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Do AMU off campus centers come within the ambit of Sir Syed`s vision?

Friday November 02, 2012 04:00:18 PM, Syed Asim Raza

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"Do the new AMU Centers of Malappuram and Murshidabad come within the ambit of Sir Syed`s vision of spread of modern education throughout India"


“....from the seed which we sow today there may spring up a mighty tree, whose branches, like those of the banyan of the soil shall in their turn strike firm roots into the earth and themselves sent forth new and vigorous saplings; that this College may expand into a University, whose sons shall go forth throughout the length and breadth of the land to preach the gospel of free inquiry, of large-hearted toleration, and of pure morality.”



Aligarh Muslim University is an amalgamation of brilliant ideas, meticulous planning and positive continuance of these process, making this unique in the fact that apart from imparting state of art education it inculcates in its students the finer points of life that are often overlooked in the wider aspect of cramming and rote learning. This is probably possible from its inception process which according to Sir Syed Ahmed Khan envisaged a student who shall typify this behavior.


Philosophy will be in our right hand and Natural Science in our left and the crown of ‘there is no God but Allah’ will adorn our head.


The foundation of this institute in the background of abysmal intellectual and educational condition of Muslims of India gives an understanding of the needs of this institute of learning. The deteriorating analytic abilities and the attitude of cocooning of Muslim ummah resulted in creation of a void that threatened to engulf the community into narrow ideals, into this maze of absurdity was the foundation of this institute laid with an equally mystical and persuasive ideology to make the Muslim minority acquaint with the modern sciences and develop scientific interest in people. This was by no means an easy task to streamline a society that had drifted apart from mainstream ideology to seclusion , nevertheless, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had to face strong denial and depravity from his own community in this quest. That this emboldened his belief goes to show genuineness of his ideas.


Coming now to the topic of discussion about the new centres of A.M.U like Malappuram and Murshidabad, it is important to understand the cause of existence of A.M.U and as quoted above Sir Syed Ahmed Khan envisaged a future wherein A.M.U acts as centre of academic excellence giving intellectual guidance to the nation especially Muslim brethren, but the question that arises is the methodology that needs to be followed in attaining this goal of providing quality education throughout India. While it is indisputable that Sir Syed Ahmed Khan did not believe in creating a monument of brick and mortar and believed that A.M.U shall churn out leaders in all spheres of education taking forward the legacy of Aligarh movement to different cities and states all the while working for continuous development of intellectual capability of Indian citizenry in general and Muslim ummah in particular. The recent decision of opening new centers in different parts of countries do provide an insight into the noble ideas and seem like a realization of the purpose of opening up of educational opportunities to the doorsteps of needy, moreover considering the recent ventures by almost all top seats of learning in distance education and consulate opening in different parts of the world to globalize education as part of `DOORSTEP EDUCATION`, successful projects in form of chain of premier institutes maintaining their lofty standards of education. This policy just seems the need of time, however the actual conditions are far removed from truth. Let us understand how.



For a university that is still in a state of hesitancy in accepting new technologies and prefers taking longing wishes at a glorious past embedded with achievements, it indeed came as a surprise that new centres of A.M.U were thought out at the first place. Without being too harsh it would not be an exaggeration that A.M.U has unfortunately not kept pace with the modern scientific thoughts preferring the orthodox manner of education often at the cost of innovative learning and limiting its reach, alas, defeating the very purpose of Aligarh movement as envisaged by the founder himself. Lately some positive measures have been taken to bring the necessary changes, while these undoubtedly are welcome, a lot needs to be done to keep pace with this fast growing world. This argument might seem hollow considering the weight of responsibility and sufferings that a minority institute might face in context of prevailing attitude of world media towards Muslims, but the observation to be noted here is that in view of extraordinary circumstances we cannot ignore the advancement of science which is an ever rolling juggernaut threatening to encompass all. A look at the prevailing conditions of Muslims in India especially educational and occupational situation explains the matter rather profoundly. Sachar Committee in its research, analysis and suggestions points at the anomalies in educational opportunities and dearth of seats of learning for minority and as a belated albeit knee-jerk reaction, a proposal of extension of A.M.U was tabulated to parry over the problem of responsibility sharing. Let us accept the fact that the conditions of Muslims in India has veered dangerously below the expected level of development, that people are still hesitant in educating their wards modern education and continue with the outdated artisan methodology to survive. A look at the figures projected in the Sachar committee report glares these facts.


