By Mohammad Sajjad,
I waited for someone he bestowed favour upon to write an informed obituary of the late Prof. M. N. Faruqi, the Vice Chancellor of AMU, 1990-94, who passed away on Friday 24 August 2012. He had obliged too many people, who could otherwise have hardly been considered competent enough for those favours. They include teachers in the Faculties of Arts, Social Sciences, and Law, essentially expected to be more competent in literary articulations, required for the exercises like obituary writings. The nomination quota of the VC for admissions was put to worst possible abuse, not only by the most crooked of Muslim politicians, but this had also increased the success rate of the children of the AMU employees. Many of these beneficiaries pretended ignorance about the death of their ‘benefactor’ even after many hours of his demise in Kanpur, not far away from Aligarh. I think there is a lesson for the VCs and other powerful academicians: while distributing favours in academia, do take consideration of certain degree of merit.
The year of his arrival and my enrolment in AMU coincides. I was struck with the kind of warm reception he was given by the students led by their Union. I had never even heard of such pomp and show despite the fact that I come from a family of an academic, an alumnus of one of the most prestigious universities of India.
Being a “junior” in AMU, that too in the “tarikhi” S. S. Hall, on the Saturday nights, I was being “tutored” by my “seniors”, about the proud culture (Tahzib and Tamaddun) of AMU. Despite the fact that this “introduction” was much less harsh than the “ragging” of any other campus, I was upset probably because of being a much pampered and protected “child” (only son) of a certain kind of family and was trying hard to cope with the home-sickness. My father was not very enthusiastic about sending me to AMU which in his views was not a centre of academic excellence compared to his alma mater, the Calcutta University. This created mild confusion in my mind: whether my father’s observations about AMU’s academics was less than correct or the cultural practice of pompous welcome to its new VC was any index of its academic promises. This conflict soon resolved to an extent with the editorial of The Pioneer, quite popular in the campuses those days when it was edited by Vinod Mehta. [It was before being taken over by the BJP’s Chandan Mitra]. The editorial commented that the AMU had developed a dubious distinction of extending heartiest welcome to its VCs with feudal-Victorian regalia of horse cart, and then packing them off in the worst possible manner. This turned out to be too true in 1994. Prof. Faruqi had to quit premature. He had brought a bright, Professor Yahya, of IIT (Delhi) as his Pro Vice Chancellor who was forced out soon after joining. The one who succeeded him, was considered good at his academic accomplishments but his tenure is remembered only for having sandwiched the AMU between the warring groups of the lumpens supposedly patronized by him and the Controller. The lumpen ‘students’ had turned dangerously violent against Prof. Yahya. Bombs were also used in the frequent shows of muscle strength. [Later on I was told that rather than a country-made pistol, the use of bomb was a new feature of the growing lumpenism on the otherwise least criminalized campus of AMU]. Soon, frequent group-clashes among the students became order of the day. Regional and sub-regional polarizations were the ‘ideological’ fodder given to the beastly student upsurges and mobilizations. Each of the SS Hall, Sulaiman Hall, SZ Hall, M. M. Hall, and the R. M. Hall came to be identified as the den of the lumpens from specific regions/sub-regions. Any moment, anywhere, these groups could start exchanging katta shots creating panic and fear. This is what they derived sustenance from. They were determining which teacher will get what kind of academic administrative assignment, which Department will have Selection Committee, and who will be recruited/ promoted. The notoriously patriarchic orientations of the AMU people started having lewd gossips about the male VC and the female Controller, who was also supposed to be patronizing a group of lumpens. The ring-leader of this group contested AMU Students’ Union elections not to win even once; still he went on to accumulate much wealth. Did he do so by turning himself into an admission mafia? I must not speak more on that. To my dismay, I saw a teacher almost prostrating before an office-bearer of the AMUSU for promotion. And he did get it. The gentleman subsequently occupied/occupies a big academic position hence a member of very powerful decision and policy making body of the AMU.
