No entry for girls in AMU’s library!

(P.Ravi)

Aligarh, November 11: The fiery Urdu writer Ismat Chugtai, born in 1915, had to fight for each one of her rights and that included education. She taught at a girls’ school in Bareilly before going on to teacher training at Aligarh Muslim University. She and her other 6 women classmates had to sit behind a curtain at the back of the class.She said, “If we could get what we wanted by sitting in purdah we would sit in purdah. We were interested in studying. If they had told us to wear burqas, we would have agreed.”

One would have thought that with so much of change one has witnessed with technology and emancipation from orthodoxy; there is a change of mind set as a result of wide spread education, at least in the citadels of knowledge. However, the latest incident at the Aligarh Muslim University tells another story – that not much has changed.

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Library

According to a report in Times of India, students of the Women’s College are not allowed membership of the Maulana Azad Library, reportedly better stocked than the Women’s College library. Several previous students’ unions, too, had demanded access to the famed Maulana Azad Library, located within AMU and 3 km from the Women’s College.
Gulfiza Khan, president of the Women’s College students’ union, said, “We are students of Aligarh Muslim University. We, too, should have the benefit of accessing the famous Maulana Azad Library. The library in the Women’s College is not enough. If space is a problem, we can just issue books and not sit in the library.”

Turning down the demand of students of Women’s College, Aligarh Muslim University, for access to the varsity’s Maulana Azad Library, vice-chancellor Lt Gen Zameer Uddin Shah is reported to have said there would be “four times more boys” in the library if girls were allowed in.

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Lt Gen Zameer Uddin Shah, the VC of AMU

Women’s College principal Naima Gulrez, seemed to agree with the VC’s views. Addressing the audience on Monday during the oath-taking ceremony of the new students’ union, she said, “We understand the demand for access to the library. But have you girls ever seen the library? It is jam-packed with boys. If girls too were to be present in it, the discipline issue might crop up.”

The university is known for its patriarchal rules since ages. And several luminaries who studied there dutifully condemned discrimination through the years. However, such jaded views of the head of the institution does not speak well for the university.

The comments of the VC gave rise to protests by students’ organisations and in the face of the general condemnation, VC changed track and said, “The issue is not of discipline, but of space. Our library is packed.”

The VC is playing up the space crunch problem as the issue caught media attention. The students say that if it is the issue of safety and discipline, the college should take necessary precautions and instead denying access to one of the best libraries to the girls is not accepted.

What’s so great about AMU’s famed Maulana Azad Library?

Maulana Azad Library is regarded as second largest University Library of Asia with more than 11.5 lakh books/documents. The foundation of the Library was laid in 1875 when Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, a great social reformer of his time, established a school that later became Mohammaden Anglo Oriental College in 1877 and finally Aligarh Muslim University in 1920 by an Act of Parliament. The Oriental Division of Maulana Azad Library comprising of about two lakh printed books & periodicals including 10,000 items belonging to rare category in Urdu/Persian/Arabic/Hindi. Sanskrit forms the most significant part of the collection. Donations received from great bibliophiles and literary persons are designated as special collections by the names of their donors. The Urdu collection with more than one lakh books on almost all aspects of Indian Life and Culture forms the largest part of Oriental Division. A substantial number of rare and out of print publications of 19th century belong to the Scientific Society of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Fort William College (Kolkata), Delhi College, Agra College and from the Royal Printing Presses of the court of Delhi and Oudh.

One of the most priced collection of the library is its collection of about 16000 rare manuscripts, one of which written on parchment in Koofi script is claimed to be inscribed by Hazrat Ali (the fourth caliph of Islam), 1400 years ago. Several royal decrees of Moghal emperors namely Babur, Akbar, Shahjahan, Aurangzeb, Shah Alam etc. and also translation of Sanskrit works such as Bhagwad Geeta, Mahabharata and Leelawati in Persian by Abul Faiz Faizi, a scholar in the court of Moghal Emperor Akbar are some of the highlights of the manuscripts collection of this Library. No wonder than, the Library known for its collection of oriental manuscripts is frequented by the scholars of Orientalia and Medieval India. Yet another highlight of the Manuscript Collection is the painting of TULIP flowers, considered as magnam opus of Mansoor Naqqash, the celebrated artist in the court of Emperor Jahangir. Some other valuable Sanskrit works translated into Persian forming part of manuscript collection are Ayurveda in Telugu and Bhasdas in Malyalam script written on palm leaves. Apart from the collection of orientalia the Library has a vast collection of books in English belonging to different subjects especially in Science Technology.

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