Aligarh Muslim University Students’ Union
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Aligarh Muslim University Student's Union has a long history, which is replete with instances of excellence as well as of chaos and it has often been a center of controversy. The genesis of all these characterizations would take volumes to enumerate. After partition, members of the faculty and students left the university in large numbers, creating a void.
The new cultural ethos and social milieu that took over after independence had very different attitudinal values and perception objectives. The background from where students came also differed a lot from the past. Aligarh Muslim University student body was once considered to be the trendsetter in the cultural, educational and social movements of Muslims and rightly became a great institution of learning, which is not true anymore.
Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) Student's Union Club was established on August 26, 1884,and named after Mr. Henry Siddons (the first Principal of the M.A.O. College). Theodore Morrison, the 3rd Principal of the M.A.O.College, laid the foundation stone of the Union Building on February 22, 1905, and the building was completed in 1911. Through the AMU Act passed on December 1, 1920, Siddon's Union Club was renamed as AMU Student's Union. It was formed exclusively to edify students in the aptitude for and elegance in public speaking, civilized argument, energetic debate, and to systematize their pragmatic and scholarly activities. AMU Student's Union was principally an educational and cultural center of Aligarh.
It created among its members, astuteness of thinking and enlightenment through competitive educational, political, social, economic and religious forces. For the longest time, the AMU Student's Union carried out these tasks with great distinction, playing an important role in Muslim politics before and until short of two decades after independence. It allowed students to debate on all issues in a civilized manner and produced some leading personalities in India.
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan inaugurated and presided over the Siddons club's first public debate held on November 13, 1884;the debate in the Union Club was “The spread of female education is to be desired by home tuition, not through schools and colleges."
The first recipient of Siddon's Union Club award was Sahibzada Aftab Ahmad Khan in 1888.Other prominent recipients were Ghulamus Saqlain (1892)Shaukat Ali (1896) and Shaikh Abdullah (1898). The Metson Assay Oxford Prize, and Cambridge Speaking Prize, instituted by Prof. Herald Cox(professor of Mathematics and Political Economy) were introduced in 1914.The first topic debated was "Whether the existence of parties in a state was or was not favorable to good government."
In 1921, both Cambridge and Metson Oxford Prizes were merged. Khawaja Ghulam-us-Saiydain was the first recipient of the combined club prize of AMU Student's Union. The last recipient of the medal was Syed Shabihul Hasan Naunaharvi in 1945. The club remained suspended since then and finally was abolished in 1961.
Along with Aligarh Muslim University Student's Union, there was an Intermediate Student's Society, which elected office bearers. The Intermediate Student's Union was abolished in 1957, with the introduction fore-university course. This society was working as a sub-body of the Student’s Union.
Until 1952, the Vice-Chancellor was always the President of AMU Student's Union, whereas, the student body elected the Vice President, Librarian and Hon. Secretary, with 10 cabinet members. Afterwards, the Vice Chancellor became the Patron; the position of Librarian was abolished in 1958 and replaced by that of the Vice-President. The first President was Ahmad Seed (Anda) in 1952. An Honorary Treasurer used to be a staff member elected by the Executive Committee of the Union.
A nominal monthly membership fee of the Union was charged from each student. Dr. Abidullah Ghazi was a pioneer in founding the Rafi Relief Society Funding 1958. Its purpose was to provide financial help to extremely needy students. Funds were generated through annual contributions from AMU students. Though the funds were awarded by the Union office bearers to maintain transparency, a representative from each Hall of Residence was also included in the award committee.
1950s: Union School
One interesting and very important triumph of 1950s was the establishment of the Union School for the wards of class-4 employees of the university. President Amin Bulbulia, a citizen of South Africa started the school in a small building near the mosque. It was fully funded and managed by donations from students.In 1967, after exhaustive efforts of President Mohsin Raza, the Union School was renamed after professor Abdul Basir Khan, Head, Zoology Department and MLA from Aligarh, who was arrested on April 25, 1965 on charge of inciting students during the murky reign of Ali Yawar Jung. This Union School progressed at a very fast pace. Now, a few thousand boys and girls are enrolled and housed in a brand new building.This indeed is a great contribution of the Student's Union to the university employees and has no match in any other of the hundreds of universities in the country.
