New Delhi: Ahead of the crucial UP state assembly elections, the Opposition parties as well as several Muslim organisations are raising heat on Modi government over its attempts to question the minority character of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI). Eight political parties, including Congress, Trinamool Congress and the Left, as well as several Muslim organisations on Friday decided to launch a campaign to corner the government in the forthcoming Parliament session. Apprehensive of repercussions, the BJP turned the tables on the Congress, saying the government was only following the stand taken by successive previous Congress governments. The ruling party fielded its two Muslim faces – Syed Shahnawaz Hussain and MJ Akbar – to defend its case.
The BJP also whipped out the “Dalit-OBC card” alleging that these universities were using their minority status to refuse constitutionally-mandated reservations. But, the newly-elected president of All India Muslim Majlis Mushawarat (AIMMM), an umberalla body of all Muslim social and relIgious groups Naveed Hamid rejected the charge, saying both the universities had provisions of reserving seats for the backward sections, even though Muslims are least represented in higher education. Only 11 of 100 Muslims in India take up higher education – the lowest as regards religion-based enrolment. In comparison, 20% Hindus and 31% Christians pursue higher education. Taking away minority character of these two institutions will further dwindle their numbers, says Hamid.
In a joint statement, MPs from Congress, TMC, Janata Dal-United, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Nationalist Congress Party, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxists) and Aam Aadmi Party, said that they “strongly condemn” and express their displeasure and deep concern against the “nasty” move of the central government to “strip” AMU and JMI of their minority status. The MPs also condemned the statement of the Attorney General Mukhul Rohtagi over his view that the two institutions are not minority institutions.
Signatories to the joint statement are Pramod Tiwari (Congress), K C Tyagi (JD-U), Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (Trinamool Congress), D P Tripathi (NCP), D Raja (CPI), Jay Prakash Yadav (RJD), Bhagwant Mann (AAP) and Ritabrata Banerjee (CPI-M), according to a press release issued by Tyagi.
The attorney general has told the government that Delhi-based Jamia Milia Islamia is not a minority institution as it was created by an act of Parliament, days after he told the Supreme Court that the legislature never intended the Aligarh Muslim University to be a minority institution.
Addressing a press conference here, Iqbal Hussain president of Students Islamic Organisation said it was a misnomer to suggest that AMU was not founded by Muslims. “Started as a school, then college in 1877, it was upgraded as a university through an Act of legislature. This is the only way to incorporate university. It is wrong to suggest, the AMU was established by an Act of 1920, rather it was incorporated as university,” he said.
Echoing similar sentiments, South Asia Minority Lawyers’ Association general secretary Advocate Feroz Khan Ghazi said the government is constitutionally obligated to honour the stand taken by the predecessor government on AMU instead of plunging the prestigious institution into a turmoil as part of its communal agenda.