Several points regarding the recent AMU library controversy are worth highlighting (footnote 1, remaining notes simply numbered). First, I think we should refrain from using boys and girls, when the matter is about men and women (2).
Second, the report that women are not allowed to enter Maulana Azad library is false. A simple visit to the library would reveal that. The problem is that undergraduate students of Women’s College are not allowed whereas undergraduate female students from other colleges are allowed to do so i.e. engineering, law.
Third, sensational headlines such as ‘No women or dogs allowed in library’ (3) have given rise to the sentiment that the media is biased and the students have protested against that (4). I fully agree that there exists an anti-Muslim bias in the media (5, 6).
Fourth, the response of the AMU community has been that there is NO gender discrimination on campus (7). This is false. What we have is institutionalized gender discrimination. Let me substantiate. The University has attributed the restriction on Women’s College students on account of space. If space is the issue, then should not the male undergraduate students be barred since they are more numerous? (8). The space argument is bogus because students of Women’s College cannot even attend events / institutions where there is no space constraint i.e. the University Literary Society (9).
The University is not admitting the fundamental reason why Women’s College students are unable to go to the library, the reason being that they are unable to go anywhere! The undergraduate female students can only step out on Sunday and that too for a limited time. Moreover, there are restrictions on female post-graduate students as well. They can step out everyday but again only for a limited time (10). Whereas no such restrictions apply to the male student population. It is difficult to find a case of gender discrimination more stark than this!
Fifth, what this episode has made clear is that there is consensus in the University community that gender discrimination is unacceptable, otherwise why would they deny it? If they endorsed discrimination, there would have been no controversy. They simply would have stated that these facilities should not be made available to women. End of story. Consequently, their rejection of gender discrimination on campus implies that in principle, they agree that there should be no discrimination.
Now the way forward for the University is to live up to its word. It can either remove the restrictions which have been imposed on the female population. Or it can impose them on the male student population. But if it does so, it will have to justify these restrictions. And face the wrath of the enraged male students of AMU!
The University can, of course, choose to retain the status quo by waiting for this storm to blow over. But if it does so, it will have to justify why it endorses gender discrimination. I sincerely hope that this does not happen.
Sixth, the VC claims that these restrictions represent the will of parents of the female students (11). There are several problems with this line of reasoning, I’ll present a few. Consider a hypothetical situation, let us say, the parents of non-Muslim students wish that their children should not be ‘corrupted’ by the presence of Muslim students, and therefore, restrictions should be placed on those students.
Will the VC endorse such restrictions? I most certainly think not! The reason being because we agree that such a restriction is unjust / unfair. In other words, the VC will not entertain unfair demands, even if they come from the parents. Does the VC think this demand on part of the parents is fair and therefore it should be honoured? Furthermore, if some of the parents approve of the removal of the restrictions, will then those restrictions not be applied to their daughters?
Another problem with this argument, that the application of parental consent is highly selective. Parents also care about fee hikes. Does the VC seek their permission before going ahead on those? Or for that matter, does any other decision require parental consent? Here again there is a gender dimension to this issue. Has the VC sought parental opinions about the restrictions that should be placed on the male student population? To the best of my knowledge, he has not.
The fundamental problem is that the administration refuses to acknowledge the students as adults (see note 2). If it did, parental consent would be rendered a non-issue.
Seventh, an argument can be made that this issue is valid but as a well-wisher of AMU, I should not discuss this matter publicly and thereby damage the reputation of the University. I have two responses. The matter is already in the public domain and the effect of my post will be marginal. In fact, a number of people reading this are associated with AMU in one way or the other. Thus, this is quite an ‘internal’ critique. Second, this issue had been brought to the notice of the administration in writing almost three years ago (11) but no action was taken. It is the failure of the administration that should be condemned, not those who bring the problems to light. Don’t shoot the messenger!
Finally, may the University overcome these problems soon. I love AMU and wish it continues to flourish. I hope that the VC’s goal of making it the number one university in the country is achieved, Inshallah. AMU Zindabad!
1. I want to assure you that I am NOT anti-AMU, far from it. I have immense love for my alma-mater and my hometown. I have benefited greatly from it and so have three generations of my family before me. Therefore, this status should be seen for what it is, concern for my university and my home.
2. The overwhelming majority of these students is adult and should be treated as such. The use of boys and girls has a paternalistic tone implicit in it and therefore should be rejected. The usage of boys and girls suggests that we are dealing with minors and therefore, responsible adults (the administration) should take care of them. The problem is further compounded when the administrators are perceived as ‘parents’. If the university administrators are seen as parents, then they immediately garner greater legitimacy in regulating the lives / movement of students, particularly female students.
3. Firstpost headline http://www.firstpost.com/living/get-lost-girls-the-boys-are-studying-amu-bars-women-from-its-library-1797129.html
4. Students’ protest against negative coverage – http://www.thehindu.com/…/amu…/article6592766.ece
5. Note 5 – For the Indian context see http://www.countercurrents.org/varadarajan250510.htm
6. For a more international context see Poole and Richardson (2006) and the citations within http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=N0QBAwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=Muslims+and+the+Media+Images:+News+versus+View&ots=cYTbXeHIrY&sig=4RI0cMcRKi3IdA9Y5wVfL_hDirM&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false
7. A number of Facebook status updates by students and almuni stated that there was no gender discrimination on campus. The press release by the University claims that this is not a gender issue – https://www.facebook.com/AMUstdnts/photos/a.565445690167180.123801.565279460183803/964688796909532/?type=1&theater
8. I do not have the exact figures but the strength of Women’s College is around 2,500 whereas male undegraduates are around 15,000. If someone has the exact numbers please let me know. But the point being that there are far more male and female students, hence, if space was a concern it should have gone to women and not men. Maybe the Library App should be made for the male students! See – https://www.facebook.com/iloveamu/photos/a.10151420257668106.1073741825.188310898105/10152538062133106/?type=1&theater
9. When I was a member of the University Literary Club, students of Women’s College were permitted to attend the sessions of the Club but one day they decided that they will not be allowed to attend and that was it. I do not know what the present situation is. But even if they are permitted to attend the Club, the larger point remains that these female students need permission to attend while their male counterparts need no such permission. Hence, gender discrimination. A similar point was made by Mariam Shaheen http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/agenda/space-crunch-why-it-s-gender-related-in-aligarh-muslim-university/344498
10. If these rules have changed, let me know, I will apologize and retract my statement. Also, note that I have used students of Women’s College and residents of Abdullah Hall interchangeably. It is possible that there is a student of Women’s College on whom there are no restrictions because she is not a resident of Abdullah Hall. Similarly, the restriction on post-graduate students is only applicable to the residents of various university halls and not on those who live outside. But since most of the students are residents of halls, I see no harm in using them interchangeably.
11. VC made this claim in the following news report. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/In-AMU-I-have-to-take-care-of-Muslim-sensibilities-VC/articleshow/45123439.cms
12. Elected student representatives had written to the VC to address the library issue but it seems that University did not take remedial action. https://www.scribd.com/doc/246280533/Women-s-College-Library-upgradtion-letter