At the installation ceremony of AMU Student's Union in 1954, Dr. Zakir Hussain Khan, the then Vice-Chancellor of AMU said, "It seems to me that AMU Student's Union has a role of great significance to play in the development of India's national life."
In fact, it was the direction and training from the AMU Student's Union, which primed the early generation of Muslims in playing a pivotal and leading role in India's struggle for freedom. Maulana Mohamamd Ali, Hasrat Mohani, Zafar Ali Khan, Dr. Zakir Hussain, Shaikh Abdullah, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, Sardar Jafri, Majaz, and Ansar Harvani (a devoted follower of Subhash Chandra Bose) where all influenced by and participated in union activities.AMU produced 43 active freedom fighters many of whom were active in the Student's Union.
1952: gold medals
Three gold medals were introduced in 1952:
a)Saifi Imad Ali Medal for the best English Speaker: Mohammad Ahmad Saeed (ANDA) was the first winner in 1952. Mohammad Ameen Bulbulia from South Africa (1953); Syed Ziaul Hasan Hashmi (1957); S. K. Malohotra (1958);Syed Shahid Mehdi (1960) and Afsar Akhtar Hussain (1961) also received the medals at the convocation.
b) Saifi Burhanuddin Medal for the best Essayist was awarded to a prominent and prolific writer and the winner was Ishtiaq Hussain Abidi in1958-59.
c)Saif Fida Hussain Medal for the best Urdu Speaker was also instituted and the first winner was again Mr. Mohammad Ahmad Saeed (1953-54); Abidullah Ghazi (1954-1955); Mohammad Sagheer (1959-1960) and Basir Ahmad Khan, Founder, Muslim League in U.P. (1960-1961).
The School of Public Speaking and Parliamentary Practices was started in 1955-56. Veteran parliamentarians were regularly invited to deliver lectures on various topics of parliamentary practices. Few prominent visitors were Anant Shannam Ayanger (Lok Sabha Speaker, 1958); V. K. Krishna Menon (Foreign Minister, 1959); Pundit Anand Narayan Mulla (1962), Jai Parkash Narain (1968); Justice Hidaytullah (1971); G. S. Dhillon (Lok Sabha Speaker,1972); Piloo Mody (1974); Dev Raj Urs (1976); Tarkeshwari Sinha (1978); and H. B. Bahuguna (1979).
During a little over a decade following independence, a period with which this article is primarily concerned, the union did not see a dramatic change from its workings compared to earlier eras. In fact, it was at the peak of its power and influence. Some of the most eloquent student leaders, who also excelled at their studies, were actively involved with the union activities, as we shall discuss below.
Jafar Mehdi Tabaan
One of such students was Jafar Mehdi Tabaan, President of AMU Student's Union and a distinguished Urdu poet:
Julwon mein nahata hai ek Taj Mahal bun ker
Jub hud se guzarta hai mahboob ka ghum saqi
He was closely associated with the leftist student group and with the administration, except that he bitterly opposed Zakir Sahib's action in reducing the Moharram holidays from 10 to only 2 days. Jafar Mehdi Taban was among those who fasted in front of the V.C. lodge. He also wrote a poem, which was printed and distributed through out the university. The title of the poem was:
Zakir Hussain roke hai zikr-e-Hussain se
Shah Hasan Ata, a prolific writer and speaker in Urdu, English, Arabic and Persian was the Vice-President of the AMU Students Union in 1948-49, which was the highest elected position in those years. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the Education Minister of India, came to address the annual convocation in February 1949. He made an "I-told-you-so" type of speech, which was his usual style in those years. It was very similar to a more famous speech, which he delivered in the Jama Masjid of Delhi before that. Moreover, Maulana Azad criticized Sir Syed Ahmad Khan on this occasion, which did not sit well at all with the AMU community. (Courtesy: Dr. Khalid Omar Siddiqui, California).
There was a reception for Maulana Azad in the Student's Union later in the evening, according to a long established tradition. Shah Hasan Ata took Maulana to task in his welcoming speech delivered without a written text. He answered each and every point raised by the Maulana in his convocation address earlier in the day and severely condemned his attack on the founder of the Aligarh Muslim University. When the Maulana got a chance to speak, his only response was,
Mein yahan kuchh kehne ke liye aaya tha.
