[Reader-list] Don't let Jamia become `fundamentalist', says Arjun Singh

Pawan Durani pawan.durani at gmail.com
Tue Mar 23 10:01:36 IST 2010


NEW DELHI: With concerted pressure on HRD ministry by a group of
conservative Muslims to change the character of Jamia Milia Islamia,
former HRD minister Arjun Singh has written to Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh expressing fear that the prestigious central university might
fall into the hands of fundamentalist forces.

Singh, sources said, has blamed a member of the Union council of
ministers for giving patronage to divisive forces in the university.

Not only is Jamia refusing to honour 27% reservation for OBCs in
admission, the conservative section has been raising the bogey of
under-representation of Muslims as students and teachers. They are
demanding that the university should give preference to Muslims in
jobs and admissions.

But the larger issue being debated is can the "secular character" of
Jamia, enshrined in the Act, be changed at the behest of
fundamentalist forces. HRD ministry officials refused to get drawn
into the controversy. But it is unlikely that the ministry will amend
the Jamia Act.

A perusal of the file on setting up of Jamia, through RTI, reveals
that in 1987, when the university became a central university, the
Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs and the HRD ministry refused to
bow to pressure from the then chancellor Khurshid Alam Khan that
specific mention be made that Jamia would "promote especially the
educational and cultural advancement of Muslims in India".

Similarly, there were five other suggestions by Khurshid Alam Khan
that the ministry refused to entertain on the ground that none of the
other central universities had these features. Khan wanted reservation
for educationally backwards in admission but the ministry said
"government has not provided for any reservation for educationally
backward classes". The ministry added, "The suggestion of the
chancellor could create controversies."

On the lines of Aligarh Muslim University, Khan wanted the chancellor
to be elected by the university's court and not appointed by the
visitor (President). But the CCPA decided that chancellor will be
appointed by the visitor.

The ministry also did not agree with the chancellor's demand that
honorary treasurer be made a member of the university court. HRD
ministry said since a wholetime finance officer would be appointed,
there was no need for honorary treasurer.

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