Jamia Millia Islamia is trying to shed the widely
perceived "superior madrassa" tag, says Vice Chancellor Najeeb Jung,
asserting that his job is to position the 90-year-old university as
a modern, secular institution of learning for one and all.
"We are not a superior madrassa. I
don't know why many people think we are some kind of a Muslim
university," Jung told IANS in an interview at his well-appointed
campus office. "We want to change that mindset of people. That tag.
I am convinced of it.
"We are a great institution. We are
modern and secular. There is no other institution in the country as
representative of India as Jamia," he said, adding that "the
institution was established by great nationalists who were opposed
to the idea of Pakistan".
Jung is from the Indian Administrative
Service (IAS) and was a surprise choice to succeed Mushirul Hasan
four months ago. The university, established in 1920 by an act of
parliament, has around 19,000 students. Jung said his students were
from all religious denominations and not just Muslims.
The university celebrates Ramzan and
Diwali with equal fervour, he said. "You can see our boys and girls
are hanging out in the lawns and cafes. There is no restriction."
Asked what he is going to do different
to shed the 'Muslim label' of the university, Jung said: "Its very
difficult. This is no magic wand. There is no formula that you will
use to change it from tomorrow. It will happen over a period of
"We need to consolidate what we have.
Children come here with hope that they will go with highest
education. When they leave they should not go away with the feeling
that there is something missing from the side of administration. I
am for bigger classrooms, better laboratories.
"That's why I am working on emotional,
social and educational sustenance of students. Students are coming
to the institution from the interiors of India.... They must leave
as finished article.
"When my students are coming here,
they should not feel that they have come to some alien world. We
want to tell our students and parents that its a home away from
home. They must feel that they are in the company of surrogate
parents. My people should learn that they are our children."
He said he was inviting faculty from
foreign universities to teach at Jamia that has had such illustrious
persons as former Indian president Zakir Hussain as its vice
chancellor for 26 years. The faculty exchange programme, Jung feels,
will help the cause.
The university has signed agreements
with around two dozen foreign institutions. "Its a long serious task
(to shed the tag) but I believe in next three-four years it will
"We are also trying to bring more
students from farflung areas, from Kashmir to Kerala. We are going
to open entrance examination centres in Kerala, Bihar, Assam,
Hyderabad, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal ... from where we can
"Clearly the idea is not to get only
Muslims. The idea is universal education."
The vice chancellor, who was pursuing
a fellowship at Oxford University when he was sounded out for the
job, said he has forgone his salary that would be used to find the
education of poor girl students.
"It is going to a corpus and my aim is
to fund bright girls who cannot fund their education. And it would
not be on religious lines."
Ask him what he has achieved in the
last four months since he joined, Jung, who says he is wary of media
publicity, said simply: "I now have a great rapport with my
students. I take pride in that."
How does the faculty view him as he
was earlier seen as an outsider? Jung said: "There is no bias among
faculty towards me. It is sometimes good to be an outsider. You can
take decisions objectively."
(Prashant K. Nanda
can be contacted at