Dr Tariq Mansoor, Aligarh Muslim University’s new Vice-Chancellor, speaks to Indian Express about his priorities for the next five years, which include ensuring a student-friendly campus. Edited excerpts from the interview:
What are your priorities as AMU’s new V-C?
My first work of order is to increase the research output. Then we have to improve the teaching standard… We have to also maintain discipline. We should not tolerate criminal acts on campus. Many of the troublemakers are outsiders.
How do you plan to tackle such troublemakers?
We need the support of the district administration. If somebody is not our student, we don’t have any disciplinary authority over him. Having said that, I want a student-friendly environment on campus. We can’t harass the entire student community to punish a few lumpen elements.
You are the first AMU professor in almost five decades to head AMU. Does this give you an edge over your predecessors?
Yes. I know everybody here. I know who is corrupt and who is honest… I am aware of the capabilities of many people here. I can get down to work from Day 1.
Lt. Gen (retd) Zameeruddin Shah wasn’t on very good terms with the HRD Ministry because of differences over AMU’s minority status and funds shortage faced by the off-campus centres at Malappuram, Kishanganj and Murshidabad. How do you intend to mend relations with the Centre?
I don’t want to comment on what happened between the government and my predecessor. But, funds crunch problem is not unique to AMU. It is being faced by universities all over India. We will ask the government for funds for our legitimate needs.
As far as the three centres are concerned, I think we need to focus on employment-focused courses instead of having BA and BSc programmes.
What is your stand on AMU’s minority character?
The minority status matter is subjudice. The university has presented its case in an exhaustive manner. AMU has had a unique character…Let the Supreme Court judgment come.
The Centre has opposed AMU’s claim to minority status. Will you reach out to the government?
Yes, definitely. We have to talk to everyone concerned. Things can only be solved through dialogue and discussion.
There was some opposition to your appointment as your name figured in a CAG report.
Nobody opposed me. In fact, I secured the highest votes in the university court meeting. As far as I know, nobody openly said that I’m not capable of being V-C. The paragraph in the CAG report was dropped after we sent our reply to them.
The UGC ordered an audit of AMU on grounds of receiving many complaints about its functioning.
First of all, it’s not an audit of only AMU. There are 10 other universities that will also be audited. It (audit) will help improve our performance.
AMU has rules that discriminate between its male and female students. Will you change that?
Men and women should have equal rights… In the medical college, which I head, all students work together. Girls here have complete access to the library. I’ve always treated them equally. We have rules but they are same for girls and boys studying medicine.
In that case what are your views about triple talaq?
I’m not a politician. I’m a medical professional. I want equal rights for women.
There is a perception that academic autonomy of institutions and freedom of speech on campus is under siege. Your views…
We are living in democratic country and everyone has freedom of speech…We have a strong press and judiciary. There may have been some aberrations, but otherwise we have a strong democratic system.
Your university last year received a letter from a BJP MP warning against anti-national activities on campus…
I’m not aware of such a letter. I don’t think there will be any such interference. We all are equal citizens of India…
How do you define nationalism?
A nationalist is someone who does his duty. I learnt this from my teacher Mahdi Hasan, who won the Padma award. He used to tell me that you are a nationalist if you complete the job you are assigned.
Your views on the new state government’s ban on illegal slaughterhouses and anti-Romeo squads?
We have to give the new government a chance. It’s too early to judge them. Till now I think they are active as far as law and order is concerned. I have read that they have ordered officers to arrive on time and repair roads before monsoons. They have come to power through a democratic process and we have to respect that.
What are your views on the government’s new initiative to have a wall on campus dedicated to honouring war heroes?
We can always honour our war veterans. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this.