Opposition unity was in full display in the Upper House as members led by the Congress and Samajwadi Party Friday raised the issue of alleged government interference in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), prompting adjournment of the House till noon.
SP’s Javed Ali Khan, through a Zero Hour mention, raised the issue of Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani reportedly declaring offsite centres of the university illegal and threatening to stop financial aid.
The university’s Executive Committee and Academic Council, drawing rights from Section 12 of AMU Act, in 2008 had decided to set up five off-campus centres. Three of them were made operational, he said, adding that the BJP government has now questioned that decision.
He said the AMU Vice Chancellor has in a statement said that the HRD Minister was declaring these centres illegal and threatening to stop assistance.
“They talk of ‘sab ka saath, sab ka vikas’ but want to deprive a large section of population of education,” he said, demanding a clarification from the government on the minority status of AMU and other such institutions.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the government was committed to protecting the minority status of AMU and other minority institutions. The AMU matter is in court and everyone should abide by whatever the judicial verdict, he said.
Dissatisfied by the answer, JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav and Congress’s Digvijaya Singh joined Khan in saying that the BJP government withdrew an affidavit given by the previous UPA government and submitted a new one in the Supreme Court, leading to the present situation.
CPI (M)’s Sitaram Yechury wanted the government to explain the new affidavit, while Congress’s Anand Sharma wanted an explanation as to why it changed the affidavit. “Why are you targeting minority institutions?” he asked.
Yechury said the issue was serious and had the potential of creating major communal polarisation. Some Opposition members also alleged that Naqvi was misleading the House. Kurien said if the minister was misleading, there was provision in the rule book which can be invoked. “If you want a discussion, give a notice. What can I do?”
Naqvi said the government was neither opposing, nor supporting AMU. This led to SP members trooping into the well, shouting slogans. Soon Congress and CPI(M) members also joined them in the well.
“This is also vote bank politics,” Kurien remarked, asking members to go back and give a notice if they wanted a discussion on the issue. But the members continued to raise slogans, alleging government interference. “I would request the agitated members, if you want result give notice. The chairman will consider it,” Kurien said.
But the members were unrelenting. Kurien tried to conduct the proceedings for some time but as the slogan-shouting continued, he adjourned the House till noon.