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Saturday, November 07, 2009 05:16:58 PM, Soroor Ahmed

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While the process of land acquisition for four other centers of Aligarh Muslim  University has set in motion, in Bihar the whole exercise has got mired in controversy. And the credit for giving birth to this row goes to none else, but the chief minister Nitish Kumar. Though the AMU and the Union government sought 250-300 acres of land in Katihar district the state government last September gave just 100 acres of land and that too in Kishangan district.


In Kerala 397 acres have almost been acquired in Malappuram district while the West Bengal government has already started the process of transferring 350 acres of Farakka Barrage land in Murshidabad district to the AMU. A five-member team led by AMU Vice Chancellor, P K Abdul Azis, has already visited Malappuram and Murshidabad a few weeks back.


However, in Bihar Muslim leaders see a deliberate design in the chief minister’s move to give land in Kishanganj instead of Katihar. The general secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party, Tariq Anwar, who was instrumental in getting the centre approved for Katihar, said that the chief minister was playing politics. Many other leaders feel that this political drama may delay the establishment of the AMU centre in Bihar. Some of them fear that this controversy might even lead to the shelving of the project. As this political drama was going on the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the students’ wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which incidentally is an alliance partner in the Nitish Kumar government, took to streets of  Kisltariganj opposing the setting up of AMU centre in the district. They even burnt the effigy of the chief minister. All these activities raise strong suspicion in the mind of the common folk in the region.


It needs to be mentioned that the AMU first sent its proposal to the Bihar government in November 2008. Its Vice Chancellor P K Abdul Azis wrote a letter to Nitish requesting him to make available to AMU about 250-300 acres of contiguous land free of cost with water and power supply.


The content of the letter said: "l have great pleasure to inform you that Katihar in your state has been selected for establishing one such centre with a desire to cater to the needs of the people in that region and adjoining states. lt was on the eve of the last parliamentary election in April-May that Nitish disclosed having received a proposal from AMU and said that he would give land at Kishanganj. However, against the requirement of a minimum of 250 acres of land, his government gave only 100 acres.


According to media reports the state government allotted 100 acres of land in spite of the fact that the district magistrate of Kishanganj, Firagh Ahmad, had sent papers of 260 acres of acquired land to the state government.


The idea of establishing five campuses of AMU at Murshidabad in West Bengal, Malappuram in Kerala, Bhopal ic Madhya Pradesh and Pune in Maharashtra besides Katihar in Bihar was mooted by a committee headed by the then Union minister of state for Human Resources Development Mohammad Ali Ashraf Fatmi, which had recommended that AMU should examine the feasibility of its expansion to increase access to good quality higher and professional education beyond its current reach. lt also recommended substantial assistance by the Union government to such centers. Similar recommendation was made by the National Committee for Minorities Education in July, 2008.


The total cost of five centers would be Rs 2,000 crore, that is, Rs 400 crore each. The Centre has even allotted the initial installment of Rs 25 crore for this purpose to Murshidabad and Malappuram centers.


While Nitish argues that he is giving land in Kishanganj, instead of P neighbouring Katihar, because the literacy rate in V this Muslim-dominated district is abysmally low. The truth is that the literacy rate in Katihar, which also has a sizeable Muslim population, is not much better. Besides, to improve the literacy rate the state government should open primary and middle schools, and ensure the presence of teachers in them. Instead, the state government, it is alleged,   wanted to drive a wedge among local political stalwarts.


Nitish deliberately tried to create confusion g before the Lok Sabha election. Congress leader, Maulana  lsrar-uI- Haque, was contesting on Congress ticket while Taslimuddin was the Rashtirya Janata Dal’s candidate from Kishanganj. The Janata Dal (United) nominee was nowhere in contest. Similarly, Tariq Anwar was fighting on the NCP ticket from neighbouring Katihar seat, which he had represented four times in the past. The purpose was to sow the seed of discontent among these leaders. And it so happened. 


One of the RJD leaders, the party’s MLA from l Kishanganj, Akhtar-ul-lman, without applying his mind, welcomed the chief minister’s announcement · of giving land made earlier this year in his home town. lt was much later that he realized that the issue is not Katihar or Kishanganj but a ploy to pitch different Muslim leaders against each other.


At present Kishangan is represented by Maulana lsrar-ul-Haque in Parliament. Taslimuddin, who has lost, is being wooed by Nitish to his side and he is using the land for AMU centre to win over the support of the Muslims of the district.


Whether a centre is established in Katihar or Kishanganj is not the issue as students – this includes thousands of girls too - from these districts travel as far as Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Surat and Aligarh to pursue higher education. There is no problem for young college students of Kishangani to travel 50-60 kms to reach Katihar.

Katihar was chosen because it has better infra- structure. True both Kishanganj and Katihar are situated on the National Highway yet the latter has the divisional headquarters of railways and all important trains, including Rajdhani, stop here.


Muslim leaders are of the view that by whipping up this totally unnecessary political controversy the chief minister has only tarnished his own image among the community. Like the Nalanda International University (the brainchild of former President A P J Abdul Kalam), the IIT-Patna, and a Central University for Bihar - there are 17 such universities to be opened all over lndia - the campus of the AMU is a central government project and the state has nothing to do anything, except provide land. Yet Nitish wants to project himself in such a way as if he is opening the AMU - or all the above mentioned institutes - in Bihar. This is boomeranging on him, yet he is not realizing.

(The Milli Gazette)










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