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Aligarh Muslim University's painful story - Straight from the heart of an Aligarian
Saturday November 21, 2015 9:32 PM, Sayed Raheel Ahmad,

As a concerned Alig, when I silently observe the current scenario that prevails in the campus, it really hurts me. After years of peace and academic environment, the campus is again transforming into a hotbed of internal politics, thanks to the ongoing tussle between a group of teachers and the university administration. The elected body of the teachers, AMUTA, seems to be up against the VC and the administration of the university.

Without going into the details of whether AMUTA's demands or allegations are genuine or false, I am particularly pained to see the mannerism of protest which does not suit a highly respectable community of teachers of such a great academic institution. The battle lines have been drawn on a number of issues and non-issues which could possibly have been resolved amicably between the two sides within the precinct of the university. The battle is being fought not only within the campus but also in the media, social media as well as with the help of other allies who are totally outsiders.

Personally, I have nothing against anyone, in particular neither against AMUTA nor against anyone else at the university as I had myself been a part of this institution. Also, at the outset, I must make it clear that for me the purpose of all this outpourings is not to seek favours or to get a permanent teaching position at AMU (I left it long back after being there for 4 years as a Lecturer and decided not to join here as a faculty again). Neither I want to get admissions for my children in any course of university at the moment (my kids are too young for that!!).

Alhamdolillah, I have held respectable senior level posts at large Fortune-500 MNCs with a high salary and as their Asia-Pacific Regional head, I managed a budget which was perhaps more than 5-6 times of AMU's overall annual budget. So, I do not have any hidden financial motives to siphon of the university funds either.

Without these disclosures, I would have been in danger of inviting unnecessary comments as someone who might be a potential favour seeker or financially corrupt person trying to take away the funds. I purposefully mentioned it here because these are some of the common allegations that may come up against any voice that is raised. So it is better to keep the things transparent upfront.

We, Aligs have a long list of traditions which are unique in every sense. We often take pride in ourselves for being different from the students of most of other universities in the world. There is also a rather 'unpleasant tradition', (if we term it as a tradition at all), of being unceremonious to our VCs towards the end of their tenures, particularly during last two years of the term. No matter how good or bad, the university almost always accords a warm welcome when the VC joins and after a couple of years the same people turn against him. We, Aligs have forgotten all our good traditions but continue with this one.

Why can't we ever learn to practice tolerance and decency to let him function as the head of the institution and do something worthwhile over the entire tenure? If a VC happens to be a soft person, like Prof. M. N. Farooqui, people at AMU start taking undue advantage through all wrong means. On the contrary, if the VC happens to be administratively strong like someone who has been a bureaucrat or from army background, people adopt other ways to disturb the campus environment. Is maamley mein hum logon ne shayad kisi ko nahin bakhsha...!!! But for how long can we afford to go on playing with our own community's future?

Personally, I have met VC Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah sb. a couple of times and found him to be genuinely interested in doing something for education of the Muslim community in India. As far as the baseless and false allegations of misappropriation of the funds or grabbing university lands are concerned, no sensible person would believe them at all.

However, as a human being, the VC might have faltered in making some decisions here and there but that does not qualify for any campaign to malign the personal character. I am sure if making money had been his sole motive, then he certainly had better options of becoming an arms dealer instead of VC of an academic institution like AMU. Why would he have to choose such a difficult path of 'making money unscrupulously' by generating so much controversy? Most of the people who have met him will certainly vouch for his polished manners and know that his mannerisms are far from that of a land mafia that some groups are trying to portray him.

We have to understand that all the mudslinging, avoidable political activism and controversies within AMU are not going to help our beleaguered community. Some of the chain of mails floating in the online groups such as AligarhNetwork, AligarhForum, etc. are definitely not in good taste and do nothing to bridge the chasm within the AMU community.

