AMU in Ashraaf Hands? Ibn Khaldun Bharati’s Pure Rambling and Grandstanding Rhetoric


A rejoinder to Ibn Khaldun Bharati’s writeup ‘AMU can be Indian National University, not remain Allah Miyan’s University in Ashraaf hands’ published in The Print on March 6.

Mustafa Zaidi

I have read Mr Bharati’s opinion piece AMU can be Indian National University, not remain Allah Miyan’s University in Ashraaf hands that seems to be full of anger and vitriol as well as bitchy over the state of affairs there.

At the outset, let me say that there is no denial of the fact that AMU has problems, in fact there are problems galore, but they cannot be laid at the door of the rules that govern the functioning of this premier university; the problems are mainly administrative and not academic but administrative problems do become problematic for academe.

The writer, strangely, seems to have lost way from the first paragraph itself as he talks of reforms in the Muslim Personal Law that cannot be initiated unless AMU is reformed. What convoluted logic has led to this conclusion has not been spelt out. However, its basic premise, with apologies beforehand, is that it is the “Ashraaf” that have ruined the university and have transformed it into Allah Miyan’s University. The second premise is that the government of the day as well as the days past, has bowed down before the Ashraaf as they are an important political constituency. The third premise is that you can get away with attacking a modern educational institution on generalities, not on any specifics, just by alluding to thousands of ills without giving any concrete example.

In the following paragraphs I would take some verifiable examples to engage with Mr Bharati’s contentions.

For instance, he quotes the AMU Amendment Act 1981 Section 5 (2)c without context and then goes on to adjectivise ‘…the purpose of this university is “to promote the educational and cultural advancement of Muslims of India.” He then, to add insult to injury, says: ‘Money is supposedly sanctioned, released and spent in the name of Indian Muslims.’ This whole narrative is false and misleading and perpetuates a negativity in the public mind about AMU.

The facts are that AMU Act 1981 Section 5 gives the powers to the university under 22 subsections, the subsection quoted is number four in this list. The complete section is: 

Section 5(2) (a) to promote Oriental and Islamic Studies and give instruction in Muslim theology and religion and to impart moral and physical training; 

*(b) to promote the study of the religions, civilisation and culture of India; 

**(c) to promote especially the educational and cultural advancement of the Muslims of India; 

Other central universities as well as many other universities have the same provisions with nearly the same powers; there are some variants that refer to the special characters of the universities, to say that AMU gets money only under this section is totally misleading. To the best of my knowledge, AMU gets a pittance under Section 5(2)c when compared with the overall budget of the university.

Delhi Univ Act 1981 Section 4 has 19 subsections delineating the powers of the university. 

BHU Act has Section 4 with 19 subsections. There the (‘Section 4A(2) is ‘to promote the study of religion, literature, history, science and art of Vedic, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Islamic, Sikh, Christian, Zoroastrian, and other civilisations and cultures’).

Jamia Millia Act Section 6(ii) is to promote the study of the religions, philosophy and culture of India. Due to space constraints, I am not giving more examples, however those interested may look them up.

The first paragraph that has set the tone of the whole writeup is pure rambling, grandstanding rhetoric and has no substance as it states that AMU is insular because the Ashraaf dominate and they resist change, they are lotus eaters. No example of this behaviour or facts have been cited for this comment. There are dog whistles galore: The Muslim communalism has been institutionalised as Indian secularism.” This is an outlandish statement. It ignores the backwardness of Muslims that have been documented in the New Education Policy of 1986 and Sachar Committee report, that additionally has not been disputed by the NDA government as yet. Mr Bharati further states: “It (Indian secularism) has two main totems: Muslim Personal Law, and Aligarh Muslim University. A mere thought of reform in either could upset the secularist applecart and rob them of their vote bank.” Here again, irresponsibly, the word reform has been used but not spelt out. What does the writer want, replacing an Ashraaf VC with a Pasmanda VC? This has already been done in the past. Or does he want to ensure that no Ashraaf gets to be on the VC panel, who would then magically understand what the writer wants and do it? The writer displays the innocence of a child in trusting that what is required is a person from a particular social stratum to set everything right in AMU and with the vote banks. 

The writer is also quite economical with the truth. He forgot to mention the VC from South India who did not fit into the narrative of Muslim aristocrats of Hyderabad. Here too, the fact is that AMU had four VCs from Hyderabad plus one from Kerala. The pun of “arsenal of Muslim India” with the wish to overhaul the power structure. runs in the teeth of facts as all Indian universities have the same power structure as AMU, as the rules are similar.