The literacy rate among Muslims in 2001 was 59.1 %. This is far below the national average (65.1 %)

As many as 25 per cent of Muslim children in the 6-14 year age group have either never attended school or have dropped out.

Only one out of the 25 Under-Graduate student and one out of the 50 Post- Graduate student is a Muslim in premier colleges.


The disparity in Graduation Attainment Rates is widening since 1970’s between Muslims and all other categories in both urban and rural areas.


While these factual data warrantees and as the Sachar Committee recommends, educational institutes providing the best of modern education must be established near areas of Muslim concentration to provide them the opportunity of best education without having to forego their place of residences. So the necessity factor is provision of quality education to the Muslim minority to uplift their educational standards, but then to attain these means the idea of opening centres of A.M.U seems a bit flawed.


It should be noted that A.M.U is not a minority institute and admission is based on merit entrance exams or percentage marks, where does then the concept of it catering exclusively to the Muslim masses come if it does not even serve the basic purpose of providing sustenance to Muslims. The facts can be corroborated in the regulation policy formed for these centres.


On the face value these centers of A.M.U are being made for the purpose that they are never going to be realized. This manages to surprise the rest of us with its mixed signals. The problem of erosion of standards is too hard to miss, as discussed above, the present teaching standards in the main centre are really not evolving fast what can be the standards in these associates- one does not have to look far beyond for this, we do have the example of UP technical colleges that have mushroomed in each and every nook of Uttar Pradesh and more. These have managed to erode the quality of the degree with their concept of blatant privatization. In future these centres owing allegiance to A.M.U might result in situation wherein the quality is




Most of the opposition to new centres emerge from above mentioned ideological differences created on account of confusing signals given by the authority concerned and this in turn creates a mirage of understanding. While some of these decisions are a necessary outcome of great decisions they remain avoidable for obvious reasons.

Ambiguous ideas behind land location and granting of budget allocation especially in the case of Murshidabad centre has many people asking the motive of the government machinery and its seriousness in pursuing these decisions. Considering the nature of anti-inclusiveness in some unwanted elements of society, this would certainly have been avoidable.


The Sachar Report indeed brings to light the extreme necessity of making educational institutes near pockets of Muslim population with specific interest in helping them come at par with the rest of India but the proposed centers do not unfortunately have a set percentage for Muslim inclusion, in such a scenario it indeed comes as a confusing signal about what exactly is the motive of these centers if they are not actually serving their purpose.


Another point of frequent discussion hovers around the rules laid by our founding fathers wherein as per the university law, a centre can be set up only within a 25-km radius of the mosque of the university. In view of this legislation it is important that if ever an amendment is made it should be done with deliberation and positive intent, any hasty decision can be detrimental to development and hamper further growth. A section of people are of the view that these proposed centres are just a cover-up for the administrative failure that subsequent government have faced in upholding the minority rights thereby betraying their sense of urgency in washing their hands of this stain. This may not be an excuse for refusing this opening and preventing a source of growth. While those at the forefront of advocating the proposed new centres are trying to make this appear as a belated extension of Sir Syed's legacy of opening educational institutes throughout the country, without understanding the true nature of Aligarh movement. The most confusing and damaging signal that has come from the administrative sources is the hesitancy shown in leadership for this issue, while at the beginning of the proposal of creating these centres decisions were taken quickly and efficiently. The situation going forward at snail's pace, most certainly not helping the cause of those sincerely dependent on this initiative. If the situation is allowed to remain at the whims of individual it can be damaging to the overall harmonic balance. In view of such situation let us look towards the founder of our alma-mater who advised the students and teaching faculty of his time


Do only that which you believe (to be right) and do not do anything in (the rightness of) which you do not believe. This is real truthfulness and this is the only thing on which depends success in both the worlds.


