Syed Khalique Ahmed | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI—After the Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the centenary celebration function of Aligarh Muslim University three weeks ago and described the century-old institution as “mini India” with students from each and every corner of India, the Aligarh Nagar Nigam or the Aligarh Municipal Corporation authorities have seized the university’s bank account on the ground of not clearing the house tax dues of several years which, according to civic authorities, amount to Rs. 14.98 crores or $20,36,363.
The civic authorities took the extreme step of seizing the bank accounts of the university which ranks among the eight best universities in the country in terms of performance and research despite the fact that a petition challenging the order of the civic department is pending before the Allahabad High Court. And if the university authorities are to be believed, they also have Rs. 9 crores of outstanding dues towards the civic body for having supplied drinking water to the city residents from the university tubewells. The dues of Rs. 9 crores towards the civic body pertains to the electricity bills the university paid for operating its tubewells exclusively for the water required by the civic body. But the civic body has not paid the dues to the university till the publication of this report. The civic authorities, when approached, downplayed the issue saying the university authorities raised the tubewell bill issue only after they were asked to pay the house tax dues.
AMU regularly paid house tax for its residential buildings. However, it was exempted for paying house tax for laboratories, classrooms and libraries under the provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Nagar Palika Rules, or the UP Municipalities Rules. When the Aligarh Nagar Palika, or the Aligarh Municipality was upgraded to a Nigam, or a Municipal Corporation in 2006, the civic body reversed its decision to grant exemption for payment of house tax for libraries, laboratories and classrooms, saying that such a provision does not exist in the Nagar Nigam laws. As the AMU and the civic body were locked in a dispute over the issue, the house tax for AMU’s libraries, laboratories and classrooms continued to mount. The university finally went to the High Court as the civic body threatened to take hold of the university’s bank accounts. As the case is still pending in the High Court with no decision pronounced nor any order issued to the civic body to free the university’s bank account, the civic body is at liberty to withdraw its financial dues from the university’s account or continue the seizure of the account till a final verdict of the court. Civic body Chief Assessment Officer says the university’s bank account was seized to release the outstanding dues and it will not be lifted till the dues are not paid or the university gets an order from the High Court for withdrawal of the seizure or an exemption of house tax dues from the court. Surprisingly, the authorities of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) say they are not paying any house tax either for its residential buildings or classroom, libraries and laboratories though both-AMU and BHU-are central universities located in UP and both the cities-Aligarh and Varanasi-where they are located are having municipal corporations.
AMU Public Relations Officer Omar Peerzada opines said that the civic body should have waited for the High Court judgement. “It should not have taken a hasty decision to seize the banks accounts of the university”, he said, pointing out that the action of the civic body will adversely affect the war against Covid pandemic the university’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital is fighting.
According to Peerzada, the Phase III trial of Covaxin, the Bharat Biotech Covid-19 vaccine developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) & National Institute of Virology (NIV), has been going on at the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College (JNMC). “The first two doses have already been given to 1000 volunteers. The trial will go on for the next six months. JNMC, a dedicated Covid L2 Hospital, is treating coronavirus patients and has so far conducted over two lakh Covid tests”, according to Peerzada.
While the PM’s online speech at AMU’s centenary celebration followed by university’s bank seizure by the Aligarh Municipal Corporation may be a coincidence, the PM’s speech appreciating the university’s contribution in nation-building and in elevating India’s position internationally through the extensive researches conducted in the university” and its students acting as “India’s ambassadors” in 108 countries was a very positive thing. It was probably the outcome of the PM’s speech that none of the Hindutva right wingers could muster courage to use expletives or unparliamentary language and phrases against the university after the “discovery” that the university has failed to pay house tax to the Aligarh civic body. Had the issue come into public domain before the PM’s speech, all hell would have broken loose on the university with right-wingers having not spared any adjective in the dictionary to malign and defame the university.
The century old institution that began as Madrasatul Uloom in 1975, became Mohammedan Anglo Oriental (MOA) College in 1977, was incorporated as Aligarh Muslim University in 1920, two years after the demise of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, by an Act of British Parliament. An amount of Rs. 30 lakh was arranged by followers of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and a sizeable amount of it was contributed by Agha Khan for the university.
While many BJP leaders, including Agra mayor Naveen Jain(called AMU as ‘hub of terrorists’), called names to AMU and Republic TV, in one of its news telecast, called it a “university of terrorists”, perhaps for its Muslim identity, which was later on denied by Republic TV, but our present day leaders and journalists are not aware that it was Mahatma Gandhi who was the first recipient of life membership of Aligarh Muslim University Students’ Union (AMUSU). While Mahatma Gandhi was given life membership in 1920, the year the university was established through an Act passed by the then government headed by British-Christian rulers, Mohammed Ali Jinnah was given life membership much after that in 1937 when he was still fighting for India’s freedom. Later on, Dalai Lama and Annie Besant were also given life membership of AMUSU.
Among the prominent AMU alumni include the late BJP leader Sahib Singh Verma, cricket legend Lala Amarnath and renowned hockey player Govinda, besides Bharat Ratna Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan(Frontier Gandhi), former President Dr Zakir Hussain, Hasrat Mohani Hasrat Mohani ( he tabled the resolution of Poorna Swaraj-complete Independence- in AICC Session held at Ahmedabad in 1920), Raja Mahinder Pratap (President of 1st Indian Government established in exile at Kabul), Shoeb Qureshi, who edited ‘Harijan’ magazine during imprisonment of Gandhiji and Udit Narayan Singh, former vice-chancellor of Allahabad University.