By Danish Reyaz for Maeeshat
Not so long ago mainstream med used to pick on Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) for all the wrong news but the perception has fast changed in recent years, especially after the Times Higher Education World University Ranking started projecting AMU among the best universities in India. Currently AMU is being ranked as the second best university in India beating all other major universities in the country. What brought about this change?
When one looks at the major developments in the University one cannot ignore the contributions made by former AMU Vice Chancellor Prof. PK Abdul Azis (PK). He made great contributions in improving academic standards and the infrastructure, opened many new departments and centers. Increased scholarships led to manifold increase in production of PhDs. He travelled far and wide and galvanized the alumni spread across 100 countries. Today AMU is ranked among the highest producers of PhDs.
The most important contribution Prof. PK Abdul Azis made to AMU is the Centers he managed to open in Kerala, Bihar and West Bengal. He managed to procure more than 850 acres of land free of cost for AMU from the respective state governments. The AMU lobbyists which mostly consist of non-performing teachers, local contractors and musclemen, got frightened by these large scale changes and began to spread conspiracy theories that these Centers were illegal and would dilute AMU’s minority character.
The fact is AMU till date is not a legally recognized minority institution. AMU entrance examinations began to be conducted at many other centers and cities which greatly improved the quality of intake in AMU but that further frightened the lobbyists surviving on nepotism and jugad. The Vice Chancellor was entangled in various legal issues. Rumors, dharnas, court cases and enquiries followed – which calmed down the moment he left the campus after completing his tenure.
All the noises and issues of illegality of AMU Centers fell silent when Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Zameer Uddin Shah took over as the new Vice Chancellor. The new VC is not known to have a strong academic background but he is a strong disciplinarian and has ruffled many feathers by not listening to “advices” tendered during the record number of selection committees conducted under his watch. Many who supported his candidature soon got disillusioned when they saw their recommendations and requests not being entertained. They could not do much except wait for the right opportunity.
Right opportunities are manufactured through disturbances in student life on the campus. Students being emotional and gullible can be easily exploited with slogans like, “Islam is in danger”, “community is in danger”, “VC is agent of ’X‘ party in power” etc. etc. Students are the first tool and also the first victims. The pot is then kept boiling with more and more unrest and chaos till the Vice Chancellor either succumbs, resigns or the university gets closed down. Only a handful of vice chancellors have been smart or lucky enough to exit gracefully from the campus, PK surprisingly being one of them!
The current Vice Chancellor has completed three years of his tenure peacefully but indications from the campus suggest that difficult times are around the corner for him. The teachers’ lobby has initiated jihad against him as he dared to suspend their office-bearer who was absent from his duty without notice and found instigating students against the administration. Several other opportunists/lobbyists who have been bruised in the past by the current administration, have also latched onto this issue to join the chorus.
Many opportunists who are with the current regime will soon discover a reason to leave their current camp, adding further strength to the noisy opposition. Popular media, like always, will find more business of eyeballs by purveying conspiracy theories than by acting with restraint. The university may again be maligned, students’ progress halted, academic work affected adversely and slogans like “millat in danger” raised around the campus – and that won’t be really wrong! Isn’t it?