In relation to the recent decision by the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) designating Jamia Millia Islamia as a “Minority Institution,” Vice Chancellor Najeeb Jung called a meeting of all class representatives and faculty student advisors at the Ansari Auditorium on Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, to speak on the issue.
In Jung’s words, the meeting was called to layout the facts around the whole matter and to tell everyone on how the university plans to take this process forward. And in the process, allay any concerns that people might have on the issue.
He began by giving the audience a historical background on the establishment of Jamia Millia Islamia. He remarked that in terms of educational standards, the condition of Muslims back in 1920 when the institution was established, was not much different from what we have today. So to address this concern, people wanted to set up an elite educational institution which would raise the standard of education among Muslims of India.
Although Jamia was established for Muslims, it, however, was not meant “exclusively for Muslims,” he emphasized. “Because India,” he stated, “is not exclusively for Muslims.”
Jamia, he went onto say, was secular in character even before it was deemed a central university and it shall maintain its secular character even now.
“So for those,” he stated, “who have any apprehension that things will change, I for one can assure you that I do not perceive any change in relationships, teaching modes, courses that will be run.”
He added, “In fact it places a much greater onus on all my colleagues here to demonstrate to the outside world that Islamophobia, the fact that people are afraid that this will be run by fundamentalists or non-secularists is rubbish.”
That said, he told the audience, “I do not want to hear on this campus that things have changed.”
He explained that the desire for a minority status by Muslims should not be interpreted in communal terms. “I think the desire to get a minority status,” he said, “is the slow realization of a long pending request for education enhancement of 15% of Indians.”
“Affirmative action is taken by governments,” he added, “to reassure minorities that they have space in this country.”
Jamia, in his view, is here to provide a space for Muslims who cannot compete with the “more educated other classes”; who those other classes are, is something he did not specify.
In his view, nobody should see this as a victory for any one. It is a social cause, which makes it a “win-win” for all.
On the question of how this decision of the commission will be implemented, he said: “There are ways and mechanisms in government by which orders of court are implemented.” “So we will have to wait for the orders of the central government,” suggesting that this will take time and people should not have any expectation of it being implemented anytime soon.
He concluded his talk by telling the students to, “go back with complete assurance from me that there is no change in their status, that courses will continue to be run on a secular basis, by secular-modern teachers.”