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‘No plan to change names of AMU & BHU’: HRD minister opposes UGC’s suggestion

Priyata Brajabasi | Updated on: 9 October 2017, 20:11 IST
( Hemant Chawla/The India Today Group/Getty Images)

It appears that the Union Human Resources Development (HRD) Ministry and the University Grants Commission (UGC) aren't on the same page over changing the names of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Banaras Hindu University (BHU). HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Monday that the government had no plans to alter the names of the universities concerned. “The government has not made any decision to change the name of AMU and BHU,” Javadekar told ANI.

The clarification by the minister came after reports emerged of the UGC panel recommending that words like ‘Muslim’ and ‘Hindu’ in names of universities like Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Banaras Hindu University (BHU)- should be removed as they do not reflect the secular character of the universities.

The UGC had set up five audit panels at the behest of the HRD ministry to probe complaints of irregularities against 10 central universities. Although the BHU was not one of the universities being audited, the UGC referred the name change in the Aligarh Muslim University’s audit report.

In its audit of AMU, the committee suggested that the institution should either be called just ‘Aligarh University’ or be named after its founder, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. It cited the same reason to recommend that BHU’s name be amended, too.

AMU was inspected by a committee comprising IIT-Madras professor Shripad Karmalkar, Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati University V-C Kailash Sodani, Guwahati University professor Mazhar Asif and IIM-Bangalore professor Sankarshan Basu.

Meanwhile, faculty members and students at both AMU and BHU objected to UGC’s proposal to change the names.

AMU’s Public Relations Officer Omar Peerzada told Catch, “The names, 'Aligarh Muslim University' and 'Banaras Hindu University', do not mean that these universities are not secular. They have always been secular. It is not that only Muslim students are enrolled in AMU and only Hindu students are enrolled in the BHU. AMU Admission policy is transparent, and based on merit.”

He added, “Removing the word ‘Muslim’ will not ensure that the institution will become more secular than it is now. The name is the essence of this institution since its inception.”

Professor of Ancient Indian history, culture and archeology at Banaras Hindu University, MP Ahirwar told Catch, “There is always a political motive behind every government decision especially in terms of education. It seems like the Aligarh Muslim University is being targeted for its minority status and its Muslim population. If the government wants to really make these institutions more secular by changing names then they must start with changing BHU name first. If you think about it, BHU doesn’t have minority status or reservations for backward Hindu communities different from other central universities. It has no constitutional foundations like AMU. Hence, it makes more sense for the word ‘Hindu’ to be removed Banaras Hindu University. AMU on the other hand has a minority status so it makes sense for the institute to have the name it does.”

Professor Rajendra Singh of BHU said, “Changing a shop's signboard cannot change the product it sells. Instead of undertaking major works like starting new courses and other facilities, the UGC’s priority is changing names. And the audit was meant for ‘academic, research, financial and infrastructure audit’”.

He added that both universities are traditional and should remain in that context.

Another professor, Devvrat Choubey said, “The words 'Hindu' and 'Muslim' (in the universities) are age-old. These universities are connected to our history and are renowned all over the world with this name. If there is tampering with the educational quality in the way that it promotes communalism or terror, then only can such a suggestion be heeded to”.

It was earlier reported that the audit panel also recommended that the selection process of AMU’s vice-chancellor should be changed to align it with the appointment procedure followed by other central universities. AMU Act currently gives more power to the university in the appointment process.

The UGC report has also said AMU promoted "inbreeding" and that the varsity didn't have a ‘national character.’ The report pointed out that a majority of faculty appointments are of former students. The panel recommended a five-year gap for all ex-students before they can be recruited as teachers in AMU. The report also raised concerns over complaints regarding teachers being promoted even when there are no vacant posts.

First published: 9 October 2017, 20:11 IST
Priyata Brajabasi @PriyataB

Priyata thinks in words and delivers in pictures. The marriage of the two, she believes, is of utmost importance. Priyata joined the Catch team after working at Barcroft Media as a picture desk editor. Prior to that she was on the Output Desk of NDTV 24X7. At work Priyata is all about the news. Outside of it, she can't stay far enough. She immerses herself in stories through films, books and television shows. Oh, and she can eat. Like really.