Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), which is one of the oldest universities in India, is being harshly criticized because the university has banned women from accessing its main library, Maulana Azad Library (The Times of India). The victimized students were in the Women’s College of AMU, and they were not able to enter the main library on several occasions due to a variety of excuses; such as the road to the library was not safe for girls and female students would distract the male students. (The Star Online)
The university’s vice-chancellor Zameer Uddin Shah said that more boys (up to four times) would attend if they allow girls to go the library. He also justified the act by saying “The issue is not of discipline, but of space. Our library is packed.” (Mail Online) In the same line with the vice-chancellor, the principal of Women’s College, Naima Gulrez added by saying “Have you girls ever seen the library? It is jam-packed with boys. If girls were to be permitted inside the library, the discipline issue might crop up.” In response to this discriminatory act, students in the Women’s College insisted “If space is a problem, we can just borrow books and not sit in the library.” (The Times of India)
The point is that the main library has higher quality of resources compared to the Women’s College library. The university proudly states that its main library is renowned for its invaluable collections of manuscripts and rare books that are available in oriental languages (AMU homepage). As a graduate student and a woman who is blessed to be able to use great resources of the libraries in university, I could only be on the side of the female students. If they are also students of AMU, why are they not allowed to enter the main library? Furthermore, I must post a deeper, fundamental question; why do the women need a permit to use the facility in their own university? Why should female students be used as scapegoats to avoid the overcrowding of the library? Why does the university appear to be concerned about the safety of female students, but not about their education? This stance appears to be an evasive excuse to exclude women. The university guarantees the right to education for male students and protects them from being distracted by female students. Female students should have the fundamental right to education as much as male students do. If the university was established with the purpose of cultivating competent people, it cannot deny the right to education for female students any longer.
I would like to close this post with a piece of writing from an alumna of the Women’s College: “The first time I stepped into the Maulana Azad Library, I was awed by its grandeur. More than that, I felt frustration at not being able to reach out to those shelves, browse through books and borrow a tiny bit of that wealth. It is time that the university stops infantilizing and discriminating against its female students, and starts treating them with equal dignity and respect.” (IBN Live)