Although I personally do not accept the ranking system as a reliable tool of excellence, but AMU has consistently been among the top-ranking universities in India. It means that all educational institutions are the same and therefore the complaint that AMU is lagging behind others turns out to be unfounded.

The paragraph ‘How to modernise AMU’ states that the VCs come from a small pool because of the composition of the Executive Council and the University Court. His contention that the government selects and appoints VCs of all universities except AMU has a grain of falsehood hidden in it. While it is true that the AMU procedure is different from other universities and does have some practical problems, but it is similar to all other universities as there too, the government doesn’t directly appoint or select a vice chancellor.

In other Central universities there is a two-member search committee appointed by the concerned Executive Council with a member nominated by the President of India. This committee proposes a panel of names from which the government appoints the vice chancellor.

In AMU, the Executive Council and the University Court have the same function of making a list or a panel and sending it to the President who then appoints the VC. In case no name is acceptable then a fresh panel is proposed. It may be noted that in both the Executive Council and the University Court there are nominees of the Visitor i.e., the President as well as the governor of Uttar Pradesh.

So what follows from this is that in AMU as well as other universities there are government nominees who represent the political executive. Whenever the government wants to directly interfere in the process it does so.

For example, some years back the age of retirement of VCs was increased from 65 years to 70, the government insisted that before the formation of panel of VC the age change should become part of the statutes of AMU; in another case the university was headed by the seniormost Dean as VC under Statute 2 (7) first proviso, after the VC’s term had expired. Under Statute 2(4), the procedure for formation of a panel for the next VC was taking time and the campus was on the verge of restlessness. The government told the VC to appoint a PVC and since under Statute 2 (7) the PVC has precedence over the Dean, therefore charge of VC should be handed over to the new PVC soon after his joining. This instruction was followed but the next senior Dean felt cheated by these maneuvers and challenged it in the Supreme Court that struck down this appointment as bad in law, because anyone working as VC under any of the provisos of Statute 2 cannot so appoint. These two examples explicate that the government can enforce its will whenever interested.

The second para states that the ‘…AMU VC has absolute freedom under AMU’s sun…’ This statement is sought to be further strengthened by saying that the AMU VC has extraordinary powers and that he should be divested of them so that he’s at par with vice chancellors of all other universities in India. The facts are that VCs of all Central universities’ have this power. In fact, VCs of some new Central universities have been given a portion of the power which in AMU is to be exercised by the President of India as Visitor. 

AMU Act Section 19 (3)c allows the VC to take urgent action on behalf of the Executive Council, Academic Council, and University Court by assuming their powers; similar provisions exist in Section 7C (5) of BHU, Section 11(3) of Jamia, Section 14(3) of Allahabad University, NEHU, Nagaland as well as all Central universities which are under a common university act of 2009 etc. Some universities’ VCs also have the power not given to AMU like to annul any decision of the Executive Council, Academic Council and the University Court if in their opinion they are bad. Section 14(4) of Allahabad University Act is an example in this regard.

The AMU EC has 28 members. Of these 11 are from outside the university; these include three nominees of the President of India, six representatives of the University Court who cannot be university employees, one nominee of the governor and one honorary treasurer who also has to be an outsider. Those who the VC can control are three: the PVC, Proctor and Provost, all other members are appointed under rules which theoretically do not allow the VC to step in. The four teachers’ representatives are elected from amongst themselves. This composition of EC is similar to the composition in other universities. Delhi University has a 23-member EC. Of these 8 are outsiders, including two nominees of the President of India, four representatives of the University Court who cannot be university employees, one nominee of the Chancellor and one Hony. Treasurer who also has to be an outsider, two representatives of teachers to be elected amongst themselves; the ones whom the DU VC can control are five, the PVC, Dean of Colleges, Director South Campus, Director Campus of Open Learning and Proctor. What I’m trying to put across is that the problems in AMU governance are not because the rules are bad. It is because the people who have been entrusted with this responsibility are not taking their tasks seriously and there have been many acts both of commission and omission. It is the same malady that afflicts all educational institutions in a large or small measure.

The above I hope explains why Mr Bharti’s comments on AMU are totally irrelevant to the situation. What AMU needs is a VC who understands the complexities of the post and the expectations that people have from the head of this special institution. An Ashraf or a Pasmanda are not germane to better expectations and neither does it have anything to do with the Muslim Personal Law. The problems here are because the rules are not being followed and because accountability is not properly enforced.


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