This indeed must be the motto for our generation so hesitant in decision making capabilities resulting in crippling of any bright idea that might help us realize our true potentials as a robust, free-thinking community based on reason of understanding.



What cannot be denied for the Muslim community in India is the Criticality of Education, it is one single most factor that needs to be understood by all bodies concerned with the development of India in general and Muslims in particular. Development and the subsequent growth can only happen if scientific spirit is inculcated in the society.


Let us roll back our times to the founder himself, who for the sake of creation of this university did not hesitate in asking for help from any quarters he could. He understood that this community for its development needs quality education and this was possible only through scientific mode of learning. The present generation well-wishers and great thinkers of Islamic revivalism can take a lesson or two from his deeds. Sir Syed did stoop backwards to accommodate the Britishers as friends and seek even their help in creation of this university, but who can forget his `ASBAAB BAGHAWATE-HIND` which held the Britishers responsible for their blasphemous activities and unlawful perversion of natural law in dealing with Indian masses. The Muslim community in India has fallen so below standards at the present time that the extravagant and grotesque exhibition of self sufficiency has become a hollow notion of failed thinking and the need of hour is gradual acceptance of our condition and in this scenario we must accept whatever little good comes our way. The founder of our our alma-mater did not only have to suffer the ignominy of reconciling with the people responsible for the death of his uncle and cousin in the backlash of revolt of 1857 but also the frequent taunts of his own community-elders.


In view of these exemplary services of yore it is necessary that we do not squander away the opening that has been provided by these centers of A.M.U. The pros of yes still outweighs the cons in this case, let us remember it is not who we are but what we do that determines us and corrective measures can be taken to channelize the process of guidance to the new centers.


Some of the suggestive measures that can be adopted to salvage and optimize the current situation are:

A.M.U must act as the mother organization providing necessary guidance in collaboration with institutes of higher learning in the role of MENTOR institute. This absolves the new centers of parasitism and fulfill the objective of autonomous functioning in the new centres. The growth of centres of IIT`s and ISB Mohali centre on the basis of this program is a favorable indication in this direction.

The central authority must prioritize its objective by actualization of ideals, if these centres are for the minority education then why not make them minority institutes instead of creating labyrinth of mazes and mixed signals. The proposed intake of the students without specifying stipulated Muslim percentage is defeating the very purpose of creation of these institutes. A predefined percentage of minority intake on the lines of St.Stephens {85% christians,15%rest} is a must to fulfill the objectives.

Making a centre at Malappuram with 93.39% literacy rate is by no means a smart choice and breathes anarchism, such anomalies should be identified and corrected. It is important that proper identification of concentrated minority population is done and these centers must cater to them instead of make-shift arrangements to just satisfy personal vendetta of any individual. Remember individuals live for lifetime but the institute lives forever.

No freebies must be attached and maintenance of high standards of evaluation and education must be followed to let the message be percolated down to the new centres that quality in education is earned through hard work, if the certification of the new centres is done through A.M.U it shall invariably lead to dilution of the standards in education having a negative impact on quality. Autonomy in granting certification in these institute will absolve A.M.U of inadvertent creeping of withering standards. The example of separate certification of EDX- MIT from MIT can act as torch bearer, extinguishing the possibility of generalizing the degrees.

The most important is to not let this opportunity whither due to administrative hesitancy, let us not forget that our community urgently requires remedial measures and letting this opportunity slip away from our grasp would act as a deterrent to any future overtures from governmental initiatives.


As far as realization of Sir Syed`s mission goes it must be remembered that it was he who proposed All India Muslim Educational Conference so that more educational institutes catering specifically to Muslim minority are made in parts of the country, that we are still striving to achieve those goals and are still hesitant in going about them is a testimony of failure of our ideals. The methodology can be questioned and the procedure could be discussed but what remains indisputable is the fact that to carry forward the legacy of Sir Syed Ahmed khan we need to seize this opportunity , modify it to our rationale legacy and practicalize it to succeed in present times.


The writer, Syed Asim Raza, is student of B.Tech

at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

The above article was part of the National level essay competition organised

by the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).






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