Many narrow lanes away from the historic Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) that run into a few kilometers and rough patches of land, Vice Chancellor Prof P K Abdul Azis is busy answering frantic calls from friends and family. It is here, in a guarded guest house, that Azis has been spending his time since the killing of a student on the varsity campus on Sunday (September 16, 2007) night, the third such murder in the last five months.
Police say Mazhar Naeem, a second-year-BSc student at the university, was going towards the Hockey ground after evening prayers when unidentified persons attacked him with a weapon. The morning after the incident, an angry mob of students ransacked Azis’s official residence on campus and burnt his personal belongings. “I had a few clothes, files for reference and a few personal photo albums. Now, nothing is left,” he lists his loss.
The university also lost its treasure chest of paintings in the arson, including an M F Husain creation, he adds. Since then, the former vice-chancellor of Cochin University of Science and Technology has not been to his office on the AMU campus “for security reasons”. In a small room at the guesthouse, he has been reading files and meeting a selected few among his staff even as his administration gets down to evacuating 22,000 students from its 70 hostels.
The students have been moving out of the campus in rickshaws, cycles and buses arranged by the university after its Executive Council agreed to cleanse the hostels of “criminal elements” within 48 hours of the incident. And, while they all know they are leaving, no one knows when they will be back. “We are here to study and not talk about what happens on the campus. We don’t want to miss out on our classes,” says Abid Ahmad, a first-year student at the university from Katihar in Bihar.
Azis says Sunday’s (September 16) murder has shocked him but for MA final year student Zafar Alam, it’s routine as usual. “Just last week, there was firing in the hostels. But life goes on. The administration needs to fix the porous campus,” he says. But the administration this time is taking the incident seriously. The last time the hostels were evacuated was when Mahmood-Ur-Rahman was the vice chancellor—thrice during his five-year-tenure during 1994-99. Azis, who took over in June this year, says hostels were found to be “den of criminal activities” in various reports of the committees formed by the administration to probe into the causes of campus violence.
The university saw two murders in April this year, which are still being investigated by the CBI, and ransacking of administrative offices by students thrice in the last one year. While officials point out that “outsiders and criminal elements” in hostels are causing most of the problem, student union president Nafis Ahmad accuses the administration of inaction. “Each time something happens, the administration blames the students. But for every murder that happened, they did nothing,” he says.
Last month, Azis appointed a new set of wardens and provosts in the hostels to streamline admissions in hostels. “We met with some resistance. But the murder has shocked me,” he says. “I am perturbed over the incident but have not been able to find out why it is happening?” he says.
Reeling under pressure after a massive demonstration of girl students last week over the alleged rape of a university student, Azis’s administration has now arranged special trains to ferry hostellers to their homes and announced a 40 per cent concession in ticket rates.
While the university student union has extended support to the new vice chancellor, Azis plans to focus more on “academic aspects” of his job.
“AMU is the symbol of excellence in Muslim education. To continue here is a call of duty for me. I’ll act firm and hope to expand the space of academic activity on the campus,” he says. Yet, he cannot specify a time when the university would re-open for students. (Courtesy: Indian Express, September 19, 2007)