By Dr Malik Rashid Faisal,
Aligarh Muslim University Vice Chancellor Prof. P K Abdul Azis talks to Dr Malik Rashid Faisal on the turbulent situation in the campus when he assumed office in 2007 and how he restored peace by pushing out criminals, and on how he utilized funds to create and strengthen academic environment and to launch new programs.
You have completed over one year as VC in AMU. What problems and hindrances you faced here and to what extent overcame?
I came to this university on the context of the very turbulent situation I was not fully aware of. Only after I came here I knew the gravity and depth and dimensions of the complexity of the situation. The whole campus was under criminalized environment largely created and nurtured by student union leaders. They collaborated from outside and even murder of two students did not touch the consciousness of Aligarh. They simply took it as normal thing and like that. No body took introspection to correct the situation. The vice chancellor had to run away from the campus overnight because of the threat posed by students and respective teachers. Nobody told me about the gravity of the situation so I had to discover it myself. Then started further turmoil by some sections of the students going beyond dharna padarshan. Then suddenly another murder happened in the campus .That shocked me.
Violent incidents were really shocking. Everything was shocking to me because from day one I regularly interacted with the students. I went to premises of the hostels, went to their rooms to understand the problems along with the union leaders and their fans hoping that they will be essential partners in running the university. When the news of the murder came to me I ran to the hospital. Police said that students are having some other notice. So they whisked me out of the hospital and told me your life is under threat. By midnight they started setting the VC house on fire, they plundered the whole house and destroyed the entire building, and all rooms except my bedroom were ransacked. So that was the most painful and frightening experience. They burned the university buildings built by Sir Syed, I don’t know how the students did that all. So we had to put the university under sine die. That was a very painful decision but entire campus was in difficult situation. That was the decision that the university took. At the end of the day we cleaned all the nonsense, removed 200 illegal occupants from the hostels. Criminals were living in the hostels without anything. One had no courage to go and ask anything. The whole campus was brought under fear psychosis created by these so called union leaders.
What do you think are the reasons that students are not that much competitive here as in Kerala or in other parts?
It was the lack of academic environment. First time the then vice chancellor Ali Ahmad was attacked by student union, he was injured. Then the AMU began to slate down in terms of difficult academic environment. Our community leaders also did not try to correct the situation. The union leaders systematically eroded the values. They felt that they are running the University. Every VC in his term faced violence. In this way when the discipline had gone, everything else collapsed. Union leaders having zero attendance were given 100 % attendance. In prestigious places we do not find such bad things. Excellence from both the teachers and students is required to create a good academic environment and it should be nurtured on a sustained basis.
What steps have you taken for academic rejuvenation so far?
I have placed an agenda for academic rejuvenation. The main proposal is that teachers should focus to nurture the students. We should try to develop research projects. We should also try to bring more funds from external agencies and finally teachers should come forward to do the research projects. If you have your research published you will be known throughout the world. At least one paper should be published per teacher annually. We have 2000 research scholars. The research guides should ensure that the scholars complete their projects in 3 years. Presently they are taking more than 5 years. So they should focus on their research and utilize their talent for the community.
Are you getting the full cooperation of students and teachers in all your endeavors?
The University has entered into a new era where the rule of law should prevail. Though I am facing a lot of resistance here but I am trying to introduce new ethos and people are falling in line.
It is said that the funds from the government have not been utilized properly in AMU so what is the need to create more funds?
Whatever fund we have received has been fully utilized. It is a misunderstanding that we are not utilizing the available funds. We have not received Rs 7 crore for the Engineering department as claimed by Minister of state for Human Resources while addressing the alumni meet. We are in dire need of money. If we want to do something, money has to come down. That’s why I am looking for more funds to create a good academic environment. Teachers and students have to nurture it. In Kerala grass root level of primary education is decisive and competition is buzzword there. In this University the library is not being fully utilized. Then how come the competitiveness will emerge.
What are the major recommendations of the reforms committee you set up and when they will be implemented?
The recommendations of the reforms committee set up under the chairmanship of former Pro Vice Chancellor M Saleemuddin have been put on the University website. We have sent it to all teachers, the members of the board, the academic council, chairmen of the departments to get their feedback. Once we get the feedback we will send it to the academic council for approval.
Muslims have a lot of apprehensions about the minority character of the University in danger. What is your stand in this regard?
The minority character is well inside the Act but Allahabad High Court had an objection in the minority character. The issue is now with the Supreme Court. As of now we have to follow the court order regarding admissions. We have formed a committee of the executive council to handle the case in a best possible and professional manner.
A large number of students come to AMU from Madrasas. They are mostly admitted in non professional courses. Are you doing something for them?
We are trying to bring Madrasas into the University system. We are affiliating them with the University. The only problem is with their syllabi. We have set up a committee in this regard and efforts are going on. This is also the policy of the government as it is trying to bring the Madrasas to the mainstream.
Presently students union is dysfunctional in AMU. Lingdoh Committee has clearly given the guidelines for students unions. What is your stand? Why the students union can not function here like in any other university?
The students union in the last several years has made the campus the hub of criminals. Parents send their students to learn and not to involve in a criminal activity. I saw the University vandalized. They involve in all the crimainal activities. They take money from contractors. So the University now needs a healing touch. AMU cannot be left at the hands of the criminals. It is a matter of time and everyone has supported my action. Lingdoh committee has also given the discretion whether to have the union or not. The situation was very bad. Deans came to me crying and complaining against the union leaders. So we need the rule of law. There is no communication gap between me and students. I visit halls and mix with the students. Student’s grievance cell is there. The only communication gap is for criminal students. Once the atmosphere is favorable I will restore the Union.
(Dr Malik Rashid Faisal is Senior Editor, The Sunday Indian, News Weekly (Urdu)