Education Interviews

Rise above community politics to become a leader like ‘Azad’: Interview with Zafar Sareshwala

Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), Zafar Sareshwala talks about Muslim leadership, campus politics, New Education Policy, and initiatives to ameliorate brand-image of MANUU in a telephonic interview with Fasiullah SM. Below are the excerpts.

1. Independent India got its first Education Minister in Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Why more such persons did not rise to prominence thereafter?

Maulana Azad was not just a Muslim leader. He was a leader of everybody. Same was the case with Rafi Ahmed Kidwai. In those days, all political leaders who were Muslims were leaders of masses not confined to being Muslim leader of modern days.

Immediately after Independence, all political parties especially Congress Party systematically crushed any Muslim leadership. Typically, they became rubber stamp kind of leaders. May it be K Rahman Khan, Nejma Heptulla, Ghulam Nabi Azad or Salman Khurshid, all they had limited powers to exercise. It was a systematic way of killing any Muslim from emerging as a powerful leader. These political parties didn’t let a Muslim became the leader.

In this scenario emerged Mulayam Singh, Lalu Prasad and Mamta Banerjee as leaders of Muslims. It means if you have to deal then deal with us. They would have an Azam Khan as a Muslim face, to be outsourced to take care of the Muslims. So, Muslim was used as vote bank. They don’t want Muslims, they want Muslim vote. Therefore, they crushed anybody who would have emerged as a leader from the community. Now all political parties follow the same tested formula.

If a Muslim intends to become a true leader, he needs to rise above community politics and address issues of everyone around. Else, he would remain a sidelined leader.

2. As the head of India’s central university, do you see ‘Freedom of Expression’ more important than ‘patriotism’?

Both are important. Freedom of expression cannot be a blank check. There are certain responsibilities attached with this right. In the name of freedom expression, you cannot abuse anybody. Also, it is not absolute.

Similarly, patriotism is of utmost importance. But who will define or give certificate of patriotism? Nobody has any factory to deliver certificate of patriotism. Both are complimentary, rather than being contradictory.

3. MANUU is one among many Indian universities that allow campus politics. Following recent incidents of Rohith Vemula in UoH and Kanhaiya Kumar et al in JNU, do you think campus politics is a right idea?

Campus politics cannot be at the cost of studies. In the campus politics only one or two become leader of tomorrow, but rest who indulge in campus politics at the cost of their studies neither become politicians nor anything in their lives.

So, when you come to the university for studies then campus politics should only be an extracurricular activity just like sports. It cannot be your mainstream. The fundamental duty in the campus is to excel in academics. In case you intend to choose politics as mainstream, then you will get enough platforms outside campus boundaries.

4. Student community at large appreciated your efforts to connect MANUU students with industry. What other plans do you have for the benefit of MANUU?

We took around fifty students to Bombay Stock Exchange in an industrial tour, besides inviting various companies at MANUU campus in Hyderabad. Yes, students liked it. But it has to be a recurring process.

I want to establish some form of understanding between MANUU and international universities. I have already started doing that. As a first thing, MANUU needs recognition. There’s a need to raise standards of the university. It can happen if we collaborate with more institutions of repute. Also, I would want to consolidate whatever already exists in the university and take it to a good level.

I am worried about Distance Education system of the university. It direly needs an overhaul.

Everything happens in the center manually. It’s a joke in the Age of Internet. Distance learning means learning online from anywhere at own convenience. I want to make it fully online, and digitize resources available for students. I believe if Distance Education in MANUU becomes online, things will get more efficient, student-friendly, and transparent.

5. What are your views on India’s New Education Policy 2016?

I have not yet seen what exactly it is.

6. There’s a growing concern among a section of the society about saffronization of education. How do you see it?

Saffronization has been here for over 65 years. If you take history book which we have studies some forty years back, even then those books suppressed role of Muslims in India’s freedom movement. So, there’s nothing new. It was systematically removed.

Saffronization is possible only in history books. Take mathematics or any other subjects for that matter, nothing can be tinkered in it.

Also, in the Age of Information and networking I don’t think anything like saffronization would work. It could have worked a few decades back. But not now for sure!

7. Telangana Government is establishing residential schools for minorities across the state. Do you think it would help in improving the educational conditions of the minorities?

This initiative is not enough, but it is good one. What I would suggest is for a larger impact and transformation, state governments must open as many primary schools in Muslim dominated areas.

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