Mujhe m'aloom naheen tha ke mujhe kuchh sunna bhi parhe ga
Shah Hasan Ata was also a good Urdu poet. When he visited Aligarh in 1957 on the golden Jubilee of Student's Union, he recited the following:
Muddat ke baad teri ziyarat hui naseeb
Mera salaam mere Aligarh qubul kar
In those days, union elections were contested with great enthusiasm and zest and the student body took part in them and in other union activities most energetically. Dr. Abidullah Ghazi, a former secretary and later president of the union has provided an absolutely fascinating and riveting glimpse into union politics in the fifties through his articles which have appeared serially in this "Sir Syed Day Magazine' of previous years, later to be part of his forthcoming autobiography.However, in the context of the history of AMU Student's Union, some of this information has to be included in this article as well with particular reference to four noteworthy elections of that era; Shah Inayat Aftab vs. Ahmed Saeed Anda (1951), Ameen Bulbulia vs. Saeed Anda, (1952), Mohammed Shafi vs. Ameen Bulbulia (1953) and Abidullah Ghazi vs. Mobashir Mohammed Khan. (1955)
The period immediately following independence was of great uncertainty and rapidly changing attitudes of the university community. The perception was widespread that the communists were being officially favored by the university administration as an antidote to the deep-rooted sympathies towards Pakistan that a significant section of the AMU community still harbored. In contrast to union elections of other Indian universities, the national or regional political parties were not involved or influenced the elections of the AMU Student's Union.Essentially two groups, the religious Jamat-e-Islami and the communists controlled the election.
Student's Federation vs the religious group
Student's Federation (S.F.) a communist front organization of the students controlled by the leftists of AMU was structured during the 50's, and was vigorously opposed by the religious group. The S. F. had a strong network supported by some senior teachers and often allegedly by the administration also. The rightists of AMU branded them as "Nayee Tahzeeb Waley". The communist group included such stalwarts as the Niazi brothers, Obaid Siddiqi and Ameen Bulbulia whereas the charismatic, mercurial and spellbinding orator Saeed Anda was the undisputed leader of the anti-communist block. The communists and members of Jamat-e-Islami had very clear-cut ideology whereas the anti-communist group comprised of an odd collection of former Muslim leaguers, Congressites such as the youth Congress of which the late Hashim Kidwai was a leader and others ideologically opposed to the communists.
No party member of the Jamat-e-Islami ever made it to the presidency until 1962,but their support sometimes proved to be pivotal in close elections especially when the specter of "Islam is in danger' was strategically raised to roil up the student community and gain political advantage.An example of such power was the commotion that followed the assassination in 1951 of Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan, prime Minister of Pakistan.Sahabzada Liaqat Ali Khan was an illustrious old boy of the university of whom most of the university community was proud and those with strong sympathies towards Pakistan especially so.
It was a custom at that time that the university siren used to be activated at 8:00 p.m. every night and also when some important person passed away, although the executive council had prohibited the latter practice in a recent decision.The news of the assassination gripped the entire university community with a deep sense of loss, grief and apprehension.The students led by Saeed Anda demanded the blowing of the siren and one day holiday, which despite the objections of Dr. Zakir Husain, was enthusiastically endorsed and carried out by the students after a stormy meeting arranged by the president of the union, Shasbih-ul-Hasan Nonaharvi to discuss this matter.
