AMU Minority Status - A Historical Perspective

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The controversy over granting Minority Status to Aligarh Muslim University (AMI) is unfortunate and unwarranted. In this connection an article by well known legal luminary of India Shri N. R. Madhava Menon (published on 22nd Feb. 2016 in a National English Daily)) throws much light on the historical and secular reasons for granting special status to the University and explains "Why AMU should be an exception."

Mr. N.R. Madhava Menon is considered by many as the father of modern legal education in India. He is the founder Director of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) and the National Judicial Academy, Bhopal and the founder Vice Chancellor of the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences.

Mr. Menon says that "It is clear that AMU is an institution of national importance and should be treated as such by the Central and State governments."

In his opinion “Every institution of higher learning develops its own character and identity based on its history, leadership, scholarship, and student body. Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), which occupies a unique place among pre-Independence universities in India, carries an identity which depicts the idea of India in its character of pluralism, inclusiveness and unity in diversity."

He rightly observes that “It may or may not be a minority institution in the strict legal sense, but it is an institution for minorities fully financed by the Indian state which showcases how minorities are treated in the Republic even after the forced Partition of the country based on religion."

Since Mr. Menon is an alumnus of AMU, he says with rather authority that "AMU continued to be the destination for Muslims from all over India seeking higher education, with the result one finds many of them in leadership positions in nation-building activities across the country and beyond. Every educated Muslim has some link or the other with AMU which, in turn, helped to fulfill the mission of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of AMU, to uplift the community from backwardness and isolation. Thus perceived, AMU requires special treatment in the Indian scheme of things. The university stands to gain monetarily and otherwise if it has minority status."

The opinion of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad about Minority (Muslim) Status of Aligarh Muslim University as expressed by him in his Lecture (Khutba) delivered at Calcutta on 27th October, 1914 cannot be overlooked. (Ref.: Khutbat-e-Azad (Lectures of Azad), page No. 27, Published by Sahitya Academy, New Delhi, 1997. Introduction/Edited by Malik Ram).

In his Lecture, Maulana Azad stressed the need of a Muslim University for the “Baqa (survival, presence, continuance) of Islam in India”. He said” of all the duties for Muslims of India, the most important is to establish a University for which an amount of Rs thirty lakhs has to be collected.”

“The establishment of a University will be fulfillment of our Prophet’s Sharia (religious injunction) about Education”, he declared. He also quoted the Quranic Verse 3 of Surah Almaidah (Translation: We have finally granted Favour to you), saying that this “Verse will appear on top of Strachy Hall (A famous Hall at AMU); the moment Muslim University comes into existence”.

The words of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru in his masterpiece “Discovery of India” are also ample historical proof for the Minority (Muslim) Status of Aligarh College, which became Aligarh Muslim University in 1920. According to Pandit Nehru “Sir Syed was an ardent reformer and he wanted to reconcile modern scientific thought with Islam. One of the declared objects of the Aligarh College he (Sir Syed) founded was to make the Musalmans of India worthy and useful.”

“He was anxious to make them accept English education and thus to draw them (Muslim) out of their conservative shells. He had been much impressed by what he had seen of European civilization.” (Discovery of India, Oxford University Press, 23rd Ed. 2003, Page No. 243-44)

May I appeal to the concerned authorities to take note of the views of great sons of India? Any record and proof, historically, morally and legally, cannot be more authentic than the words uttered by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, the great advocates for secularism and Hindu Muslim Unity. Granting Muslim Status to Aligarh University will be a big step forward for the cause of unity and integrity of India. Any decision contrary to it will hurt the feelings of a large section of population, both Hindus and Muslim and a setback to secularism. It is the duty of all Indians not to disturb the secular fabric of Indian Society.

Aligarh Muslim University is known throughout the world as an excellent seat of learning for modern knowledge. Spirited alumni of Aligarh have excelled in every walk of life and have contributed greatly for better scientific, cultural and trade relations of our country with many countries of the world in general and West Asia as well as Africa in particular. Any step to dampen their spirit should be discouraged.


Dr. M.I.H. Farooqi, Deputy Director (Retd.), National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, Member, U.P. State Biodiversity Board, Secretary Urdu Scientific Society

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