Aligarh Muslim University women should not back down just because BJP has taken up their cause
Women demanding library access have always been warned not to wash the institution’s dirty linen in public, for fear of providing fodder for Hindutva forces.


Photo Credit: IG Khan Memorial Trust
Things must have changed since I studied  at Aligarh Muslim University for three years until 2009. This week, the vice chancellor of the university, Lieutenant General (retd) Zameeruddin Shah, justified the policy of not allowing undergraduate women to use the main Maulana Azad Library. If more women are allowed, the vice chancellor said, the number of men in the library would swell by at least four times. Somehow, I just do not remember hordes of studious men at AMU.

It is worth noting that the vice chancellor has only upheld a ban that has always existed and articulated his reasons for doing so. The issue is not new. It just seems to surface periodically – the media gets interested, makes a bit of noise, after some time it all dies down, and sadly nothing changes.

Undergraduate women being barred from the library was already an issue when I went to AMU Women’s College for my bachelor’s degree and I wrote about it in 2011 – one of the years this debate came to the fore again. But in 2011, I would not have thought I would be agreeing with Smriti Irani on anything. The human resources development ministry has been quick to take up the cause,  and is reported to have asked the AMU vice chancellor to send a report on the matter.

Keeping the ‘enemy’ at bay

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