In the Union elections, according to the prevailing tradition, the aspiring candidates, dressed in black Sherwani and Jinnah cap would attend a ‘declaration party ' arranged by the all powerful "seniors" at which the supporters of the candidates would make a case for them. The same evening, the candidates would distribute a list of their qualifications and a “manifesto" through their volunteers who used to go from room to room of all residential halls.The candidates for particularly the office of the president would make arrangements with printing presses to be available for printing campaign materials almost round the clock.Each camp had at its disposal the services of volunteers adept at composing, witty and hard hitting pamphlets, anti, and anti-anti pamphlets within a matter of hours. As soon as a pamphlet hit the residence halls, an anti-pamphlet would appear within a very short time sometimes carrying an eye-catching heading such as
"Aap bhi sharmsaar ho mujh ko bhi sharmsaar kar"
distributed to mock one candidate's meager qualifications.Another pivotal strategy used to be to remove the opponent's literature before the students to whom it was delivered had a chance to read it.Here the strength and size of the volunteer force played a pivotal role.Candidates for cabinet and positions other than the president and secretary had more modest but often highly imaginative means to convey their message. In the 1955election, a candidate, Nawab Raza, bought camels for the students to ride on, which were decorated with banners urging students to vote for him; apparently the ride was not enjoyable enough because he lost badly.In1959, on the morning of the elections, resident students of all halls were panic stricken to find a telegram at their doors, which read "Vote for Shareef-Ur-Rehman Khan- your candidate". The innovative strategy paid off and propelled the candidate to victory. Another candidate named Masoodi had his supporters distribute a card, which read:
B 4 U
Who is who?
Aligarh had a great propensity to falling for fads.At one time, a student with the Takhallus "Shola" was all the rage in the Mushairas and functions of a general nature. Not content with this notoriety, he turned his attention to politics and ran unsuccessfully for a cabinet position several times. His card contained a couplet in which the word vote had been substituted for an Urdu word for kiss.
Manga jo unsay vote tow kahnay lagay who yeh
Shola teray taqazay hain yeh baar baar kay
On the Election Day, the success or failure of the time honored "get the vote" strategy, which determines the outcome of the national elections even in the U.S was crucial in carrying a candidate to victory or to a humiliating loss.This in turn was dictated by the resources at the disposal of the candidate to attract greater number of volunteers.
As a result of his role in the campaign for a holiday and for ringing of the siren on Sahibzada Liaqat Ali Khan's assassination, Saeed Anda's name became identified with standing up to the forces which were disdainful of Aligarh's Muslim identity and had wrapped themselves in the flag of ultra-nationalism. He was immensely popular and was desirous of contesting the presidency. However, he committed a serious blunder by not seeking the blessings of the seniors who were the true kingmakers, and were miffed by his indifference and selected Shah Inayat Aftab as their candidate.
Shah Sahib was no match for the oratorical skills of Saeed Anda but had total support of the "nationalist" seniors of every religion, which led to his unexpected victory over Saeed Anda.
Another tradition of the union politics was the ritual of "Janazaa" in which seniors from the victor's camp went to the residence of several of the seniors of the defeated candidate's camp and recited mock elegies to lament their defeat.Only seniors of both sides were allowed to participatein this activity, juniors were not allowed to even come near the Janazaa ceremony.In case of Saeed Anda's defeat, the principal target was Peerji, the husband of Saeed Anda's niece who lived in Jubilee Hostel, V.M. Hall. One of the couplets in his Marsiya was:
Shikast au fatah tau Qismet say hai walay a pir
Muqabla teray Mamian susar nay khoom kiya
Dispirited but not eliminated from politics, Saeed Anda ran the next year carrying the banner of Islam against the firebrand card carrying communist from East Africa, Mohammed Amin Bulbulia. The communist block had scarcely600 solid votes but they received support from non-Muslim students, secular Muslims and sometimes from the nationalist group, which vacillated in its support; depending upon the circumstances and in this election chose to support Saeed Anda.The communist supporters of Bulbulia were fiercely committed to his victory and campaigned with a zeal that in retrospect reminds one of the passion of Pasha in Dr. Zhivago played so adroitly by Tom Courtney. This time Saeed Anda won the presidency, but because of the extreme bitterness generated during the elections, when seniors from Saeed Anda's camp went for "Janazaa Pitai" to Bulbulia's headquarters, they were beaten with sticks. Thus this tradition was ended and an element of violence in the conduct of elections was injected.
Mohammed Ameen Bulbulia
Mohammed Ameen Bulbulia contested the election the following year with even a more driven and motivated coterie of ideologues as volunteers.Pamphlets and anti-pamphlets from both camps were distributed with extraordinary efficiency and within a short response time with couplets like the following from the opposite camp:
Main Bulbul-e-Ghamgeen hoon ek ujray Gulistan kaa
Aur vote ka talib hoon mohtaj ko data dai
Roosi mera naghma hai aur thaat hain ungraizietc.
