The BJP government on Tuesday raked up a sensitive national issue when it announced in the Supreme Court that the Aligarh Muslim University could not be categorised as a ‘minority’ university.
Challenging the AMU’s status as a minority institution, the BJP claimed that the government had never officially declared the AMU as a ‘Muslim’ university. According to the 1967 Azeez Basha agreement, the Supreme Court had dismissed AMU’s minority status by maintaining that a minority tag could not be accorded to AMU since it was set up by an Act of Parliament in a secular state.
The Attorney General told the bench of justices that it was a “stand of the Union of India that AMU is not a minority university.”
“As the executive government at the Centre, we can’t be seen as setting up a minority institution in a secular state,” Mukul Rohatgi said.
Leaning towards the striking-off of the minority status of the AMU, BJP member Subramanian Swamy said, “It was by an act of parliament, and since it was an act of parliament, it cannot, under our secular constitution, cannot create a Hindu or a Muslim University. And they may have written their name because of historical reasons, but because it is state-funded, it cannot be a minority institution.”
Sudesh Verma, BJP leader, advocating the same, said, “There is no surprise actually. Because the essential of Aligarh University is that it is a Centre university… like any other Centre university, it is 100 percent funded by the Central govt. And Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Abdul Kalama Azad, they had also said that it is a Centre university. So we have only said what is correct.”
The real onus has been put on the government with leaders from various political parties condemning the BJP’s stand, some terming it as a bid to ‘saffronise’ the country.
Censuring Narendra Modi’s government with harsh rhetoric, SP leader Abu Azmi said, “See … in our nation, there is Banaras Hindu University, the word ‘Hindu’ is there. And in this nation, there is Aligarh ‘Muslim’ University. About 100 years ago, fund was collected for Aligarh Muslim University to give it a minority status. Since this govt has come, they’re bent on muzzling the minority.”
Rita Bahuguna Joshi, a Congress party member, had this to say: “Bharatiya Janata Party and Modi Sarkar is only creating controversies and strife in the country. Whether AMU is a Muslim university or not, it is a minority university. If the university is granted the minority status, I don’t think there is any harm in that. The government has become adept in creating conflicts.”
Tariq Anwar, NCP leader, said, “Aligarh Muslim University was made just for the minority community. The founder of Aligarh Muslim University, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, of whom there is full history, and people know that Sir Syed himself initiated this conversation – for those minority communities who had lagged behind in education, how to bring them forward. If this new govt, Narendra Modi’s govt, if it does not change its mentality, then I think that the secular character of this nation will be damaged.”
Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah, expressed his dismay over the controversial topic and said, “Aligarh University is an ancient university and it is often embroiled in the question of minority and majority. Whenever the time comes for election, all the sensitive issues which might provoke conflict is put into question. This is not good. This is not good for Hindustan, and not good for the party which picks up these topics.”
The authorities at Aligarh Muslim University said that they will legally challenge the decision to scrape off their minority status.