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Aligarh Muslim University Needs Urgent Reforms!

March 07, 2023 12:17 IST

AMU, in its ethos, is increasingly becoming anything but a university.

IMAGE: The Aligarh Muslim University. Photograph: PTI Photo

Is the Aligarh Muslim University a divine university, wherein human intervention for reforms would be blasphemous?

Why do only the educated elites of Uttar Pradesh Muslims, and of Hyderabad, invariably become its VC?

In fact, except Professor P K Abdul Azis (2007-2012), almost all the VCs in the last 100 years have been Ashraaf Muslim men from Uttar Pradesh (and Hyderabad).

Is it because of the composition of the AMU's executive council being so endogamous? Why cannot it be diversified?

Why shouldn't the AMU get members from various regions, sub-regions, classes, linguistic groups, etc, in its executive council?

Why should the chosen few Muslim professors display a sense of entitlement to become its vice chancellor?


The historic AMU, a largest residential university of India, has since long been waiting to be reformed, administratively as well as academically.

Indian Secularism, in its practice, has been playing truant with this institution of higher learning, just as it has been doing with Muslim personal law and other such matters.

In practice, the essence of Indian Secularism has been to extend prodding and encouragement to the conservatism and communalism of Muslims.

No, don't put all blame of conservatism only on the theologians or clergy of India's Muslims.

Some of the better known academics, articulate in the English language, opinion-writers and influencers, without flowing beards and wearing Western attire are no less casteist, patriarchic and conservative.

It may not be unfair to call them Anglo-fanatic Muslims.

The Nehruvian regime reformed the Hindu personal law in the face of huge resistance of Hindus.

It ended up reforming it, howsoever, symbolically, not substantively, in the early decade of Independence.

Likewise, the Nehruvian regime also reformed certain administrative arrangements at the Banaras Hindu University, another largest residential university.

Both the universities (BHU and AMU) got the status of university from the colonial State around the same time in the second decade of the 20th century.

Both are in Uttar Pradesh, both are centrally funded; both carry religious-identity markers in their names.

Both carry certain 'burdens of history', so to say. Both consume over Rs 1,200 crores (Rs 12 billion) of public money.

The BHU-VC has a tenure of three years whereas his counterpart at AMU gets a five year tenure.

Just as the Muslim personal laws were left unreformed, AMU too remains doggedly unreformed.

The liberals expect the reforms to come from within the Muslim community. The expectation, quite predictably, has been suffering from a long -- in fact, unending -- wait.

For those,= unfamiliar with the administrative system of universities, let certain issues be made clear.

The universities are headed by the vice chancellors who derive their power mainly from the executive council, besides some other bodies within the university, such as the academic council.

Besides adopting and ratifying the UGC Regulations (subordinate legislation, as observed by the Supreme Court, in Kalyani Mathivanan vs K V Keyaraj, March 11, 2015), the executive council frames the statutes, ordinances, rules and regulations.

At AMU, the executive council comprises 28 members. Of these, 15 are vacant at the moment.

The composition of the AMU executive council is quite different from those of other central universities.

At AMU, a fairly large number of executive council members, from among AMU teachers, are nominated or handpicked by the VC himself.

There are some ex officio members, such as the proctor (in-charge of law and order, who owes his appointment as proctor to the VC), the senior-most provost of a residential hall, who again, is appointed as the provost by the VC.

Four teachers, elected by the teachers, also go to the executive council. Six members are sent to the executive council from the AMU-Court.

The AMU-Court comprises around 180 members, mostly Muslims.

One is nominated by the rector of AMU (the governor of Uttar Pradesh), four are nominated by the Visitor (President of the Republic) via the Union government. At the moment, 132 slots in the AMU-Court are vacant].

Practically, very rarely, not more than 10 percent of the executive council members, would be non-Muslims.

Quite a good number of the members would happen to be from Uttar Pradesh, descendants of the former aristocracy of Muslims, called by David Lelyveld (Aligarh's First Generation: Muslim Solidarity in British India, 1978) as the 'Kutchehry Milieu'.

Photograph: PTI Photo

The meetings of the executive council are convened and presided over by the vice chancellor.

The VC exercises almost all his powers and takes important decisions on the executive council's behalf.

To overcome hindrances or dissent from executive council members, the VC has been provided with a plenipotentiary emergency (discretionary) power, which is only to be reported to the executive council, post facto.

Executive council members may put up their notes of dissent, to be considered or ignored capriciously by the VC.

Unlike most other central universities, AMU maintains a large number of schools -- residential and non-residential -- for boys and girls.

One wonders why should the UGC fund school education? This is yet another arena of patronage network for favouritism and nepotism in AMU recruitments and student enrolments.

AMU being the largest residential university has to recruit a large number of non-teaching employees.

This affair is so messy that the whole finance and financial administration of the university is in chaos.

The UGC and the Union ministry of education have constantly been advising and even warning AMU to do the needful to meet the specified ratio of the total strength of teaching and non-teaching employees, to no avail.

This self-inflicted financial chaos at AMU often delays the payment of salaries and pensions of its employees.

The feudal structure of patronage and clientele has created a huge army of non-teaching employees, even as daily wagers and ad hoc employees.

