By Kiran Kumar S, Bangalore (Inputs from Prof Rakesh Sinha, New Delhi)

You might have heard about the ongoing debate as to whether a separate university, with 50% reservation for Muslims, be setup in Karnataka, in the name of Tipu Sultan. This is a part of a plan of the current UPA government, to setup five such universities in India, with the other four being in Bihar, Poschim Bongo, Jammu & Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh. The focus in Karnataka is mostly about the name of Tipu. The proponents like Congress party’s minister Rahaman Khan and KPCC President Dr. Parameshwar, are painting Tipu Sultan as a great patriot and deserves a university in his name. The opponents like BJP’s G Madhusudhan and Kannada researcher Dr. Chidananda Murthy, are vehemently saying Tipu was anti-Kannada, anti-Hindu and must not have any university named after him.

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But the real issue is more serious. It’s not just about pro or anti Tipu, but the mindset behind a separate university for Muslims. Most of the information in here is from Dr. Rakesh Sinha’s research. He is the Director of India Policy Foundation in Dilli and an expert in this field of Social Sciences. If there are factual corrections, please do let us know, so that we can discuss with Dr. Sinha soon.

1. Creates Pillars of Separatism:

Segregation of students based on religion is not going to help the national unity and the spirit of secularism. India has a very wide level of diversity and separating students in their formative years, based on separate religious university is going to hurt the nation in the long run. If Divya Shetty, Mark D’Souza, Shriram Bhat, Raju Valmiki, Manjunath Hiremath, Lakshmi Gowda, Baljeet Singh, Rashmi Poovaiah and Babu Naidu can all study in the same class, why not Fatima Shaikh or Syed Abdullah? The very idea of Tipu University in Karnataka, the very speeches we heard recently of Akbaruddin Owaisi in Andhra Pradesh, are effects of the “we are different” mentality being nurtured by systematic segregation. We need to overcome such “we are different” mindset.

2. Creates Wrong Icons:

If you recall the effect of Aligarh Muslim University from the late 19th century and early 20th century,  it created wrong icons. Most people praise Sir Syed Ahmed Khan as a great Muslim Reformer. But the reality was that via Aligarh Muslim University, he shaped the minds of generations of young Muslims into the Two Nation Theory. Dr. Rakesh Sinha strongly indicates that the actual Father of Pakistan was not Mohammed Ali Jinnah, but Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, with considerable help from William W Hunter of Hunter Commission. Unlike the real reformers of society like Ishwar Chandra Vidya Sagar who were instrumental in the widow remarriage reform in Hindu society, Syed Ahmed Khan did not bring any great social changes via laws into the Muslim community. In fact his ideology was responsible for the creation of Muslim League in 1906. Khilafat movement and heavy focus on Urdu (today, Pakistan’s national language) were all results of Aligarh Muslim University’s cadre. Syed Ahmed Khan was pro-British, against independent India, feudal and non-liberal. With a 21st century separate Muslim university and committees like Sachar (equivalent of the Pirpur Committee before partition), the same process of setting wrong icons may get repeated. Have you ever asked why Abdul Kalam, Humayun Kabir, Arif Mohammed Khan and Darah Shikoh, with strong roots into Indian unity in diversity concept, are not the most celebrated icons of young Muslims today, but Shah Jehan, Syed Ahmed Khan, Tipu Sultan and Aurangzeb are?

3. Gives More Importance to Religion:

If you have observed recently, the number of Muslims in UPSC success list is under 4%, in spite of being at least 3.5 times that in population percentage. The reasons are not just poverty or backwardness,as there are many other communities sharing poverty story. The real reason is that more Muslims send their kids to religious schools like Madrassas than UPSC competitive exam coaching classes. Separate schooling in such setups will not help a unified India’s agenda. India needs a collective spirit among youth, not separate education policies based on religion.

4. Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Others Won’t Attend Such University:

Dr. Chidananda Murthy made a great point here. If you have a university with 50% Muslim reservation, how many Hindu parents will actually send their children to study in such a place? Most likely over the years, the university will become an overwhelming Muslim majority university, more like a ghetto concept. With no interaction with other fellow Indians during important formative years, many youth may easily become pray to anti India and anti Hindu forces. There are examples from Aligarh already to review.

5. Is it Right Constitutionally?

Is paying using Tax payer’s money (of all religions, sects and languages) to promote a university mainly for Muslims, in the right spirit of India, per the constitution? Yes, there may be private participation, but we are talking of public money. People who study in such universities, may end up asking for separate electorate tomorrow on communal lines. Once you put the “you are separate, you deserve separate university” message in the mind, the youth may start asking for lot more entitlements on the same lines tomorrow. This is nothing but a clear case of religious appeasement which is against the spirit of Indian constitution, that declares, all Indians have equal stake in the country’s resources.

The concepts such of Ministry of Minority Affairs and the National Committee for Minorities are all results of appeasement. If one starts interpreting the constitution precisely, there may be challenges to such setup based purely on religion identity, in a secular nation.