Prof. Faruqi, a bulky, tall, handsome man with husky voice was a kind-hearted soul with lots of sympathies for the human beings in general and for the students in particular. He had much larger heart with deep spirit of forgiveness for the erring students, and even teachers. This good quality of him proved to be a liability for his image as it was exploited by the crooks of the campus to the hilt. I have mixed memories of him. Arguably, many recruitments done during his tenure contributed towards breaking the academic backbone of AMU. Contemporary insiders know it pretty well that many people owe their jobs in AMU to Mrs. Faruqi; the access to the VC Lodge was too democratic; few “visionaries” had made their way to the “aunty” and her “kitchen”; this kind-hearted innocent lady showered maternal affections to such “enterprising” aspirants, and on her recommendations quite a lot of favours were distributed. I don’t know how many of these “sons” called on to the bereaved aunty.
The Common students came to know it more clearly than ever before that there existed deeply entrenched vested interests in AMU whereby the lobbies of the teachers made use of the student groups for their dirtiest possible narrow self-interests, not to say of the nexus with the land mafia. This is how the administration was paralysed; the heartrending lawlessness overshadowed his academic contributions and vision. His close associates tell that he had the tact of obtaining funds for AMU. He was the one who “computerized” the campus, brought new professional courses like the B. Tech. in Computer, M. F. C., and M. T. A.; and the Institute of Agriculture when Balram Jakhar, the Union Minister of Agriculture was made the chief guest on the Sir Syed Day; added Urdu medium sections in the AMU schools.
He had to face turbulent days: 1990 and 1991 had communal riots in Aligarh; 1992 was the horrific year of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, when he went on to say, ‘refer the matter to the UNO’; this was either an innocent or a bold statement, unflattering to the government of the day; contrast it with the pliant VCs; 1993 had huge student upsurge; and in 1994 he had to quit.
Prof. Faruqi had to contend with many problems: The Leftists of the campus were undergoing moral and academic degeneration (soon got split), Rightists were in ascendance; few years before his arrival they had already demonstrated their stick-wielding strength in protest against the youth festival; a considerable number of the students, teachers, and waiting-to-become-teachers came from an upstart, neo-rich, first generation entrants to the university education; they had their own cultural-behavioural specificities.
Prof. Faruqi should however be appreciated for having opened up the rot of AMU hidden since long; “new groups” of students got access to the files and workings (rules of the games) of some offices; he, sort of, democratized the disorder in AMU, and the loot was no longer the monopoly of few; it was rather much broad-based. He, perhaps wittingly, exposed the rot, laid the things bare open. This expose’ has had an implication. The ‘holy’ and ‘sacred’ image of AMU started taking back-seat, creating spaces for airing criticism against its ailments, and its plunderers. Prof. Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqi’s flattering chauvinism about AMU had to give way to some iconoclastic critique about its academic and political culture. There started emerging a climate of opinion to enable AMU Speak if not fight against such evils. The morbid logic of “Don’t expose the ills of AMU as it will bring a bad name to the university” was damned. The task, of course, remains still unaccomplished. Prof. Faruqi did a big job by publishing, My Days at Aligarh, even though he spoke in disturbingly good words for a particularly notorious section of the lumpen students operating during his tenure. He has been appreciably candid and unambiguous in putting many records of AMU straight. Even better thing about him is that he had courage of conviction, and had no hesitation in confessing his mistakes of having recruited a large number of incompetent people and kept reminding some of his successor VCs (including, I am now told, the incumbent one) and other Aligs that such mistakes should not be repeated. He was so sad of this thing that he remained reluctant about visiting AMU after having left it in utter disgust.
Dil mein zauq-e-wasl wa yaad-e-yaar tak baqi nahin
Aag is ghar mein lagi aisi ke jot ha jal gaya (Ghalib)
Notwithstanding the human frailties, this feeling of contrite, remorse, and repentance should hopefully add to his merit of being a noble and kind-hearted human being, besides his many good contributions not only to AMU but also to the IIT Kharagpur which resurged back to number one with his gigantic efforts. I pray to Almighty his soul may get high luxuries in the heavenly abode. Amen.