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A tale of  AMU’s Two Upsurges: 1965 and 2007- 09

Thursday, October 29, 2009 09:42:10 PM, Dr Mohammad Sajjad

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On Sunday, 25 October 2009, at around 10 p.m. a student of B. Sc. Final Year Chemistry was reported to have been killed at an eatery near the Aligarh railway station; quite painful, bitter and highly unfortunate. This, reportedly, was an unexpected outcome of a minor altercation on seemingly inconsequential fracas over mobike parking. Since the mishap took place outside the campus and the alleged killer was not an employee/ student of the AMU, there is, I think, absolutely no justification for the agitating students to demand the resignations of the VC and some of his high functionaries. Aren't they asking for moon? The agitation should be directed more against the provincial govt.’s administration to nab the killer. The AMUTA is said to have demanded compensatory amount and a job for the next kin of the killed; this again has to be taken up with the UP govt, rather than with the AMU administration.. May I appeal to the angry agitating students to take note of these nuances? They should be able to see through the dangerous politics of dark-room manipulators.


At the most, the AMU administration could be faulted on neglecting the canteen-infrastructure and one may demand that the AMU administration should take steps towards establishing some (not one) well provisioned canteens, like the ones on the JNU campus. This particular “demand” has been raised by many including Prof. Mushirul Hasan in his column in the Indian Express after the September 2007 upsurge. Should we still hope that the AMU will, at least now, learn a lesson and will do the needful soon?


But, even after the killer being arrested by the police, why do we witness such a highly misguided student “activism”, disrupting all academic activities when the semester exams of most of the courses are about to be held in early December? Is it being engineered by the desperate detractors of the VC? About AMU, it is often said that the student upsurges are invariably engineered/sustained by some “lobbies” to incapacitate the VC, who will in turn depend upon these lobbies, who will consequently extract favours of lucrative/ powerful positions of academic administration, promotion, contracts/ kickbacks etc. Is it really true? If yes, then the needles of suspicion could well be pointed not only on the hitherto ‘known’ detractors but also on the loyalists of the VC.

Already there are speculations rife in the campus about who are the professors fixing their eyes on the posts of Pro-VC, and Directors of the proposed “off-campuses”. In my essay, “AMU Crisis: Some Questions from an Insider” (Milli Gazette, 1-15 Nov 2007; also circulated on the alumni group mails) I had raised many such questions which are still relevant. Presumably, in response to my questions, though with inordinate delay, Justice Faizanuddin Enquiry was to be constituted to enquire into the crises of April-September 2007, so that the actors behind the machinations (if any) could be exposed and punished. That it proved to be a non-starter, for whatever reasons/ justifications is known to all. And therefore, upsurges keep visiting us? Should the tainted people be given administrative assignments? Can we have peace without justice?

Particularly when the agitation is headed towards a wrong path, a teacher may calm down such agitated mob of students only if s/he is equipped with knowledge, morality and compassion. Are we, the teachers, deficient in these three academic quotients? Why do the students and the world at large assume/ believe that we indulge in corruption while discharging the academic administration? What have we done to dispel such (mis)conceptions?


For the reasons of propriety and expediency, a small creature like me doesn’t have the audacity of saying things in more words than these. But kindly allow me to narrate a history of student violence in AMU in April 1965. Can we really draw a parallel between the two pages of history i.e. April 1965 and Sept’07/Oct’09? [Let us assume, for an analytical convenience, that the Oct’09 upsurge is an extension of the upsurge of Sept’07].


Just as the September’07 upsurge was not enquired by the Justice Faizanuddin, the murderous assault on Ali Yavar Jung, the then VC-AMU, on 18 April 1965, was not enquired by a judicial enquiry. The 1965 upsurge was also preceded by an expose (official enquiry 1961) of corruption and financial irregularities in the AMU administration (Link, 26 August 1962). [One does not know whether the then VC really punished the scamsters indicted by the official enquiry 1961, much like shelving the Justice Mathew Report]. Ever since that expose of 1961, the violence of 1965 was, sort of, in the making. Factional feuds, clustering around two professors, for VC-ship and over the issue of appointments were developing like a menace. The immediate precipitant of the 1965 fracas, however, was the decision of reducing the “internal” quota of admissions from 75% to 50%, which ‘touched the raw nerve of the Muslims’. The then Pro-VC was among the suspects for having engineered the attack on the VC.[Theodre P. Wright Jr, 1966]


The then Education Minister, M.C. Chagla (an ex-Muslim Leaguer turned ultra-secularist) played a politics which heavily impacted the ‘minority character’ of AMU. Chagla through the Union Cabinet, got suspended the AMU constitution, passed an ordinance through which the religious composition of the members of the Executive Council was changed drastically. Unscrupulous political meddling took the tall of academic freedom and autonomy. Chagla’s intention was to take away the teachers’ representation in the EC (Times of India, 21 May 1965), and he did succeed, as the number of the communists and non-Muslim members in the AMU Court and EC went high exponentially (Link, Oct. 29, 1961; Radiance, Sept 12, 1965). Only teacher to remain an EC member was Dr S. Husain Zaheer. In fact, it was this kind of official patronage, rather than ideological stridency and ground-activism, which imposed Left ‘hegemony’ on the decision making bodies of AMU in the 1960s.


The Chagla’s politics was vehemently opposed by the Bihar’s renowned nationalist Dr. Syed Mahmud’s newly formed All India Muslim Majlis Mashaweraat (AIMMM). In June 1965, the AIMMM and JIH put a charter of 6 demands before the Union govt, on Friday 16 July 1965, “Save AMU Campaign” was launched, and in August 1965 the AIMMM and its Dr Syed Mahmud, disappointed with the moderate politics on the issue, talked of non violent satyagraha techniques which fell on the deaf ears of the Union govt. Fissures within the ideologically incongruous components of the AIMMM, personal clashes within the leadership of the Jamiatul Ulema-e-Hind (JUH) and the conflicts between the Jamaat-e-Islami-e-Hind (JIH) and JUH put an adverse impact on the struggle for AMU’s minority character. The Indo-Pak war of August 1965 created a kind of situation in which Chagla could play his (dirty?) games more easily, all in the farcical names of communal harmony, national unity etc.. He even went on to say that the “communal and reactionary” elements plotted to kill the “nationalist and secular” VC. (Times of India, June 3, 1965). And a minor official in the Union Ministry of Education issued a press note (ostensibly to justify the suspension of the AMU constitution) that the AMU was producing graduate engineers and doctors to export to Pakistan. The fact is that the first batch of medical graduates was yet to pass out from the newly founded JNMCH. Chagla’s politics ‘smothered all democratizing amendments’ in the AMU statutes. The AMU (Amendment) Act of 1961 (sic)  was the outcome, resented by the Aligs, and huge majority of the community, except the AMU’s Leftists, the camp-followers and beneficiaries of Chagla’s patronage. The journey (1965-1981) of AMU in quest of its minority character has been too arduous and incomplete (Violette Graff, 1990).


Once again, we are locked in factional feuds, battles (for self-promotion?) and upsurges while the AMU’s minority character is sub-judice before a larger bench of the Supreme Court of India. Few more words in elaboration would have been more helpful, but as I said, I have my own limitations. Discerning readers can easily make out what is being left unsaid.


Gila hai shauq ko dil mein bhi tangi-e-jaa ka

Guhar mein mehva’  hua izteraab darya ka 




Dr Mohammad Sajjad is Asstt. Prof. (Lecturer)
Centre of Advanced Study in History
Aligarh Muslim University




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