6. Politics of Backwardness:

Where will this stop? If nearly 17.8 crore Muslims in India today need separate university because of grievances listed by its leaders, will similar universities pop up for much smaller groups like Agarwals, Brahmins, Jains, Valmikis, Bodos, Kurubas etc., if they also meet ‘backwardness’ criteria in economic and representation scale? Will India end  up setting up Universities based on all religious and caste lines, paying them with tax payers’ money? Are we heading towards nations within nation?

This kind of politics of backwardness is a result of force-fed victimization messages by the religious and appeasing political leaders. It will then strengthen more separate identity projects like separate banks, separate employment, separate laws, separate areas to live and so on.

7. The Very Concept of ‘Minority’ is Faulty:

Tajamul Hussain, a Barrister, a member of Constituent Assembly of India from Bihar, said in 1949: “The term minority is a British creation. When the British are gone and the term minority has to go with them. Please remove the term minority from your dictionary. There is no minority in India, we just have different modes of worship.”

Harendra Coomar Mookerjee, or HC Mukherjee, the Vice President of India’s Constituent Assembly and a practicing Christian, categorically questioned in 1949. “Do you want to create one nation and one people? If so, you can not recognize any minority or majority. India will again be partitioned if you create the minority concept”.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Iron Man of India, asked in the parliament in late 1940s when questioned about Muslim reservation: “Do you want to divide the nation once again? Those who want separate education and separate reservation, have a country already created for them”. This is coming from a man who fought vehemently to unite nearly 600 independent kingdoms into India as we know today.

The exact words can be looked upon from the archives, but the core messages are as mentioned above, per Dr. Rakesh Sinha’s extensive research.

And see where we have landed up in 21st century, from great stalwarts of 20th century. Sachar committee even tried to get religious composition of the most secular organization in India today, the Army! Glad that India has great Generals like JJ Singh, who angrily reacted in 2006 to even the Defense Minister, keeping the survey of religious composition out of armed forces.

8. Against Liberal Democratic Values:

Many of the champions of secularism hail the western model of liberal democracy, but indulge in exactly opposite in India. Do you know that Belgium, a celebrated liberal democracy of the west, banned Burqa in 2011, even though less than 100 women wore Burqa in the entire nation? The most interesting point here is that there were zero votes against it! Yes, we are talking of a liberal democracy here. France, another celebrated Liberal democracy, issued a ban on all face covering in 2011. This has put anyone seriously practicing the hijab or burqa, virtually under house arrest. Britain, the inspiring fountain of India’s constitution, judiciary and law enforcement, saw its PM David Cameroon stand up and say, ‘Multi Culturalism has failed”. This is a huge statement coming from the Prime Minister of a nation which inspired most of the liberal democratic values India follows today! United States does not allow polygamy to Muslim men, even though they say it is supported in their religious laws called Sharia. Still USA is a very liberal democracy for anyone studying political science in India.

So it is safe to say that none of the so-called liberal democracies support an idea like separate Muslim University or separate civil laws based on religion. Why does a progressive liberal democracy like India doing it? Even an Arab country like Tunisia, with 98% Muslims, has banned polygamy, and so has Turkey with 96% Muslims. But a democratic India with 86% non-Muslims, allows polygamy for Muslims. If you start looking into the policies of democracies across the world, there are so many things India allows which are against the liberal democratic values. Adding to that list is this dangerous idea of a separate Muslim university in Karnataka.

9. Mistaken Role of the Indian State:

Indian state, by its very nature of a secular, socialistic democracy, must encourage an all round development, and peaceful co-existence among all its residents. Constantly appeasing one section of the society in the form of religious pilgrimage subsidy, allowing to abstain from singing the national song, keeping them away from Sanskrit education, the root of Indic civilization, are all smaller examples of a bigger problem. Recently we are seeing many state governments giving monetary benefit to religious teachers, giving scholarship exclusively for girls of one community and so on. The governments of India must support unified and equal benefit approach to all its citizen, and not indulge in vote-bank divisionary politics.

10. Against the Indian Ethos of Respect for All:

India stands on equality concept. India is made up of its people who believe that all religions, creed, caste, colour, language etc. are equal. If you push separate educational systems like Muslim University (or for that matter, any other religious university), you are shaking the very root of unity in diversity in India. You are essentially telling Muslim youth that you can not succeed in the general education system, so you need separate universities! You are directly or indirectly harming their self confidence,  rather than helping them.

So, all those pushing for a Tipu Sultan University in Karnataka, please introspect. Read more on what the great thinkers like Tajamul Hussain spoke at the Constituent Assembly while the constitution of India was being formed. Read more about the factors that created Pakistan, particularly where the two-nation-theory emerged and got nurtured. Learn about the role of Aligarh Muslim University’s role in many of these radical and separatist ideologies. Observe the diverse nature of Indian society and how common education is shaping them to gel together as one society. Then ask yourself – Do I still need a separate university for Muslims, which will most likely end up as a ghetto, radicalizing a whole generation of youth soon?

The choice is yours. But make an educated choice which will help the future of united and secular India.