Drop religion from names: Apex body asks universities

Names denoting religions go against their secular character

By Matters India Reporter

New Delhi: A statutory body that coordinates higher education in India has asked two centuries-old universities to drop terms denoting religions from their names.

The University Grants Commission says the use of religion by Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) does not reflect their secular character.

The commission had set up a panel to probe alleged irregularities in 10 universities under the control of the federal government.

The panel recommended that the federally funded BHU and AMU should “Hindu” and “Muslim” from their names. The recommendations were mentioned in the AMU audit report.

It said universities and institutions funded by the federal government should not use words related to religion in their names as they do not reflect their secular nature.

The universities can be simply called Aligarh University and Banaras University or be renamed after their founders, a panel member told The Economic Times on condition of anonymity.

Besides AMU and BHU, other universities that were audited by the panel included Pondicherry University, Allahabad University, Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University in Uttarakhand, Central University of Jharkhand, Central University of Rajasthan, Central University of Jammu, Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya in Wardha, University of Tripura and Hari Singh Gour University in Madhya Pradesh.

Aligarh Muslim University was originally set up in 1875 by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, an Islamic reformist, as Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College. It took the current name 45 years later. Located Aligarh, a town in Uttar Pradesh state, the university covers 467.6 hectares. It offers more than 300 courses in both traditional and modern branches of education.

It also has off-campus centers at Malappuram (Kerala), Murshidabad (West Bengal) and Kishanganj (Bihar). The university comprises all castes, creeds, religions and genders, and is an Institute of national importance provided under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution at its commencement.

Banaras Hindu University, formerly Central Hindu College, was established in 1915 at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, an Indian educationist and a leader of Indian independence movement. It claims the largest residential university in Asia with more than 12,000 students residing in campus.

The university’s main campus spread over 1,300 acres was built on land donated by the Kashi Naresh, the hereditary ruler of Banaras (another name of Varanasi).

It is organized into six institutes and 14 faculties (streams) and about 140 departments. In 2014, its total student enrollment was 25,645 with an additional 10,039 in affiliated colleges. They came from 48 countries. It has over 75 hostels for resident students.

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