In the eye of the storm after her fiery but factually faulty speech on Rohith Vemula, Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani is now being accused of insulting the Vice Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Lt Gen (Retd) Zameer Uddin Shah. Reports suggest that Irani publicly insulted the Vice-Chancellor on 9 January at a meeting held in Irani’s office with Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and the AMU VC to discuss setting up an off-campus AMU centre in Kerala. In 2010, the AMU had announced setting up of five off-campus centres including one in Kerala.
‘AMU Parasites’ Behind Conspiracy, Says VC
In an exclusive conversation with The Quint, the Vice Chancellor now denied being present at the meeting. The Quint also reached out to the office of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy but they too declined any knowledge of the incident.
I was not present at the meeting. You should ask the (Kerala) Chief Minister’s office. But yes, I was told that Smriti Irani said that the centres were illegal and threatened to close them down. But I intend to keep them running. Aligarh Muslim University’s founder Syed Ahmad Khan had set up the university not just the education of Muslims in Aligarh, but for the Muslims of India.Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Zameer Uddin Shah, Vice Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University
While Vice Chancellor Shah confirmed that Irani threatened to close down the off-campus centres, he added that this was a part of a larger plan of a few ‘frustrated elements’ within AMU, who are trying to act out because they haven’t been ‘given their share of spoils’.
All this is a conspiracy by some frustrated elements, parasites of AMU, a minuscule amount who did not get their share of spoils. There is nothing illegal about the AMU off-campus centres. The proposal was passed by the Union HRD Ministry and even has the due consent of the President of India.Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Zameer Uddin Shah, Vice Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University
Off-Campus Centres Already Approved?
The proposal to set up off-campus centres was a part of the central government’s plan to promote the education of Muslims. This decision was approved by the President of India, who is also a Visitor of the AMU. Vice Chancellor Shah said that he is determined to complete the AMU off-campus centres project by 2020. The centres are already operational in temporary accommodations, however, site plans for permanent schools are in the pipeline. The AMU plans to set up five centres in Murshidabad, Malappuram, Kishanganj, Bhopal and Pune.
Social Media Targets Irani
Even though Vice Chancellor Shah has denied being present at the meeting where he was allegedly insulted, social media is abuzz with people questioning the way the union minister allegedly treated Shah. Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi also tweeted asking if this is how the government respects an ex-serviceman.
The Milli Gazette, a newspaper which originally published claims of the Vice Chancellor being insulted by the minister, has responded to his denial of being present at the meeting in the comments section below.
Here’s an excerpt from their response:
We stand by our story and are ready to face any official commission of enquiry. The story did not come from any source connected even remotely with AMU. No insult is meant to General saheb because such a behaviour only demeans the person committing it; in this case the HRD minister and her party and leaders who have given her such a long leash. In any case, I am glad that the VC has confirmed the active part of my story, viz., the HRD minister is adamant to close down the AMU centres. General saheb, as the current VC, is duty-bound to fight this conspiracy tooth and nail.Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, Editor, The Milli Gazette
(With inputs from Jaskirat Singh Bawa)