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AMU: Beyond Political Mileage (Syed Masoodul Hasan)

It was 1920, when Mohammadan-Anglo Oriental College popularly known as M.A.O College, became the Aligarh Muslim University. Sultan Shah Jahan, Begum of Bhopal became the first Chancellor in and Mohammad Ali Mohammad khan became the first Vice-Chancellor. It was established by a great reformist & philanthropist ‘Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’ as ‘Madarsatul Uloom Musalmanan-e-Hind, in 1875, which later came to be known as Mohammadan-Anglo Oriental College, a cotyledon of the Aligarh Muslim University. It was designed to get ‘Muslims’ into government services in India and prepare them for advance training in British Universities like that of ‘Cambridge’ and ‘Oxford’.

The idea of the University was conceived by ‘Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’, who felt it was important for Muslims to gain education and get involved in the public life and government services. The British decision to replace ‘Persian’ in 1842 as the language of courts of law with English caused a deep anxiety among Muslims. Sir Syed saw a need to acquire proficiency in the English language and western sciences if the Muslims want to maintain its social and political status, particularly in northern India. He laid the foundation of a ‘Muslim University’ by starting schools in Ghazipur, Azamgarh and Moradabad, where he was posted as ‘Munsif’(Judge) at district courts. In 1864, the Scientific society was setup to translate western works into Indian languages especially in ‘Urdu’ and ‘Persian’, as a prelude to prepare the Muslim community to accept western education. In 1875, ‘Sir Syed’ founded the ‘Mohammadan-Anglo Oriental College’ in Aligarh. The architecture and education pattern of M.A.O College was based on the pattern of Oxford and Cambridge.

Sir Syed’ visited England in 1869 and the fascinating structures of ‘Cambridge’ and ‘Oxford’ universities impelled him to build a ‘Muslim Cambridge’ or ‘Cambridge of the East’ especially for Muslims in India. On December 26th 1870, ‘Sir Syed’ described his vision of the institution he proposed to establish, in an article written in 1872 & re-printed in the Aligarh institute gazette of April 5th 1911:

“I may appear to be dreaming like ‘sheikh chilli’ but we aim to turn this M.A.O college into a university similar to that of ‘Oxford’ & ‘Cambridge’; like the churches of ‘oxford’& ‘Cambridge’ there will be ‘Mosques’ attached to each college. The college will have a dispensary with a Doctor & a Compounder besides a “Unani Hakeem”. It’ll be mandatory on boys in residence to join the congregational prayers (Namaz) at all the five times. Students will have a uniform consisting of a black alpaca, half sleeved chugha (which later became ‘Sherwani’) & a red ‘fez’ cap; bad & abusive words which boys generally pick up & get used to, will be strictly prohibited. Even such a word as a ‘lair’ will be treated as an abuse to be prohibited. It will be strictly enforced that ‘Shia’ & ‘Sunni’ boys shall not discuss their religious differences in the college or in the boarding house; at present it is like a day dream. I pray to god that this dream may come true”.

It was the first purely residential university setup by the ‘Muslims’ with the help of ‘Community’& later by the British government of India. Over the years it gave rise to a new educated class of Indian Muslims, who were active in the political system of the British Raj. When Viceroy to India ‘Lord Curzon’ visited the college in 1901, he praised the work which described it as “Sovereign Importance”.

On May 30 1939, Bombay, “Mohammad Ali Jinnah” mentioned the Muslim University, Aligarh in his ‘Will’ which that states: “All my residuary estate including the corpus that may fall after the lapse of life interests or otherwise to be divided into three parts & bequeath one part to ‘Aligarh Muslim University’, Aligarh; one part to ‘Islamia college’, Peshawar; & last to the ‘Sindh Madarsa’ of Karachi”. At the time of British Raj and after independence, Aligarh Muslim University produced a plethora of prominent Muslim leaders.

Now it is time to turn attention to much debated argument about its establishment, some believe that: - ‘The university was not at all setup by or from Muslims of India instead by the act of parliament’; by going through the historical background of the Aligarh Muslim University, it makes it clear that the university was setup by the ‘Muslims’. Further, it will be pertinent to mention Christian architecture & presence of a church within the campus has prompted the government to declare St. Xavier’s college as a minority institution, then why not the Aligarh Muslim University; where mosques are present in every residential hall and even in some departments. The theology department is operating its academic activities in its premises; Islamic architecture is also prominently visible in its historic as well as modern buildings. A.M.U is considered as a tool for political gains; to attract the Muslim vote bank; especially for the so called secular political front i.e. Indian National Congress & other parties. To woo the Muslim voters they guaranteed many a times that they would restore the ‘Minority Character’ of the University through an act of Parliament, but on the contrary after winning elections and forming the government at centre, they did nothing.

As Justice Rajendra Sachar had already pointed out the facts in his report on the ‘Muslim community of India’ that the ‘Muslims’ living in India are much more backward then the ‘Dalits’ in 1947, they should be given reservation in each & every field for their economic, social, educational as well as political up gradation; the overall percentage in bureaucracy of India is just 2.5% whereas Muslims constitute above 15% of Indian population; on the basis of this report or argument government can easily restore the ‘minority character’ of AMU but it’ll certainly don’t, for the reason that the issue will be over forever.

If the Congress led UPA government seriously want to resolve the issue of ‘minority character’ of the Aligarh Muslim University apart from making lame vindications and fake promises, it has to take concrete steps towards the process of giving ‘minority character’ to the Muslim University, Aligarh, under article 29 & 30. Modes are there we have to think for AMU’s ‘minority character’ above the vote bank politics. Time will show whether in the upcoming general elections of 2014, Indian National Congress and its allies will be able to attract Muslim votes through the same process or the ‘Muslim’ community ask them about their old assurances before elections. The fragile ‘Minority Character’ of Aligarh Muslim University can only be come into existence when the Congress led U.P.A government is well determined to do something for the Minorities living in India as per the recommendations of “Justice Sachar Committee”; especially for the ‘Muslim Community’. On the conclusion we may say that Aligarh Muslim University is the “Poseidon’s Trident” for fetching the Muslim votes for Congress & allied political parties in every election.

*Syed Masoodul Hasan, a resident member of Mohsinul-Mulk-Hall, is pursuing Masters in Mass Communication in Department of Mass Communication, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh. His social whereabouts is https://www.facebook.com/anas.hasan1/
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