Arrogance Personified: MHRD Minister Smriti Irani forces AMU VC to Quit Delegation

The arrogance and uncouth behaviour of minister for HRD Minister in the Modi government, Smriti Irani surfaced yet again, recently when she humiliated and insulted Vice Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Zameeruddin Shah when a joint delegation met her last month. The delegation included Kerala chief minister, Oommen Chandy other ministers and members of parliament (MPs) from the state along with Shah seeking support for the setting up of the AMU Centre in Malappuram which is not progressing as planned. According to a reliable source, she told them bluntly, “This [Mallapuram] centre and other AMU centres were established without any legal sanction; hence they all will be closed down.” has confirmed that Irani even went to the extent of telling the VC to leave her room!
The meeting began badly. When the delegation headed by the Kerala chief minister Chandy met the HRD minister in her office in Delhi on January 8, 2016 seeking her support, she started with, “How could you start a centre like this?…What authority does the VC have to take such an action. We are not going to give money.” She then went on to say, “There was no need for the AMU centres. I am going to close them down. We will not give any grant for this purpose.”

To this, the Kerala CM painstakingly explained to her how the Kerala government had allocated 345 acres of precious land in Perinthalmanna taluka of Malappuram for this purpose on the understanding that a full-fledged AMU centre will function there with a grant from the Centre. “Take it back!” the HRD minister thundered.

While this unpleasant discussion was on between the HRD minister and the Kerala CM-led delegation, the AMU vice chancellor Lt. Gen (retd) Zameeruddin Shah entered the room. Irani then excelled herself. Turning on him, she said, “Why have you come?” He politely replied, “Ma’am, I have come at the invitation of the Kerala Chief Minister.”

She shot back in anger: “Who pays your salary? The Kerala CM or the HRD Ministry? Go back and sit in your room!” The VC was forced to leave in these humiliating circumstances while a stunned CM and his delegation looked on in utter disbelief, but remained silent.

There was a second meeting between the HRD minister and the Kerala CM at Trivandrum on January 14, 2016. Before the second meeting, a BJP delegation had visited the AMU centre at Malappuram. During the second meeting, the HRD minister repeated what she had said in Delhi but also said, “We will not give you anything extra!” This, in reality means that while the minister and her government have no immediate plan to close down the AMU centres it will allow it to meet a natural death. She has also unilaterally refused to allow an AMU school to function at the centre.

It was in 2010 that the AMU had taken a decision to open five off-campus centres, one each at Murshidabad, Malappuram, Kishanganj, Bhopal and Pune, which all were to be fully functional by 2020. Out of these, only the first three are partially functioning but without any school which would greatly add to their charm as students passing out from AMU schools have a 50 percent quota in AMU faculties and colleges. The HRD minister’s rejection of approving schools for these centres is designed to rob them of their appeal for the local people to send their children here, where these centre are established.

The crude and unacceptable behaviour of a central minister is not the first time that anyone to do with AMU — be it student or vice chancellor – has experienced. Earlier a delegation of women students from AMU were also insulted by Irani.

The posturing of the current HRD minister – as if the AMU VC took a unilateral decision to establish these centres—belies facts. In fact, these centres were part of the Union government’s scheme for the educational uplift of the Muslim community in the wake of the alarming Sachar Committee report of 2006. The academic and executive councils approved this scheme which was finally okayed in May 2010 by the then President of India who is the Visitor of the university. Before the establishment of these centres, the Union government engaged the Educational Consultants India Ltd (EDCIL), a public sector company, which prepared the project report after which UGC released funds.

The Malappuram centre was established in 2010. Its projected growth for the year 2015 was 13,000 students and 13 faculties but even now it is offering only three courses, viz., MBA, BEd and LLB which are attended by only 400 students . The Murshidabad centre too is offering only these three courses while the Kishangarh centre is offering only BEd course.

In addition to offering free land for the Malappuram centre, the Kerala government had also built the infrastructure for the campus while funds for the buildings were released by the UGC. The current condition of the Malappuram centre is that it has a very small number of students and is offering only a few courses which means that the centre could die a natural death in a few years’ if some funds were not injected for a wider variety of courses to attract more students. It was in this context that the Kerala CM and MPs had initiated discussions with Irani.

The present Modi government has clearly made AMU a special target, even contesting its minority status in a matter pending in the Supreme Court. Incidentally, Zameeruddin Shah, who was then Lt General in the Indian Army had headed the Army deployed when the Gujarat carnage broke out in 2002.

Back in December 24, 2011, the then HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, while inaugurating the Malappuram Centre, had assured adequate funds for its future plans and development. In reply to a demand made by the Kerala chief minister in his presidential address at a function of the centre, Sibal had said, “Paise ki zaroorat hai to, hamaari taraf se koi kamee nahi hogi” (If money is needed, there will be no dearth of funds from our side).

[This report of is based on an initial report by Zafarul-Islam Khan, editor of The Milli Gazette, New Delhi; this magazine will carry the report in its forthcoming issue of the magazine, March 1-15, 2016)




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