By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
NEW DELHI â€“ Shock waves sent by murder of a student on campus of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) earlier this month have raised questions about the state of affairs here. Mazhar Naeem (21) was the third student to be murdered on the campus within less than half-a-year. Agitation displayed by some students, within a few hours of his murder, marked by their attacking the Vice-Chancellorâ€™s Lodge, AMU Teachersâ€™ staff club and the Proctor Office led the university be closed sine die from September 17. Students were asked to vacate the hostels within 48 hours. Given that about 25,000 students reside in AMU hostels, it needs to be emphasized that their educational pursuit has been thrown out of gear by sine die closure of the university. When the students can from no angle be held accountable for such incidents occurring on the campus, why should they be made scapegoats, the victims?
The greater need of the hour is to consider ways in which AMU remains in the headlines for achievements of its students and not for their falling prey to criminal elements. As expressed by Naeemâ€™s father, Naeem Ahmad Khan, a high school teacher in eastern Uttar Pradesh: â€œI was busy doing my job and thought sending my son to AMU would make him a successful man who would share my responsibilities. With his death, I have gone back 20 years in my life.â€ His eldest son Athar Zaheer, a spastic, can hardly walk, while the youngest Azhar Tariq is 11-year-old. He also has three daughters. While Azhar has qualified for admission to a government-run school, he and his wife are at present in no mood to send him away for education. Why should they, asked Khan: â€œIf my most gentle son could be so ruthlessly killed, how can I have any hope left?â€
Why? There is an opinion that porous entry into AMU has made it possible for criminal elements to enter the campus as and when they desire only to recede into the background after having created disturbance here. This also implies that so far adequate measures have not been taken to ensure security at the campus. It has also been expressed that some elements are always on the lookout of opportunities to create disturbances on the campus. In this context, a reference may be made to noise recently made about the alleged abuse of a girl student in AMU. A committeeâ€™s probe projected it be a baseless rumor â€œmotivated from a deep-rooted conspiracy to destabilize the university.â€ This incident plus this yearâ€™s three murders demand a probe into the probable factor that seem to have in the recent past only encouraged the people keen on disturbing the AMU atmosphere.
There is a view, that over the past decade and a half, so far no action has been taken for the murders on the campus. Iqbal Barula, a teacher of theology was murdered in early 1990s. This has been followed by murder of history teachers Rajiv Sharma and I.G. Khan, murder of a student Nadeem in 1996 and three murders this year. Though police appears to have swung into action regarding Naeemâ€™s murder, there has been no report of anybody having faced punishment for the earlier crimes. Not punishing perpetuators of such crimes is equivalent to giving them almost a free hand in indulging in such acts. Who should be blamed for criminals going scot-free?
In case of Naeemâ€™s murder, police appear to have acted more promptly. Three youths, Ashraf, Sadiq and Tariq, living in a locality adjacent to campus, according to police have confessed to having killed Naeem. They said they had attacked him to snatch his mobile and had no intention to kill him. The three were arrested this Sunday (September 23).
It has also been expressed that of late, there has been resentment in AMU owing to some measures taken by the new Vice-Chancellor P.K. Abdul Aziz, who joined this year in June. In addition to his academic credentials being questioned, while senior PhD students have opposed his decision to reduce their intake and not accept their theses if they submit the same after five years of registration, teachers have expressed resentment against removal of their additional administrative responsibilities. There may or may not be validity in such allegations. However, this also exposes a gnawing weakness affecting the atmosphere on campus, lack of effective interaction between the faculty, administration and the students.
With due respect to the authoritiesâ€™ decision to undertake some drastic measures to ensure greater security and prevention of crime on the campus, adequate importance also needs to be given to including students in this drive. In this direction, there is the apparent need of taking effective measures to ensure adequate communication between the faculty, administration and students. It is tragic that the prestigious university of yester-years is now hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons. The students, it must be noted, come to AMU to carve out their future and not fall prey to uninvited criminal elements. With their not being at fault, but the weakness lying in the university lacking adequate facilities to ensure a peaceful and secure atmosphere on the campus, they should not be made scapegoats. The students need to be given as much attention as possible to ensure the implementation of what Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898), the founder of this university had visualized. In his words: â€œFrom the seed which we sow today there may spring up a mighty tree, whose branches, like those of the banyan of the soil shall in their turn strike firm roots into the earth, and themselves sent forth new and vigorous saplings; that this college may expand into a university, whose sons shall go forth throughout the length and breadth of the land to preach the gospel of free inquiry, of large-hearted toleration, and of pure morality.â€