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By Syed Ali Mujtaba, Edited By Adam Rizvi, The India Observer: The Supreme Court judgment on the minority character of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) is reserved after the prolonged hearing. Even before the Apex Court may pronounce its verdict, it is widely guessed that it will be against the Minority Character of the AMU.
The reason for such wild imagination is that the Supreme Court in recent times has fallen in line with the BJP’s government whose agenda is to shed the Muslim burden through the aid of the judiciary. We have seen this in the judgment in the Babari masjid, in the Article 370 case. So there is no illusion that the Supreme Court will rob the minority character of the Aligarh Muslim University. This verdict undoubtedly will be an effort to massage the ego of a majoritarian community in India.
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Before going into further discussion on the issue of minority character to AMU, a snapshot of the case in hand will make the picture crystal clear for which the judgment is eagerly awaited.
In 1875 a School and 1877 MAO College was established with permission and approval from the British Government. In 1920 MAO College was granted the status of University with 124 Muslim Member Court to manage the affairs of AMU and appoint officers of the AMU including the Vice Chancellor. It was also approved that besides modern education, the University will also give mandatory religious education, thus establishing the minority character of the University.
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The Indian Constitution was adopted in 1950 that provided the provision of Article 30 which gave the right to the Minorities to establish and manage institutions and reserve seats for their community.
In 1951 when mandatory religious education conflicted with the secular constitution of India, the former was changed to ‘optional subject’.
In 1965, the quota of internal students was dropped from 75% to 50%. Students in AMU held huge protests which led to an attack on the then VC Nawab Ali Yawar Jang. In its wake Union government issued an ordinance where it was declared that Minority Character was taken away and the entire AMU Court and Executive Council members were to be filled by the Government appointees.
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It’s then Mr. Aziz Basha from Madras and others filed a Case in the Supreme Court against the decision of the Government to take away the minority character of the AMU. In 1967 Supreme Court decided against the Aziz Basha case and AMU Minority Character was abolished.
The AMU Alumni and students launched an agitation for the restoration of the minority character of the AMU. This author, an Alig along with others agitated on the India Gate in 1979 for the same reason. Finally in 1981 Indian Parliament overruled the Supreme Court Decision of 1967 and restored AMU Minority Character. AMU was a scene of jubilation and this author was a preview to this jamboree on the campus.
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In 2005, AMU implemented 50% reservations for Muslims with the approval of the Ministry of Human Resource and Development. This was challenged in Allahabad High Court and AMU lost the case and High Court upheld the 1967 decision of the Supreme Court. After that, the AMU appealed to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Stayed Allahabad High Court’s decision and decided to revisit the case.
Now in 2024 the Supreme Court after hearing the arguments from both sides completed the proceedings of the case and has reserved the Judgment.
Arguing on behalf of the AMU, senior advocate Kapil Sibal told the Supreme Court that every minority community enjoyed the constitutional guarantee to administer educational institutions established by it and engagement of a large number of non-minority people in the administration would not alter the institution’s denominational status.
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Advocate Sibal further said MAO College was wholly established and managed by the Muslim community, being the precursor of Aligarh Muslim University. He added once AMU was proven to have been established by the Muslim community, in keeping with the fundamental right conferred under Article 30(1) of the Constitution that has the intrinsic right to administer it.
During the argument of the case, Advocate Sibal had said, “It will be a sad day if the Supreme Court declares AMU to be a non-minority institution as the Muslim student participation in IITs and IIMs is mere 1% or 2%. AMU is the only institution of national importance and excellence where Muslims could get a reservation to alleviate the educationally backward status of the community.”
The counterargument to this case is that a nationally-funded institution cannot have a minority character even if passes the test of Article 30 (1) that the minority community can ‘establish and administer’ their educational institution to uplift their community.
It needs to be reiterated that AMU is not a mere university but has been the vanguard of the Aligarh Movement that gave a push to establish a modern system of scientific education for the Muslims of the country. The Aligarh Movement has acted as a renaissance among the Muslims and as a result, they have joined shoulders in the effort of nation-building. Robbing the minority character of AMU will impact Muslim education in India. It will be an assault on the souls of Indian Muslims. This BJP government is snatching away from the Muslims one after other things that are closer to their hearts.
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