After another hard fought and bitter election, Bulbulia emerged victorious and his supporters went wild with glee, dancing on the lawns of residence halls all night long celebrating his victory with shouts of"Sadar banaahai Bulbulia", "Raaj Karay Ga Bulbulia"
Sahabzada Nayyar Qadar was elected on S. F. support, in 1954 but Mobashir Mohammad Khan defeated Abidullah Ghazi the following year in another tough election in which the battle cry of 'Islam Khatray main hai' was once again raised and Ghazi sahib was accused of being a communist.( The communists for their part also falsely accused their opponents of being anti-nationalist or communalists). He lost the election partly because of this propaganda and partly because he was an undergraduate and although highly accomplished at public speaking in Urdu was not as adept at giving a speech in English asMobashir Mohammed was.
Tariq Ghazi Sahib, the younger brother of Abdullah Ghazi Sahib and an accomplished orator and polished writer himself relates an interesting story, which underscores the fact that in those days the Student's Union was basically a debating society which groomed and produced some of the finest orators and debaters rather than professional politicians.During Mobashir Mohammed Khan's presidency, a set debate on the resolution "Aligarh Movement na-kaam ho gayee" was arranged at which Abidullah Ghazi Sahib was the only one slated to speak for the motion. Nobody else was prepared to speak for the motion and to declare Aligarh a failure, for fear of being booed by the audience. Abidullah Sahib was reluctant, but at the urging of Mubashir Khan, opened the debate for which the allotted time was eight minutes. However, when he began speaking, the president "forgot" to ring the first buzzer at six minutes and the final buzzer at eight minutes and Ghazi Sahib kept speaking for twenty-five minutes. When the speaker for the opposition came after Ghazi Sahib had finished his speech, his first sentence was: "Jistehreek nay Abidullah Ghazi jaisay muqarrir paida kiye hon ussay hargiz nakaam nahin kaha ja sakta".
In the 1957 student's election, between Sultan Ali Shaida and Ziaul Hasan Hashmi, the battle of pamphlets and anti-pamphlets was also waged fiercely. One anti pamphlet secretly distributed at night had the caption:
Utha ker pheink do bahar galee mein
Nayee tahzeeb key yeh andey hein gandey
As stated before, the Student's Federation was a formidable political power in union election in those days. When it did not have a clear candidate from within the party, it threw its support to someone who was not from the religious right.Therefore, in 1958, Abidullah Ghazi was elected unopposed as was Ishtiaq Abidi two years later, with the support of the S.F. and the administration. Likewise, Ms. Afsar Rasheed a vibrant S.F. member became an acting President for many months, when duly elected President Mr. Mobashir Mohammad Khan (a nephew of Prof. Abrar Mustafa Khan, strongly supported by the religious group) was expelled on some questionable charges from the university, though he was later permitted to appear in his M. A. Final Political Science and Law Examinations. In fact, only three people from the anti-communist group were elected to the top position of the Student's Union in the entire nineteen fifties and only one, Ahmad Saeed (Anda), completed his term, though in 1957, he was also rusticated from the university on some charges, considered to be flimsy by his partisans. The other two; Mubashir Mohammad Khan and Asif Ahmad (Saeed Anda's nephew), had to resign before finishing their term.
An interesting episode related to Saeed Anda, the legendry AMU Student’s Union leader is as follows:
The tradition to call an emergency meeting by the executives of the union was through ringing the bell on the roof of the Union Building, and students from as far as V. M. Hall and Russel Ganj used to rush to the union to attend such meetings. In such one emergency meeting, a resolution was introduced for a vote of no confidence against sitting President Mr. Asif Ali.Ahmad Saeed Anda in support of Asif Ali refused to leave the podium and delivered a very long speech defending him. The presiding officer, Mr. Qamruzzaman continually and repeatedly warned him to stop but was ignored by him. At around 11 p.m. the union bell rang and an emergency meeting was held presided by Qamruzzaman (who alleged that Saeed Anda has assaulted him) with bandages on his head and arms.The general body passed a resolution against Saeed Anda and demanded his rustication. The demand was presented to the acting Vice-Chancellor, Mr. Noorullah for action.However, the same night Saeed Anda left Aligarh for Kanpur, never to return and AMU lost a very talented orator.He died about 10 years ago in Karachi.
