TARIQ HASAN | 17 JANUARY, 2016
AMU Minority Status: BJP Opens Pandora's Box
Aligarh Muslim University
ALIGARH: On January 11 , when the Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi told the Supreme Court of India that the NDA Government was opposed to the very concept of granting a minority status to a Centrally funded University, he must certainly have been aware that he would be opening a Pandora's box of protest. More so, as this statement was made during the hearing of a case pertaining to the minority status of the Aligarh Muslim University.
Within hours of his pronouncement, minority community groups all over India including the AMU Alumni Associations started crying foul over this contentious move by the BJP led government. Rohatgi’s assertion also hits at the minority status given to Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia, ironically by the government under then Prime Minister and BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
When contacted, AMU Vice Chancellor Lt. General Retd. Zamiruddin Shah told this writer “This is a very serious issue concerning the future of this historic institution and we are deeply concerned over the possible ramifications of this step”. Shah further said “at the same time I wish to reiterate that it would be highly imprudent to over react on this issue.”
The Vice Chancellor said that “we should have full confidence on the judicial system of our country”. He pointed out that the University was fully geared to take up its cause with the help of the best legal experts of the country.
The VC's words of caution should not go unheeded by the members of the Muslim community.At the same time it should be remembered that in the 1970's, there were nation-wide protests on this very issue, leading to loss of life and property in several parts of the country.
The agitation quietened down only after the then Indira Gandhi led Congress Government managed to soothe frayed tempers by bringing in the AMU Amendment Act 1981. The Act, accorded AMU its special minority character, with special provisions safeguarding this status.
It remains a moot question whether the Vice Chancellor's impassioned appeal is going to cut ice at the grass root level. Hindutva Organizations associated with the ruling party at the Centre have adopted a belligerent stance on this issue and are openly claiming that the time has come to strip AMU of its minority tag.
On the other hand , the Samajwadi Party MLA from Aligarh Haji Zamirullah has said that his party would not hesitate to take up cudgels to protect the minority status of AMU.
It is quite clear, that in the run up to the 2017 assembly elections of UP, the politics of divisiveness has found yet another platform.Both the BJP and the Samajwadi Party are likely to exploit the divide stemming from this issue to the hilt and will make the status of AMU an election issue to polarise voters in the communally fragile state that goes to the polls next year.
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