By Maqbool A. Siraj
One has to grudgingly accept that restoration of minority status had become essential for Jamia Millia Islamia. It is a crutch on which the University must hobble on for quite a considerable period of time in future. Otherwise, in the mad race of merit, Muslim students will simply fail to get any place in the seats of higher learning in the capital city of India. But it would be better if the Jamia fixes up a timeframe for itself to remain a minority university. It maybe 25 to 35 years. Not beyond. Within this timeframe, the Jamia must set up a network of primary and high schools in the Muslim dominated areas in and around Delhi to serve as future feeding centres. These areas could be Okhla, Old Delhi, Mewat, the cities of Western Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Currently Delhi and Aligarh together have three huge Muslim/minority/Muslim-managed universities. But they remain without good feeding centres. A University of Jamia’s size should have at least 200 high schools, of which 50 should be high-end schools. But Delhi has hardly a dozen Muslim/Urdu high schools. As a result, the Jamia’s huge intake has to essentially depend upon high schools that send away non-minority students. While Muslim students fill up its Urdu, Persian, Arabic, and maybe West Asian and Islamic Studies departments to the tune of say 99%, the more meritorious non-Muslim students claim major chunk of seats in natural sciences, engineering, polytechnic, management and other market-savvy, job-oriented courses. It is not that Jamia should deny them admissions. But the fact is that no one among Muslims in Delhi has ever spared a thought towards cogent planning for higher education of the community.
Look at Bangalore, the Muslims here run as many as 250 English medium high schools and take seats in the colleges run by all communities on the basis of merit. They are yet to have a university of their own. At least 50 of these high schools are high-end and 60 per cent of the students on their rolls are non-Muslims. This situation has come about only because the community could think of its place in a future India where merit, not minority, will be the consideration.
Understandably, the above situation has compelled the Jamia authorities to think of seeking a minority status in order that the Muslim students rejected in the merit race in the open market, could at least gain a foothold in Jamia where 50% seats would be reserved for them regardless of merit. This is not an ideal step, but a pragmatic one, in the current context. In the absence of minority status, earlier the Jamia used to reserve 5% seats each for internal candidates (from its schools), wards of its employees and Urdu schools. This was merely to deflect the criticism of being pro-Muslim. But no one was being fooled. Now the minority status would allow it to be upfront.
It is also high time, the Jamia turned its school into English medium. Urdu should be necessarily taught as a compulsory language under 3-language formula to all those who register Urdu as their mother tongue. Opposition to the English medium by a few is quite understandable. Elements who are opposing the move are keen to make/retain the Jamia a family institute. Even the so-called secular intellectuals are always looking for Urdu medium, government-aided schools where their newly-arrived bhabis, salis, bhateejis from Rampur, Pilibhit, Bulandshahar, Meerut, Amroha and Sambhal could be accommodated as teachers. This happened with the AMU too where most staff was recruited from families from Deoband, Azamgarh and Lucknow. Lo and behold! The very moment the AMU vacancies are announced, the recruitment scene is a picture of battleground between these cartels. The English medium schools would bring in a lot of new talent from non-Muslim communities and the mould of inbreeding would melt.
Inward-looking policies are always the outcome of insecurities. Muslim minority should come out of it. For this two steps are necessary i.e., pragmatic steps to consolidate the present and visionary approach to shape the future. Looked from this perspective, the Jamia Vice Chancellor deserves a pat. Minority status would ensure that the Muslim students have at least some place for them as of now. English medium schools would ensure that in future they would not need crutches of reservation and hop on to borderless world of academic excellence, be it Delhi University, Indraprastha University or even JNU for seats.
(Maqbool A. Siraj is senior executive editor with Islamic Voice, a monthly magazine from Bangalore.)