As AMU burns why are we indifferent ?

By Kaleem Kawaja

Once again the viscous cycle of gory violence and disturbances has hit the 130 year old very prestigious Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Aligarh. In a span of the last three weeks the hooligans at the AMU campus have waylaid and killed two promising students. The Vice Chancellor and Proctor of the University have been forced to resign and much lawlessness is rampaging across the sprawling and architecturally distinct campus of AMU. Indeed AMU is one of the most renowned of India’s universities that boasts of a thriving Medical College, a engineering college, a law college, faculties of various pure and applied sciences, journalism and humanities and a world class library. Graduates from this renowned university have spread throughout the world in the past decades and have contributed much to the advancement of human civilization in almost all walks of life.

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Yet at the same time cyclical violence and mayhem, every couple of years or every year, hits this renowned university – a prestigious symbol of Muslim civilization – and paralyzes its operation. Most students and teachers at AMU are serious about pursuing academic achievements. Yet a small coterie of rogue students supported by a few rogue teachers and a few rogue staff members have formed an unholy nexus to periodically threaten the mainstream AMU faculty, administration and students. Rogue elements masquerading as students continue to reside in the University’s hostels, year after year, without bothering to attend classes. A few of them carry arms and stash them in their rooms in the hostels. And they periodically threaten those who may disagree with them.

Their objective is to muscle the university into allowing them and their cronies special privileges in violation of University’s rules. Privileges like letting the cotery illegally occupy the University’s land where they have built commercial businesses; letting the cotery’s nominees get admission in professional colleges; letting the cotery’s nominees be appointed as teachers and staff members.

In-breeding at AMU faculty and staff members has reached an unprecedented high, throttling the inflow of talented teachers and staff from outside, and converting the once international university to one where most students and teachers are now from the two contiguous states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Worst is the fact of heavy politicization in the management of the University and Students Union often dictated by regional political parties.

Frequently this coterie forces the University Administration to postpone the annual final examination, or letting the rogue students who have hardly attended any classes in the academic year, to be allowed to take the final examination in direct violation of University’s rules.

This year as in the past violence exploded at the AMU campus in April as final examinations approached, as indicated above. AMU being the most prestigious university of India’s Muslim community, one expects that the entire Indian Muslim community will rise up in rage and make the government conduct a thorough enquiry into the above mayhem and cleanse AMU permanently of all rogue elements, whether students or teachers or staff members by making basic structural changes.

But it is surprising to see that most Indian Muslim organizations, community leaders, responsible citizens and the many worldwide AMU Old Boy Associations are continuing to look the other way and remain indifferent. Only a couple of years ago the entire Indian Muslim community launched a serious campaign to ensure the minority character of AMU. In the last few months the entire community has emphasized to the Indian government that the Sachar Committee’s recomendations for the educational and econmic uplift of the Indian Muslims should be implemented ipso facto.

Yet when such serious mayhem and disturbance occurs at the most prestiguous, more than a century old university of the same Muslim community, our leaders and organizations choose to remain silent and look the other way. Can the Indian Muslim community and the AMU community afford to remain silent in these circumstances and let harm come to AMU ? Can we at the same time demand affirmative action from the government for the uplift of the educationally backward Indian Muslims? Today more than at any other time the Muslims of India need AMU to remove the educational backwardness of our Millat.

Let us hope that the community’s leadership will shake off in earnest its lethargy, and focus with the help of the government, to remove for ever from the AMU campus and setup, the coterie of the few rogue students, teachers and staff members and their sponsor politicians, who are causing so much harm to AMU. Let us cleanse AMU of all politics and politicians. Let us restore AMU as an institution for serious academic pursuit and excellence, as it has been in the past.
The writer is a community activist in Washington DC. He can be reached on [email protected]