Manipur Governor and former minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla has been elected as the first woman Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia. Heptulla’s name had been in contention, and she was elected as Chancellor for a period of five years by a unanimous show of hands during a special meeting of the university’s court held on May 25, officials said. She took over from former Chancellor Lt Gen (Retd) M A Zaki on May 26, officials added. “The university will greatly benefit from her rich experience in both political and public life. It will be our privilege to work with her and to learn from her distinguished career internationally and in Parliament,” Jamia Vice-Chancellor Talat Ahmad said.
While some students voiced discomfort over the “political appointment”, a professor called the move “routine” and said that “Chancellor is a ceremonial post”. Jamia deputy media coordinator Saima Saeed said, “She is an illustrious and distinguished person; I don’t think the university could have a better chancellor. She’s a seasoned politician and somebody who’s championed the cause of both minorities and women.”
Heptulla has been a five-time member of the Rajya Sabha between 1986 and 2012 and deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha for 16 years. She was elected president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union — a Geneva-based organisation — from 1999 to 2002, and was nominated by the United Nations Development Programme as its human development ambassador.