967 saying that AMU was not a minority institution as it was set up the government and not by Muslims. Meanwhile, even though the Supreme Court has not stayed the high court verdict, it has allowed AMU to continue to function as minority institution.
Hearing in the case has not begun as there are arguments that the case should be heard by a five-judge bench.
AMU spokesperson Shafey Kidwai said the university was being governed by the AMU Act, 1981, which granted minority status to it and the minority institutions were exempted from implementing constitutional reservations under Article 15 (5) of the Constitution.
“The case of AMU’s minority status is pending before the Supreme Court. This was conveyed to the NCSC chief by pro vice chancellor Prof Tabassum Shahab,” he said.
“AMU has never followed the policy of reserving seats for Muslims. It rather reserves 50% seats for internal students regardless of their religion or caste,” he added.
Commenting on the BJP’s demand, CR Babu, a Dalit academic at the Centre for Policy Research, said : “Majority [communities] should show magnanimity towards the minorities. In this case, it seems to be missing. Though the AMU does not implement the quota policy, it is doing its bit by serving the social cause as a bulk of its students are from the middle class and lower castes.”
HRD secretary, R Subrahmanyam, said: “The matter is sub-judice and the stand of the central government is that AMU is a central university set up under an act of Parliament and therefore cannot be considered a minority institution. However, as the matter is sub-judice, any instruction on the issue of reservation can be given after the final verdict of the Supreme Court.”