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Home > News > Report

AMU to open, but problems remain

A Special Correspondent in Aligarh | November 02, 2007 13:54 IST

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The historic Aligarh Muslim University, funded by the central government, which was closed sine die on September 17, following unrest due to the murder of a student, will reopen in phases from November 6.

Nearly 18,000 resident students had to vacate their hostels. Many were unhappy with the decision which they felt disregarded the huge academic loss to the students. It was expected that the AMU administration would re-open the university soon.

However, Vice-Chancellor P K Abdul Azis, who was appointed this year, insisted that the university would be opened only after proper security arrangements were guaranteed. For the first time in its history the university demanded a huge deployment of paramilitary forces within the campus.

Some staffers feel the VC is being paranoid. One senior teacher of law alleged that since the VC is from south India, he is not competent and expedient enough to tackle the situation.

Having waited for about one-and-a-half months, many students have started coming back to live in rented houses and resume their studies through private tuitions/coaching, which is crucial for students aspiring to appear for medical and engineering entrance tests. Already poor teaching in AMU's senior secondary schools have led to the mushrooming of private tuitions and coaching centres around the campus.

Meanwhile, under pressure from various quarters, the VC has begun the process of re-opening AMU. In order to avoid regional and sub-regional groupings of students, efforts are being taken to reshuffle hostel allotments on an unprecedented scale.

This policy has already been opposed by many teachers during the general body meeting of the AMU Teachers Association on September 20. A large number of insiders have serious reservations about the efficacy of 'dislocating the student community'.

At the meeting, many teachers also expressed resentment that the VC acts on the advice of a caucus of 'unpopular' teachers. Not many are convinced that a mechanism for redressing the students' grievances has been evolved. Many provosts and wardens are angry with the daunting exercise of re-shuffling student accommodation.

Sections of the media had reported that award of contracts (of the building constructions/repairing) to outsiders were one of the probable causes for the violence. Probably in view of this, the AMU has awarded contracts worth between Rs 12 crores to Rs 18 crores to local contractors, who are busy raising the height of the boundary walls and adding several iron gates at select points.

However, students, parents and teachers want AMU to resume academics as soon as possible. Students of the MBBS final year course are set to lose an academic year as they may not get admissions to post graduate courses in medicine and surgery. Similarly, engineering and MBA students will lose their semester by about two months.

One teacher expressed anger that "the VC is just not bothered about academic loss; he is merely concerned about security arrangements as if the students are hardened criminals."

Another teacher said the AMU administration is busy "penalising" students by reshuffling their hostels. Moreover, the exercise of reshuffling accommodation could have been completed in the first two weeks after closing down the university. The Central Allotment Committee, consisting of senior deans, took seven weeks to arrive at a decision that a massive reshuffling of the students' accommodation should be done.

There exists confusion and a communication gap between the CAC and the provosts of the residential halls as is the case with communication among different provosts.

Many teachers and students are of the view that this indecision and administrative confusion will lead to chaos, provoking the students.

Some long standing student grievances like the victimisation of research scholars have also not been addressed adequately at the administrative level. There are apprehensions that such administrative confusion may generate another upsurge of violence once the students return. Some are angry with the Union ministry of human resources development which has not taken the VC to task for not reopening AMU immediately.

Another probable cause for the student anger is the feeling that some innocent students have been implicated in the violence of September 16/17 whereas some guilty students have been let off because of their links with influential teachers.

Also, many girls have been suspended/rusticated for protesting against the alleged molestation of a girl by a male employee of the girls hostel. An inquiry report has denied that such an incident occurred.

Many are dissatisfied with the police investigation into the murder on September 16. Till September 19, the police had not even visited the site of the murder. AMUTA had demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the murders and violence since April 2007. But this demand has fallen on deaf ears.

Meanwhile, an official release from AMU gave details of the plans to reopen the university:

In the first phase, the medical, dental, engineering colleges will be opened. As will classes from nursery to Class X and class XII.

On November 13, post graduate classes in some disciplines and class XI will commence. In the third phase, post graduate classes in other disciplines will commence from November 19.

In the fourth phase, teaching of undergraduate classes in some disciplines and all courses of the faculty of unani medicine will commence on November 23. In the last phase, other undergraduate courses and all courses in the polytechnic will commence on November 27.

But with so many undercurrents, whether AMU will remain calm after it re-opens is a question which will be answered once classes open.

The correspondent, who did not want to be identified for this article, teaches at AMU.