The left cedes to the anti-communist/ religious group
The trend of electing mostly left leaning student leaders to the Union presidency changed at the end of the decade and most of the presidents elected later were from the anti-communist/religious group. Jalees Hameedi (1959), Ishtiaq Abidi (1960, supported by S. F.), Qazi Jamaluddin (1961),Basir Khan (1962), Aneesur Rahman Sherwani (1963), Mufti Mohsin Akhtar(1965), Mohsin Raza (1966), Mohammad Adeeb (1967) and Sardar Ali (1968). None of them was S. F. supported except Mr. Ishtiaq Abidi.
In the scheme of union politics, the female students were relegated to an unequal position; only post-graduate girl students were allowed to contest elections.
Ameen Bulbulia's cabinet included a girl student named Zohra Naqvi, a post-graduate student in Physics.To our knowledge this was the first time that a girl student was elected to the union cabinet in the post-independence era.Since then, many female students were elected such as Afsar Rasheed (1955), Basra Fayez (1957), Rebuke Baja (1960) and Asma Bano (1968).
According to a posting from Tariq Ghazi Sahib, in the 1961 election, two girls contested the election but both lost.Soon after the election results were announced around midnight, Zia Uddin Hostel was attacked and a communal riot broke out in the city the following day which engulfed several other cities in western U.P. Colonel Bashir Husain Zaidi, the Vice-Chancellor used his prerogative as the patron of the union and appointed Tahira Rahman and two Hindu girls to the expanded cabinet. Tahira Rahman did not join the cabinet in protest because no girl was elected.However, although she did not attend three consecutive cabinet meetings, a cause for automatic loss of membership, the cabinet unanimously resolved to remove that clause and allowed Tahira Rahman and one Hindu girl to retain their seats.
During Qazi Jamal Uddin's tenure (1961), a resolution was tabled as was done in previous years demanding that the right of vote be extended to the undergraduate students of Abdullah College as well.The motion was soundly defeated with only one dissenting vote, that of Tariq Ghazi Sahib. When he stood up to speak in favor of the motion against the advice of Qazi Jamal and Basir Khan, he was greeted with catcalls and boos but he insisted that his vote be registered in favor of the motion.Qazi declared the motion defeated; by a majority' and overruled a point of order which had demanded that the word 'thumping' be added before 'majority' noting that no such word as 'thumping majority' existed in parliamentary language.He adjourned the house sine die which never reconvened until next year when Anis Sherwani won the election and took charge from the Vice-Chancellor Tayyabji since the entire cabinet of Basir Khan had resigned in February after taking charge in October - the shortest lived cabinet in the history of AMU. At that installation ceremony, Tayyabji announced that he did not believe in traditions and Aligarh should give up most of them, which seems to have happened indeed.
One of the Student's Union traditions was to hold a Mock Convocation, every year. Old records of Aligarh Magazine show that the then students of the university celebrated a lively Mock Convocation in which comical "Titles” were given to senior students and they were then addressed in a whimsical manner.
In early 60s, this old tradition was renewed with some improvements. This function was held strictly along the lines of the actual convocation. The difference, however, lay in the fact that while the convocation is the most solemn function, Mock convocation was a hilarious and witty function organized by the Student's Union.
An interesting episode of Mock Convocation recalled by one of us (Dr. Mohsin Raza) includes the proceedings of the event in presence of Tayyabji. He was sitting with his wife in the front row, curiously listening to the deliberations that comprised mostly of criticism and making fun of the administration in an interesting, polite but sarcastic language.
In this first Mock Convocation during his tenure, Tasawwur Ali Khan an English MA student (now in UK) whose eyes resembled Tayyabji's acted as mock Vice-Chancellor and he trained his tone of speech to be like his also. There was a beautiful Rose garden in front of Victoria gate that was removed and was converted into huge lawns on either side of the walkway on the advice of Mrs. Tayyabji. At that time, there was a German named Hedger who was in charge of AMU Gardens and was nicknamed as the POW.The Mock Convocation VC in his annual report stated that the "famous Rose gardens in front of Victoria gate have been converted into a green desert on the recommendation of a prisoner of war" (It was an indirect reference to Mrs. Tayyabji's actions). Tayyabji looked at his wife and laughed very hard.