I am particularly surprised that some of our fellow Aligs like Ashraf Mateen sb. are quick to respond negatively to any good word or even genuine praise of the current VC Gen. Shah. Although, Ashraf Mateen sb. probably happens to be my contemporary during the student days and was a year or two junior to our batch in the engineering college, I do not remember meeting him at any ZHCOET functions or in student activities during those day. I guess, he wasn't so active during his student days but he seems to have gained some political ground as an office bearer of AMUTA. I am sure that a person of his calibre can do a lot for the betterment of the academic environment of the university rather than spending energy on negativity or hate-politics against fellow Aligs or the university administration.

Similarly, Dr. Mustafa Zaid sb. has a superb command over the language and would be the best person to draft a new chapter for academic development of the university with his great networking and resourcefulness.

There are countless teachers in AMU who do not utilize their true potential to bring laurels to the university in their respective fields. They are at par with the best of the faculties at any of the universities in India and even IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, etc., yet they choose to remain in the academic oblivion.

I happened to spend some time at IIM Calcutta a few years back. I was amazed to see the academic enthusiasm of the Professors and their eagerness to keep going further in their fields despite their already established credentials. On the contrary, at AMU I find most of the faculty members slipping into complacency mode after each promotion. Even the brightest of the lot who join as Lecturers at AMU work hard till they become Readers and then they gradually start slipping into 'academic hibernation' till they become Professors. And finally, after getting the coveted post of Professorship, they often take an 'academic retirement'. Some of them who take interest in the active university politics either simply waste their energies on controversies or take part for personal gains. That is really unfortunate. Politics, as we see at the national or global level, can be a good or bad tool, depending on how it is used.

Similar is the case with campus politics - whether it is students' body or teachers' association, in this case - AMUSU or AMUTA.

"Firqa bandi hay kaheen aur kaheen zatein hain
kya zamane mein panapne ki yahee batein hain"
-Allama Iqbal

The political drama that is unfolding at AMU has definitely left many of us wondering if we Aligs will ever change our ways for the better. Over the years, the decadence that has crept into AMU, causing much harm to the academic environment and illustrious cultural fabric of our beloved alma mater has been a cause real concern for most of the well-wishers, teachers, alumni as well as other people.

The concerns often outpour into hot talks among the alumni, teachers, students and other stakeholders on the various online and offline forums. Sometimes, the verbal and written assaults become so ugly and personalized that people trespass all boundaries of decency, not to talk of the respect of seniors and juniors.

In the earlier days, especially at AMU, the relationship between the seniors and juniors was so much revered that it was matched only by the brotherly or sisterly feelings towards each other. It often wavered between mutual affection and respect. Even the fights between the students were more like sibling rivalries. But gradually, it withered away as the 'katta culture' started dominating the campus. It did not happen all of a sudden but the cultural degradation was so smooth and gradual that Aligs hardly realised it. However, when we talk to any old boy of the university, we painfully realize that things have really really changed, atleast culturally.

AMU is fast losing its sheen as an epitome of cultural supremacy and transforming itself into a stinking politicised academic bastion where verbal, physical and even fatal assaults are not uncommon. And we all are to be blamed for this decadence - teachers, students, alumni and everyone else associated with this great institution. It is our collective failure to uphold the wonderful traditions and culture of this university.

"Khuda ne aaj tak us qaum ki haalat naheen badlee
na ho jisko khyal aap apni haalat ke badalne ka"
- Allama Iqbal

Thankfully, despite all this, we Aligs still share a unique and strong bond of brotherhood and that is perhaps unmatched in any other institution. Whenever and wherever two or more Aligs meet, especially outside Aligarh, their talks would often revolve around AMU, teachers, students, Sir Syed Day, university politics and even Shamshad Market or chungi.

We Aligs, no matter even if we are strangers, get into prolonged discussions on the above topics unlike alumni of other institutes whose exchanges are generally limited to asking each others' course, batch and hostel etc. No doubt, Aligs have a strong sense of belongingness to the alma mater and we all are proud of it. I have observed this phenomenon unmistakeably at almost every place that I have visited within India and abroad.

In my personal opinion, we should work collectively to upgrade the university. Some of our Alig brothers and sisters have contributed generously in terms of financial support. We all have a responsibility to help our alma mater in other intangible ways. The negative campaigns will not help in any way. Our alma mater, deserves the rightful place as the top university in India (which still seems to be a dream for us).



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