Amnah Khalid, BeyondHeadlines
New Delhi: The minority status of Jamia Millia Islamia today stands contested by not a Rightist organization but one Firoz Bakht Ahmad, a commentator on social and educational issues, in the Delhi High Court. The varsity was recently reaffirmed a minority institution by the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions ( NCMEI) in the wake of a notice issued by the center to implement 27 percent quota for other backward classes (OBC) in all central universities or face withdraw of funding.
The petition challenges that Jamia was administered by Muslims (powered by through the Jamia Millia Islamia Society before becoming a central university in 1988. By declaring it a minority institution, its graduates will be marginalized, ghettoized and move away from mainstream society into isolation and discrimination defeating its purpose.
A similar move by the government had forced the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) administration into protecting its identity of minority character and implementing 50 percent quotas in professional courses a few years ago.
The university was established during the Khilafat Movement of the 1920s with the aim at promoting religious and secular education among Indian Muslims. This was in response to Gandhiji’s call to boycott all government funded institutions.
The university was founded by a host of Students Union leaders who became National leaders like Dr Zakir Hussain. It was declared a “deemed university” in 1962 by newly formed Universities Grant Commission in 1960 and upgraded to the status of a central university in 1988.
However, the Jamia Millia Islamia Society was dissolved through an act of Parliament, and a university came into existence from it. Its character was largely understood to be of minority covered under the Article 30, which gave the minority community the right to establish and administer minority educational institutions. This was challenged in Aftab Alam Saklini & Anr vs Jamila Millia Islamia in 1997, and the Delhi High Court stuck down its right to administer in quotas relating to Urdu and employees.
The matter was brought up by the National Commission for Minorities ( NCM) to the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) to make appropriate amendments to the Jamia’s Act. The appeal tied the decision to the decision of T.M.A. Pai, which clarified that a minority institution does not ceases on its conversion to a university.
Muslims are unable to decide on the best direction to take in the complex issues the community will face. Jubilations have died down and hard realities have set in.
(Amnah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)