Saturday, June 23, 2007

Trouble at AMU 07-04-12

The vicious circle at Aligarh Muslim University

Mirza A. Beg
Thursday, April 12, 2007

Indian Muslims ( Two Circles) Thursday, April 12, 2007

Counter Currents. Org, Friday April 20th, 2007

The Vice Chancellor suddenly resigns – A student is shot dead in the heart of the university. The sad happenings at AMU have all of us aghast and lamenting. It keeps repeating every few years, the characters change, but the malady remains the same. I plead guilty of being a distant observer, but at times a picture is clearer from a distance.

Muslims around the world feel beleaguered, Muslims in India have a tortuous uphill long journey ahead, The Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was supposed to be an antidote to many of the ills that nip at our heels. AMU took root and grew making Sir Syed’s dream a reality. It was one of the few modern Muslim institutions to take root and gradually flower in barren times of the late 19th Century.

One of the unchangeable laws of nature is that changes are inevitable with time; those who adjust survive and flourish; the hidebound fail, or at best live a constrained life.
AMU has seen many changes and has adjusted to some extant. It is a Muslim institution with secular values as envisioned by Sir Syed, and it has remained more or less true to that ethos, through some trying times. In the present circumstances it is almost totally funded by the Secular Government of India. Muslims have not been willing and able to raise an endowment to afford independence for the institution to pursue excellence, independent of political winds.
Muslims feel strongly, that AMU’s primary mission is to educate Muslims and bring them in the mainstream of intellectual and professional life of India and even the world. In recent years AMU has expanded to keep abreast with the multifarious educational disciplines and has become a huge multi- faculty institution. As Muslim fortunes have declined AMU has been caught in a bind - physically expanding with diminishing pool of intellectual resources, resulting in coalescence of many problems.

For a few decades after independence India was adjusting from a colonial economy to a command economy based on socialist principles to bring new industries and education to India. Overwhelmingly the government was the only employer for most of the educated people. The jobs were few and competition hard.

Students were in the vanguard of the political struggle against colonialism, with the pressures of paucity of employment, they found political outlets to express their dissatisfaction. Many found such activities to be a lucrative path to power in a democratic system. Gradually the universities particularly in the North Indian Hindi belt deteriorated, where education became secondary to the political activity. With increase in government corruption the universities became hot bed of control by the political parties including in the appointment of faculty and the administrative positions.

It is desirable that the universities reflect the democratic society but it is deleterious when they become bound to the political fortunes of ideology bereft parties.

AMU was slow to fall in this abyss but fall it did. By mid 1960s many centers of power had developed; the two main ones were supposedly based on religious versus secular divide, but there were many others, based on regional loyalties and homage to shifting political and self serving blocks that effectively carved out fiefdoms resulting in the corruption of the faculty. Many departments became mired in destructive internecine group politics.

The Student Union that was supposed to be a vehicle for practical education of budding intellectuals to function in a democratic society, based on the heft of intellect spiraled into practicing street politics of hoodlums. Instead of the supremacy of the brain they from time to time resort to the strength of the brawn. Instead of a debating society, the President of the Students Union often tries to become an independent power center challenging the authority of the faculty and the administration, with an eye on a political carrier.

There are too many intellectually bereft power centers for any one intellectually inclined to handle much less govern. Therefore one after the other, Vice Chancellors were appointed from the cadre of the administrators. Some were intellectually inclined and tried their best while others were touts of the government in power. The saddest commentary on the lawlessness among the students is that some even consider the sadistic iron hand of Mr. Mahmoodur Rahman to have benefited the institution.

An institution dedicated to intellectual development and pursuit of the betterment through learning can ill afford the present malaise, of a vicious circle. There are many good students and very good faculty members, but they are effectively prisoners of those who misuse the University. Until the students realize that they are at AMU to get the best education they can and stop listening to those who preach otherwise; the members of faculty realize that they are there to intellectually serve the institution the best they can and shun the deleterious groups and most of all the community demands that of its children, no one can be found to govern an institution where education is treated as incidental. Most intellectuals will tend to shy away from such an impossible task.

This is a microcosm of the Muslim community as well. Great Leaders are born occasionally, their appearance can not be willed. They are exceptions not a norm. Individuals make a Community; we as individuals need to take up the challenge to improve. Most societies improve with individual responsibilities not with slogans shouted behind a time serving leader.

There are many who have taken up this challenge and are doing the hard lifting, often unbeknownst to others. The most important first step is that we should stop tolerating strikes and brute force in all of our institutions particularly the institutions of learning. They some time appear to be working, but they always work to the detriment of a civil society.

Mirza A Beg can be contacted at mab64

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