Referring to the fact that former V.C. Bashir Hussain Zaidi Sahib had built so many buildings in AMU and Tayyabji made so many Roads, the mock VC said "my predecessor Zaidi Sahib is known as Shahjehan of AMU and I will be known as Sher Shah Suri of AMU for having constructed a network of roads in the campus, where you can see grass growing in the middle of roads". Tayyabji thoroughly enjoyed the proceedings and at the conclusion of the function shook hands with Tasawwur who had acted as the VC and with Maqbool Mahmood who had acted as Nawab Chatari and chatted with all members of the cast. Unfortunately, during the tenure ofAli Yawar Jung, this tradition ended because he insisted that the presentation of this program be pre-approved by his office.
The other major event associated with AMU Student's Union was the annual Mushaira, which was usually held before the annual convocation and ranked in prestige almost equal to the Delhi Cloth Mills (DCM) and the Lal-Qila Mushairas Those who have attended the Mushaira must have heard all the great Urdu poets of the time. Unfortunately, Shakeel Badauni Sahib on some pretext never graced the occasion. In one such Mushaira students were upset with a local poet, who refused to wear Topi.The Mushaira was close to being cancelled when Salam Machli Shahree took the mike and started reciting his Poetry:
Aye Aligarh key jawan sal Haseen shahzado
Dil mey koi Mahjabeen hai key nahin
The pandal echoed with the shouts of Hai Hai (yes, yes), the proceedings continued and it turned out to be one of the most successful Mushairas.
1965: shift to olitics
The events of 1965 changed the university Student's Union focus from constructive programs to politics.The mishandling of the agitation by the Vice Chancellor and his advisors resulted in a great blow to the name and prestige of the institution, attached a permanent stigma to the student community, lead to the quashing of the minority character of the university and to communal disturbances, massive rustications of students and destruction of the careers of hundreds of students. The campus had PAC camps in three places, which were a constant eyesore for the students and staff for many years.
The agitation for the restoration of University Act started in 1970 by Mr.Qaiser Mahmood, Iqtedar Khan, Arif Mohammad Khan, Zafruddin Faizan, Jawed Habib, Irfan Ullah Khan, S. M. Arif, Azam Khan and many others. All the subsequent cabinets of the union were involved in agitation until 1982 when parliament restored the act. The union became an instrument of the agitations only (like the student unions of other universities) during this time and came under the influence of political elements that was the process of mutation of the Student's Union activities and traditions. The present Student's Union is a "genetically mutated form" of the previous union.
In 1975, during the emergency period, and the Student's Union’s demonstrations at VC lodge, Azam Khan the then secretary of the union was arrested from the VC lodge. He was kept in Aligarh Jail for 17 months where he was mistreated and even denied medical treatment. When the emergency was lifted and Indira Gandhi lost elections, he returned to the university campus as a polished hard line politician accompanied by H.N. Bahuguna, the former Chief Minister of UP and received the warmest welcome in Kennedy House.
Instead of upgrading the past glory of the traditions of AMU union, which was initially modernistic in its approach, the AMU Student's Union kept pushing itself back into the ravine of obscurantism and retrogression. All the developmental activities of AMU Student's Union became inconsequential, and reached a dismally low level, beginning mid 1960s. Since 1970s, the AMU Student's Union has seldom operated normally. Sometimes, politics has influenced its affairs, at times fundamentalism and at other times sheer disruptiveness. Mr. Saiyed Hamid (Jun. 11, 1980 to March 26, 1985) dissolved the Student's Union and abrogated its constitution in 1982, and replaced it by an "Electoral College". Students holding positions in their respective Halls of Residences, classes, administrative ranks in the university, e.g. proctorial monitors, members of the academic, executive councils and games committees, members of the university games teams, academically brilliant students, best speakers and essayists were all part of the Electoral College.
