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17 May 2013

After sherwani, AMU vice-chancellor courts another controversy

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By Atul Sethi

New Delhi: After asking students to dress up in a sherwani if they wanted to meet him and banning Facebook and bikes on campus, Aligarh Muslim University vice-chancellor Lt Gen(retd) Zameer Uddin Shah seems set to ruffle more feathers. The V-C has, a few days ago, decided to shift the archaeological section of the department of history and hand over its material to the university's museum. Teachers of the history department allege that the move, if carried out, will deal a death blow to the study of ancient history in the university.

"The archeological section, which has conducted a number of important excavations - such as those at Atranjikhera, Jhakera and Fatehpur Sikri - is regarded as among the best places to research and study ancient history in the country," says Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi, associate professor at the department of history. "The university's founder, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, himself collected a number of archaeological artifacts including rare Hindu and Buddhist sculptures. At present, research is being carried out on the Atranjikhera artifacts which might push back the period of the Iron Age. If the administration in its wisdom thinks that it is not needed, this would be a disaster that would take the university far away from the dream of Sir Syed."

The vice-chancellor's office, however, says that its proposal is aimed at improving the functioning of the section. Rahat Abrar, PRO of the university says that the move has come about after due consideration. "The vice-chancellor along with the pro-vice-chancellor, Brig S Ahmad Ali visited the archaeological section several times. This section is in a very neglected condition and opens only up to 2 pm. Therefore, it has been decided that the present building of the archaeological section will be converted into the faculty of international studies and the archaeological section will be shifted to another building, very near to the department of history."

He adds that all the materials of archaeological importance scattered in the university including at the archaeological section, will be shifted to a state-of-art central museum under the management of the department of museology where they can be "preserved with a professional approach that will increase the opportunity and space for better research and study for the students."

But historians say that the move will seriously hamper the research that is going on at the section. Irfan Habib, professor emeritus of the department of history says that taking away excavated material from the section and simply putting it in a museum will make the section redundant. "There is a difference between putting materials on exhibit and using them for research. Does anybody in the department of museology know how to handle excavated material? Have they written a single paper on archaeology? So how can they be arbitrarily handed over such invaluable excavated material? By doing so, the administration is sending the message that it does not care much for the research and study of ancient Indian history in the university."

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

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