A University Grants Commission (UGC) committee has suggested that the words 'Muslim' and 'Hindu' be dropped from the names of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and and Banaras Hindu University (BHU). This has been suggested in an effort to reflect the secular character of central universities.

The committee is one of the five set up by the UGC on April 25 to look into complaints of irregularities against 10 central universities. The AMU audit did not cover BHU but referred to the institution’s name in its report, reported The Indian Express.

How the name came into being?

The committee has suggested that AMU should either be called 'Aligarh University' or be named after its founder, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, said the report. A similar reason is given for the recommendation of changing BHU's name too.

The committee is one of the five set up by the UGC on April 25| Source: Facebook

Historically, the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, Aligarh was established by Muslims and upgraded to the status of University in 1920 {section 23(2)}, with the struggle of/for the Muslims. The non-Muslim donors had the same objective: Educational advancement of Muslims.

The objective of the AMU Act 1920 was 'to establish and incorporate a teaching and residential Muslim university at Aligarh and to dissolve the societies registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, which are respectively known as the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, Aligarh, and the Muslim University Association, and to transfer and vest in the said university all properties and rights of the said societies and other Muslim university foundation committees,' reports Rediff.com

In an affidvait before the Supreme Court, the government has said that both the Aligarh Muslim University and Delhi-based Jamia Millia Islamia are not minority institutions. In AMU's case, the affidavit says it was set up by an act of Parliament, and not by Muslims, hence it cannot be called a minority institution.

A similar reason is given for the recommendation of changing BHU's name too| Source: Twitter

In 1981, Parliament passed an AMU Amendment Act, which had accepted that AMU was set up by Muslims. Later, in 2005, the Allahabad High Court ruled that the 1981 Act was ultra vires of the Constitution, and that AMU was not a minority institution, reports India Today.

The AMU now uses an unique process to select the V-C

Earlier in October, the Hindustan Times reported that the committee had recommended that the selection of the AMU's Vice-Chancellor should be amended in order to bring it in line with the procedure followed by other central universities. Currently, AMU uses a unique process to select the V-C wherein the university's Executive Council and AMU shortlist the candidates for the post. For most other central universities, the screening is done by a government-appointed selection committee.

The audit had also said that AMU promoted "inbreeding" and did not have national character. AMU authorities had disputed the claim saying that students from 29 states study in AMU. The V-C, Professor Tariq Mansoor had said that the university's 60:40 ratio of Muslim and non-Muslim students was not a designed pattern but due to large number of courses like Arabic, Urdu and Farsi for which only Muslim students apply, reports The Times of India.

HRD Minister's statement

Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said the government has no intention to change the names of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Banaras Hindu University (BHU).

"AMU and BHU are very old institutions, and we do not intend to change their names. We formed a committee to look into the administrative, academic and research audits of universities," he said

"The committee studied various aspects and I have not seen what they have said, but there is neither such decision nor is there any such intention to change the names (of these universities)," the HRD minister told reporters over the reports on the panel's recommendation.

Twitterati had mixed reactions on the panel's suggestions