Many of them render their services to the academic-administrators at the cost of public money.

What about the recruitment of teachers?

Decades ago, the Hindustan Times had reported that rampant nepotism and favouritism have resulted into the employees belonging to few chosen Muslim clans.

Overall, academically least accomplished -- rather laggard -- teachers perpetuate over important administrative positions at the university.

It gets testified from a random look at the list of publications included in the CVs of teachers uploaded on the university Web site.

The academically laggard teacher-administrators abhor meritocracy.

They mock at and look down upon academically accomplished teachers.

The research-supervisors encouraging plagiarism, and themselves charged with plagiarism, turn into 'blue-eyed boys' of the university system.

Such plagiarists would more often be seen on the selection board of teachers and other employees of the home university as also other central and provincial universities.

This dis-incentivises core academics and incentivises non-academic and anti-academic pursuits.

Thus, AMU, in its ethos, is increasingly becoming anything but a university.

Core academics aren't its priority, so much so, that they neglect even Muslim-centric research, despite carrying the historical baggage of identitarian concerns.

This alarmingly gross under-performance of AMU academics was demonstrated by Omar Khalidi on Twocircles.Net, May 24, 2010 (external link).

The above-mentioned instances are merely few of the symptoms afflicting AMU.

The important question is how to minimise (if cannot get rid of) these problems. The rot has to be stemmed from the top.

The executive council is at the top of the system called university.

Be it the students enrolled or the teachers recruited, the largest numbers come from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Very rarely have there has been VCs at AMU other than those from UP (and Hyderabad) Muslim elites called the 'Kutchehry Milieu'.

There must be some factors behind this 'privilege' of retaining the VC-ship within the 'Kutchehry Milieu'.

Doesn't it have something to do with the composition of the executive council, which is desperately wailing to be reformed and overhauled drastically?

Teachers having become executive council members enjoy utmost privileges and favours in the affairs of the university.

In short, for the ills prevailing at the university, a substantial quantum of the blame has to be put on the executive council.

The composition of the executive council therefore needs to be changed to be made socially more realistic and representative.

IMAGE: Professor Tariq Mansoor, centre, the current vice chancellor. Photograph: Kind courtesy Abdullahsamdani786/Wikimedia Commons

Also, and not less importantly, the selection process of the VC at AMU should not be different from those of other central universities.

Necessary amendment in the relevant component of the AMU Act 1981 should be made to bring uniformity.

This specific component has hardly any bearing on the 'minority status' of the AMU which is currently sub judice in the Supreme Court.

Interestingly, despite being sub judice, the AMU made necessary amendment selectively to adopt the UGC Regulations whereby the maximum age of the VC has been enhanced to 70 years, whereas the same for the pro vice chancellor has been pegged at 65 years.

Similarly, the UGC regulations confining the VC-ship, within professors of ten years experience, has also been selectively adopted.

The selection of VCs through search cum selection committee hasn't been adopted.

At AMU it has to be done through the club of its executive council and its 'court'.

Executive councils at other central universities select two members to which a third member is added from the Visitor (President of the Republic via the Union ministry of education).

This three member committee acts as a search cum selection committee.

This committee recommends a panel of names for the next VC and one out of those names are appointed by the government as the VC.

In the case of AMU, the executive council shortlists a panel of five names, and then the AMU-Court, voting deletes two names out of the five, and sends the three names to the Union government.

One out of the three is appointed the AMU VC.

The AMU-Court comprises all kinds of conservative, patriarchic, Muslims that a candidate for the VC-ship has to bring himself down to becoming a candidate for municipal body elections in order to get through the AMU-Court.

This process of the selection of the VC ensures that the AMU-VCs must come from and act under the influence of the conservative, patriarchic, Muslims belonging mostly to the 'Kutchehry Milieu'.

It is this composition of the AMU's executive council, court, academic council, etc, which resists meritocratic admission policies.

One wonders why shouldn't the admissions at AMU for the law courses be done through CLAT, in engineering through the JEE, in other courses through CUET, so on and so forth.

The admission clout is so strong at AMU that selection for admission of certain specific non-performing candidates remain predictable, particularly in the courses such as B Tech, Masters in Laws, PhD, etc.

The admission to the MBBS course through NEET has already made it meritocratic (despite retaining quota for 'Internal' students).

IMAGE: A protest at AMU. Photograph: ANI Photo

AMU is increasingly becoming more like a police district afflicted with student indiscipline often engineered by the clout of teachers and teacher-administrators patronising the hoodlums among the students.

These students are made to thrive through various kinds of favours including award of contracts for civil construction and for food supply in residential halls/hostels and other kinds of equipment and stationery purchases made by the hostels and the university.

Tackling student indiscipline becomes difficult, because, quite often, such students and ex-students are patronised by the teacher-administrators.

In short, AMU needs reforms in its recruitment and enrolment procedures.

For meritocracy and social diversity to prevail, the composition of its executive council needs to be changed through reforms.

The more it will be delayed, the more the disease will become malignant and incurably cancerous.

This column has been contributed by a Delhi-based alumnus of AMU, who wishes to remain anonymous.