Removal of ‘Muslim’ from university name preposterous: AMU responds to UGC panel

Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) issued a formal response to the University Grants Commission in the matter of ‘Muslim’ being dropped from the university’s name, calling it ‘preposterous’. It criticized the commission for ignoring the institution’s history and character.

The Registrar Javaid Akhtar hit at the committee for going beyond its mandate and said, “The name of the university gives us an idea about its history, purpose and character and preserving the same is our bounden Constitutional duty.”

“The committee incorrectly draws the conclusion that by renaming AMU as Aligarh University would instill secular values. One must recall that in India the concept of secularism arises more from the discourse of justice and equality than from an anti-religious position mostly practiced in the West,” he said.

The committee had also provided fourteen other recommendations, among which one included tweaking the Vice Chancellor’s selection process to align it with the procedure followed by other universities.

The university defended its process saying “it is in line with top class world universities who have all the freedom and autonomy to choose their own V-Cs best suited to them”.

“The selection process advised by the panel and followed by other Central universities is neither perfect nor infallible. No one even knows what objective criteria are followed by the search committee in shortlisting the candidates,” AMU responded.

The Executive Council of the university shortlists a panel of five candidates and forwards it to the AMU Court. The court selects three names and sends the list to the HRD Ministry. The President then appoints one of the three finalists.

The committee had also denounced the culture of ‘inbreeding’ in the university wherein appointments to the faculty are of former students. The university cited statistics that 388 teachers have experience of working outside AMU and 237 of its teachers have worked abroad including reputed institutions like Harvard University, University of California, University of Michigan and Washington University.

“Suggestion of the committee to have a gap of five years after award of Master’s/PhD from AMU for taking teaching assignment in AMU is neither prescribed in UGC regulations not practiced in any comparable university such as DU, BHU, JNU and JMI… It must be appreciated that meritorious students can’t be denied appointment merely because of the fact that he or she is an alumnus of the same institution,” it responded.

AMU’s audit was done by a committee comprising IIT-Madras professor Shripad Karmalkar, Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati University V-C Kailash Sodani, Guwahati University professor Mazhar Asif and IIM-Bangalore professor Sankarshan Basu.

Earlier, The Indian Express reported an Indian government audit of central universities had suggested that the words ‘Muslim’ and ‘Hindu’ be dropped from the names of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Banaras Hindu University (BHU), respectively, to reflect their secular character.

The panel’s mandate was limited to infrastructure and its academic, research and financial operations in these universities. In its audit of AMU, the committee suggested that the institution should either be called just ‘Aligarh University’ or be named after its founder, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. It cited the same reason to recommend that BHU’s name be amended, too.

According to panel members, who did not wish to be identified, the suggestion stems from the logic that AMU, being a centrally-funded university, is a secular institution. The committee has also described AMU as “feudal” in nature and called for measures to uplift poor Muslims on campus. The report, however, refrained from commenting on the institutions’ minority status as the matter is sub-judice.

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