Deccan Chronicle

A needless controversy

Deccan Chronicle | DC Correspondent

Published on: October 10, 2017 | Updated on: October 10, 2017

The minister says these are ancient universities and thus there should be no name change.

Prakash Javadekar

Prakash Javadekar

HRD minister Prakash Javadekar was quick to scotch any talk about renaming Aligarh Muslim University and Banaras Hindu University by dropping the religious names embedded in them. This idea had occurred to a UGC panel set up to probe irregularities in Central universities, and it went far beyond its brief in discussing a name change and the "secular" reasoning for it. The minister says these are ancient universities and thus there should be no name change. But it’s not their age but their genesis that must be seen as the reason why no change is needed. These universities wouldn’t be any more secular with a name in nomenclature as they have evolved into institutions of learning on many modern subjects, besides offering courses in theology.

The British helped found Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College in 1875, which evolved into AMU. AMU went on to educate in English an under-served community, fulfilling the task far beyond the original reason why it was founded. Banaras Hindu University came up despite resistance from the British. Madan Mohan Malaviya, a staunch nationalist, was the prime force behind it, and he also backed Annie Besant, the Irish woman who headed the Indian National Congress, and her idea of promoting Hindu philosophy at her school, that merged with BHU. The university is highly regarded today for its teaching of technical subjects. Both universities serve the basic cause of education, which may one day teach people to think far beyond religion and community in shaping a modern India. We don’t want to revisit the violence that once rocked BHU when a name change was proposed a half-century ago.

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