AMU vs Nalanda University: Nitish shows different approach

By Mohammad Mudassir Alam,

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar attended the meeting of Nalanda Mentor Group (NMG) held at Hyderabad House in New Delhi as a special invitee on Monday (August 2, 2010). Nalanda Mentor Group is working for the proposed University of Nalanda. External affairs minister S M Krishna was also present in the meeting called by the members of the Nalanda Mentor Group. Nitish Kumar is showing keen interest for setting up the Nalanda University and has given 448 acres of land free of cost, and urged Krishna that the Nalanda University Bill 2010 should be approved for consideration in the Parliament and not sent to the standing committee. In reply S M Krishna said that he will try his best to pass the Nalanda University Bill 2010 in this month.

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During the meeting, Nitish Kumar informed the NMG that the state of Bihar has repealed its legislation in the last assembly session to give freedom to the Centre to move the Bill. The historic Nalanda University that is mostly in ruins now has been an ancient seat of Buddhist learning for people residing in various parts of the world. After many centuries, the Nitish led Bihar Government in suggestions of various groups including Nalanda Mentor Group (NMG) had shown interest in setting up the Nalanda University in the vicinity of the ancient University. Perceived as a symbol of global cooperation in education field, the new University in Nalanda district would be established at an estimated cost of Rs. 1005 crores. It would have centres on Buddhist studies, philosophy and comparative literature, historical studies and ecology and environmental studies.

Huts of Tribes on the Bihar govt land meant for proposed AMU special center in Kishanganj

Bihar is lagging behind in comparison to other states of the country in various fields including education. After Nitish Kumar took over the Chief Minister’s chair he took various landmark decisions to bring back the state on the path of development. Particularly in the field of education Nitish has launched a number of projects including famous ‘Mukhyamantri Cycle Yojana’ especially for girls. Say it fortune of Bihar or Nitish led NDA government that in past two years the central government has come out with two magnum opus educational projects, namely the setting up of study centre of Aligarh Muslim University and Nalanda University.

Nitish Kumar who demanded for the ‘Special Status’ for the state of Bihar got two valuable gifts, now it was the time for Bihar government to take prompt action on both the projects. But sadly the approach of the Bihar government to make the proposals a reality differed for the two universities. The proposal of Aligarh Muslim University was made a communal issue by the saffron brigade, and Bharatiya Janata Party’s student’s wing ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarathi Parishad) did all the misdeeds to block the way for the world class institute in India’s most backward district Kishanganj. Even RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) opposed the proposed centre in Bihar. ABVP stages protests, bandhs, and other types of ways to disturb the noble cause of proposed study centre in Kishanganj.

What was the logic behind such opposition, nothing only the Muslim tag in the middle of Aligarh Muslim University. Fact is that, the present Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh is offering education to all religious sects of the country including Muslims and Non Muslims. Quite surprisingly, the premier professional courses like M.B.B.S and B.Tech has almost 50-50 percentage of Muslims and Non Muslims. Then what the term Muslim signifies in the name of Aligarh Muslim University just the name of the university, not the percentage of enrolled students. Those who have objections over Aligarh Muslim University status quo can visit Aligarh and understand the real meaning and mission of the university.

Based on the recommendations of Sachar Committee and Fatami Committee the Central government guided the Aligarh Muslim University Vice-Chancellor to open study centres in the Muslim dominated areas of the country. The motive of Centre was to provide world-class education to Muslims whose status in a large scale is more or less like people falling on BPL (Below Poverty Line). Five states, namely Bihar, West Bengal, Kerala, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh were chosen by the AMU administration and court members as the proposed sites for the off-campus centres.

While Kerala and West Bengal governments provided the 400 and 355 acres of land without any fuss, the Bihar government made it a controversial topic with its decisions. Nitish Kumar announced that his government will provide the required land in Kishanganj instead of Katihar as earlier decided by the AMU administration in February 2009. Further in September 2009, Nitish announced that he will provide 100 acres land free of cost to AMU. On disapproval of AMU administration finally Nitish Kumar agreed upon giving 250 acres land but he put the 30-years-lease bound before AMU administration in February 2010.

In May 2010, AMU Vice Chancellor Prof. P.K. Abdul Azis visited the proposed land with his team and disapproved the Bihar government’s proposal because of 3 pieces of land. Next, the illegal encroachment of tribals on the proposed site was another big problem before the AMU off-campus centre. After coming back from Kishanganj, AMU VC written a letter to Bihar CM Nitish Kumar requesting the latter to provide the required 250 acres land in one contiguous piece. However, the AMU administration has not got any reply or new proposal from the Bihar Government. When asked about the delay in project, AMU VC said that the university is always ready to set up the study centre in Kishanganj. The work can be started only when the Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar provides the required land, said Prof. Azis. We can’t run the huge university campus smoothly in three pieces as the land in between has some population, mentioned the AMU Vice Chancellor.

Let us see the distinct approach of Nitish Kumar in two proposals, and his modus operandi. Bihar Chief Minister never misses the chance to hit the headlines by talking about the proposed AMU centre in Kishanganj. Even during his last rally in Kishanganj on July 4, 2010, Nitish Kumar made public statements regarding the AMU campus. He said that the Bihar Government has given the land to AMU and now it’s the duty of the centre to start the work. But in truth, the land offered to AMU administration has legal constraints and one section of the land is illegally encroached upon by the tribals who are always ready to attack with bow and sharp weapons. Logically, how can AMU administration accept the proposed land where there is safety issue that will persist for ever and it would not be easy to run the centre?

According to reliable sources the new District Magistrate of Kishanganj, who replaced Feraque Ahmed last month, has not opened the AMU file even after one month of joining. If the Bihar Government is much concerned about the university, then why it is not trying to sort out the issue on immediate basis? Neither the Chief Minister nor the education minister of Bihar Hari Narayan Singh (who declared on May 30, 2010 that his government would provide land immediately) came forward to find out a solution of the AMU study centre land issue. In fact, the proposal of AMU centre is on hold due to negligence of Bihar Government and it needs to sort out before the implementation of Model Code of Conduct in the state on August 22, 2010.

On the other hand, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has always shown interest on setting up the Nalanda University in the state. The 448 land almost double in comparison to the required land for AMU was given free of cost for the University of Nalanda. Now the million dollar question before all of us is, why there is difference of approach in two projects? Both the proposals would bring educational revolution in the backward state of Bihar and surely change the poor economic condition of the people at a massive level. Based on the responses of Bihar Government especially Nitish Kumar, it can be said that the proposed AMU off-campus centre in Kishanganj is suffering due to political gimmicks.

Bottom line is that, the education, development and interest of common people should be kept at a bay from the political interests and benefits. Both Aligarh Muslim University study campus and Nalanada University is fruitful for the state of Bihar in the long run. Thousands of Biharis who migrate to other parts of the country and abroad for education and livelihood, need not to go outside if these universities come into existence. Before signing off I would request Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to give proper attention to the proposed Aligarh Muslim University centre in Kishanganj like the Nalanda University, for which he travelled 1000 km and attended the meeting in New Delhi. Similarly, Nitish Kumar can break his journey to visit Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh and meet the university authority for finding out a solution of the matter. Otherwise, the valuable gift in the form of Aligarh Muslim University campus in Kishanganj might be grabbed by some other states, where the problems are less in comparison to Bihar and many states have started to reach the AMU administration for such centre.

(The author is a Delhi based freelance journalist, he can be contacted at [email protected])