Saturday, June 23, 2007

AMU Status 0510-16

The Need for Minority Institutions

Mirza A. Beg

Written October 16, 2005

Indian Express. Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Milli Gazette, October, 2005

The judgment of justice Tandon of Allahabad High Court deprives the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) of its status as a minority institution. Muslim intelligentsia is distraught. The concept for Minorities to have control of their institutions is rooted in the Indian constitution for some very good reasons.

The AMU is planning an appeal to the Supreme Court. It is heartening that the Government of India is planing to Appeal as well. We hope the Court would interpret the law in view of the provisions for the minority to run their institutions under the Article 30(1) of the constitution. Otherwise the government would have to make special provisions for the dire condition of the Muslim masses.

In a homogeneous ideal society any preferential treatment would be an anathema. India of our dreams would guarantee equality and justice for all. We hope to be there some day, but today we are far from it. The legacy of riots and discriminations culminating in Gujarat riots are stark. India is a home for practically all the religions, races and ethnicities of the world. Thus potentially the most perfectly pluralistic democracy.

The founders of modern India recognized this reality. Faced with creating a constitution for the most diverse populace, with enormous chasm between the "haves and have-nots" and in-built inequities and ethnic tensions, they paid special attention to the structural and historic disadvantages that many Indians faced.

The constitution was specifically structured to facilitate the melding of the peoples to eventually arrive at true equality while enjoying their personal beliefs and traditions, forming a rich seamless fabric of India.

To strengthen the Indian democracy, they gave special status to those at the lower rung of the ladder of opportunity, a societal helping hand for an undefined period. This was the rationale for creating the Schedules in the constitution for deprived castes and tribes, widely known as scheduled casts and tribes.

Since the creation of the Republic of India, Muslims have suffered inordinately in personal safety and opportunities for education leading to decent jobs. This downward spiral is well recorded by the statistical analyses available to the planners in the government. Currently the nationwide percentage of Muslim students in medical, engineering and management courses is less than 3%, while Muslim are 13% of the population.

It is well understood that the keys to equality are safety and educational opportunities. That was the rationale for creating the "Schedules" for backward casts and tribes. The last fifty-eight years of multi-structural discrimination have brought the Muslims down to a very low economic level.

It makes political, moral and legal sense under the constitution to give a helping hand by special dispensation to those in dire need because of structural discrimination. AMU was created for, and has helped ameliorate this problem, often under very difficult circumstances. Instead of including the Muslims to the special scheduled classes, and have reservations in all institutions and employment opportunities, a better remedy would be to strengthen and raise the educational level, particularly the technical fields, leading to better job opportunities. The judgement of justice Tandon of Allahabad High Court, stripping the AMU of the status of a minority institution has the potential to knock the underpinnings of this concept.

Narrow-minded attitudes would have a deleterious effect on the future of India. In the fullness of time, this would usher a hoped for future, with healthy flourishing institutions of many hues serving and enriching the diverse fabric of an enviable pluralistic democracy that would be India.

Mirza A. Beg can be contacted at

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