Mr. Syed Hashim Ali (April 8, 1985 to Oct. 4, 1989), the next vice-chancellor, rewrote the union constitution. However, the new constitution was never approved by the student body and the Academic or Executive Councils of the university. Under severe pressure from university staff and students, Vice-Chancellor Prof. Naseem Farooqui (Oct. 15, 1990 to Nov. 15, 1994) called general elections without any valid union constitution. The outcome of the election was disastrous. Prof. Naseem Farooqui, himself became a prisoner of the students. University staff started playing students against the Vice- Chancellor and vice versa. The office bearers of the union virtually took control of the university, especially the admissions and examinations. They humiliated teachers publicly and the Vice- Chancellor could not come to their help.
Based on the recommendation of the Electoral College, the then Vice-Chancellor, Mr. Mahmood ur Rahman [a legendary IAS officer of the Jammu & Kashmir cadre] reconstituted the Student's Union on August 28, 1997. He gave a very stern warning of immediate dismissal of the union, if any rowdyism occurred in the university. Surprisingly no serious law and order situation developed during his tenure; however, since the union was not dully elected by the students, it never enjoyed a very sound reputation.
At the end of Mahmood ur Rahman's term, Junior Doctor's crisis and involvement of the President of the Student's Union in unethical activities forced the administration to suspend the office bearers. Hamid Ansari Sahib decided not to renew the union partly due to lack of approved union constitution and his realization that the union might not serve the purpose for which it was established. The current Vice-Chancellor Mr. Naseem Ahmad Sahib also decided not to hold elections in his first year of office, mostly because of total lack of interest among majority of students who wanted to concentrate on their studies rather than get involved in union politics. Fortunately, AMU union elections are still not intruded upon by any local and national political parties.
Very few students unions in India have played a pivotal role comparable to that of AMU in the life of its student community. AMU Student Union has contributed so much in every walk-of life of our alma mater. It gave us the aptitude, self-reliance, moderation, capability, and binding-force, which define an important aspect of our identity as Aligarians. It is important that AMU Student's Union be preserved as a quality institution, so that its spirit of positive thinking, nationalism, and secularism continues to inspire future generations.
Syed M. Naseem,
Ph. D.Washington D. C. USA
Dr. Mohsin Raza,
M. D. and President AMU Students Union 1966-67
Cons Gen Surgeon
2017: Naba Naseem wins
An 18-year-old student of the Aligarh Muslim University's (AMU) Women's College rode her way -- literally, on a Royal Enfield bike -- to victory in the students' union polls with the promise of "seven days' outing for students". She said it was time to break stereotypes.
Naba Naseem, a BA (hons) political science scholar, was elected president of the students' union. In an assertion of empowerment, her women supporters roared into the college campus on motorcycles, a video of which has been popular on social media.
"Girl hostel residents are not allowed to go out except on Sundays, while there are no such restrictions on boys," Naseem said, dubbing this practice "unreasonable". Hostel occupants are currently allowed to leave campus only between 10 am to 5 pm on Sundays. During campaigning, the 18-year-old had said that if elected she would get outing time extended to all days of the week.
"All of us are above 18 years old and responsible enough. I am not asking for permission to stay out, all I am asking for is an outing that is between working hours (9 am to 5 pm) every day. Is that too much to ask? Naseem said.
Maintaining that her promise had more to do with rights than a debate on gender, Naseem said that going outside the college premises was a matter of "fundamental right". She added: "The fact is that there are no restrictions on boys while girls are not allowed to step outside the (campus) premises. It means that we are treated like children. This is incorrect. Why should we be deprived of such small pleasures?"
Speaking about the motorcycle video, Naseem said, "There was a need to break stereotypical images of women. When girls saw us campaigning on bikes, it gave them a sense of empowerment."
Calling it an encouraging move, Shadab Bano, a faculty member of the Women's College, said, "This archaic rule of confining students inside the campus should not be continued. There is no rationale for denying their demand of outing on all days of the week."
Naseem's promise and her subsequent win came days after protests had rocked the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) over curbs on female students' movement. Hundreds of scholars took to violence after they were angered by varsity officials' mishandling of an incident of alleged sexual harassment on campus and several other cases of institutional bias against its female students.
Aligarh Muslim University Students’ Union