AMU vice-chancellor declares teacher association polls invalid
The Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) vice-chancellor abruptly declared the teacher association elections invalid on Wednesday afternoon and “postponed” them, triggering whispers about a possible BJP “takeover” of the university and criticism of misogyny among campus authorities.
Vice-chancellor Tariq Mansoor stalled the elections shortly after designated chief election officer Mujahid Beg had declared S. Chandni Bi elected unopposed as president of teacher association AMUTA, the first woman elected to the post. Beg had also declared eight new executive committee (EC) members, all of them elected unopposed too.
The VC cited rule violations for his decision. But Beg resigned as CEO, protesting the “interference” and “disruption” of the elections and issuing an appeal to “save democracy” on the campus.
Serving and retired AMU academics, some seeking anonymity, claimed the VC was pro-BJP and said the ruling establishment did not want campus polls before the 2024 general election.
A senior AMU professor said that elections to the AMUTA or staff and officers’ associations had last been held in 2018, leaving these bodies almost dormant, and the BJP and Mansoor feared that any freshly elected office-bearers can only be critics of the government and the university administration.
“The Hindutva government has already captured JNU, BHU and Allahabad University. Only AMU is out of their control. The election of Chandni and these particular eight EC members would mean opposition to every communal or wrong decision by the VC and the government,” the professor said, declining to cite specifics.
“The VC’s eleventh-hour decision suggests he is working directly at the governments’ behest,” the professor added.
Many university members said Chandni Bi had been a staunch critic of the VC’s “interference” in teacher appointments. Some suggested that it had been easy for the VC to block the election because many in the university administration were unhappy at the idea of a woman AMUTA president.
Nadim Ahmad Ansari, former AMU students’ union vice-president, said: “The way the VC has postponed the elections is alarming…. Why can’t a woman be AMUTA president?”
Chandni Bi, a history professor and native of Tamil Nadu, told The Telegraph over the phone on Thursday that the CEO had, after declaring her and the EC members elected unopposed, “informed all the offices in writing that elections would be held for the remaining two posts of honorary and joint secretaries on September 15”.
She added: “I don’t know why the VC appeared in the scene thereafter to exercise his power as academic and administrative head to postpone the elections.”
Chandni Bi had been elected the first woman member of the EC in 2012 and the first woman member of the academic council in 2015.
The VC told reporters: “The election was postponed because the process had not been followed. It has not been scrapped. The election will be held soon in keeping with the laid-down rules.”
Calls and WhatsApp messages from this newspaper to the VC, made with the intention of seeking his response to the allegations of a pro-BJP bias and misogyny, remained unanswered.
Registrar Mohammad Imran had issued a notice on Wednesday afternoon communicating the VC’s decision to the deans and other senior university members. It said the “the voters’ list has not been published and no notice of annual general body meeting has been issued”, implying these lapses forced the VC’s hands.
The notice said the VC had formed a committee that “will discuss and recommend to the vice-chancellor the modalities to conduct AMUTA elections as per constitution in consultation with chief election officer and honorary secretary, AMUTA (Nazmul Islam) within three days”.
Beg, who resigned as CEO on Wednesday evening, wrote a letter to the outgoing EC that was leaked. “This is interference in the affairs of functioning of the CEO and disruption of election process already notified…. I tender my resignation as CEO of AMUTA…. May GOD bless AMUTA and save democracy,” the letter said.
Madihur Rahman, who was an AMUTA member and reader of English literature before taking voluntary retirement in 2012, said: “The VC has no right to interfere in AMUTA elections. He doesn’t want any election because, in that case, there would be a demand to elect members to the University Court.”
The University Court, AMU’s highest decision-making body, has been defunct for years, leaving the VC as the sole authority.
“I believe that people opposed to the VC would have become Court members and would not have accepted the VC’s extension of tenure in 2023,” Rahman said.
“The VC was supposed to retire in May 2022 but the government has given him a year’s extension.”
He added: “It’s also true that there are misogynists at AMU.”