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Handle with care: Vajpayee aide to Fadnavis on Ismail Yusuf College
A stubborn approach to the problem will create a fertile ground for protests with unforeseen and undesirable consequences, he says
Tuesday February 24, 2015 12:05 PM, News Network

Advising the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance government in Maharashtra to handle carefully the controversy stirred after it allotted Ismail Yusuf College building to the National Law University, Sudheendra Kulkarni - close aide of ex-prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, urged Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to use the issue to earn the faith of the minorities.

Ismail Yusuf College

"Here is an opportunity for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, a reasonable and fairminded politician, to show that he believes in Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas. His government should hand over the land, freed of all encroachments, to Anjuman-I-Islam to start a modern university, catering primarily, but not exclusively, to Muslim students", Kulkarni, who was earlier with the Bhartiya Janata Part (BJP), wrote in an article published by the Mumbai Mirror.

"If Delhi can have Jamia Millia University, why shouldn't Mumbai have Anjuman-I-Islam University?", he added.

"Wise handling of this sensitive matter can bring enormous goodwill to the Fadnavis government, besides enabling it to make a major contribution to the expansion of opportunities in higher and professional education for Muslim youth, a crying national need", he wrote.

Warning that the BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra is inviting trouble, he wrote, "It is following a patently unlawful course of action in a matter that is creating anger and unrest in the Muslim society in Mumbai."

"A stubborn approach to the problem will create a fertile ground for protests with unforeseen and undesirable consequences. Some Muslim groups have already warned of an "occupy" struggle like the one Dalit organisations launched for getting the Indu Mill compound in Dadar to erect a memorial to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar.

"Is it good for Mumbai and Maharashtra if the feeling grows among Muslims that even their genuine development concerns go unheeded, as much by the BJP-Sena government as by the previous Cong-NCP government?" he wrote.

The idea of a college for Muslims was mooted by philanthropist Sir Mohammad Ismail Yusuf who in January 1910 donated Rs. 8 lakh to then State of Bombay with a condition to establish a college which should be primarily for Muslims though, he said, students belonging to other religious communities could also be given admissions. The idea began taking shape by March 1924 and the college, one among the four affiliated to University of Mumbai by then, finally started functioning in1930.

Later on, a considerable size bisecting the land under the college control was used for the construction of Western Express Highway, and a hostel on the same campus was converted into an office for the education department of the state. In 1999, a few ex-students approached Bombay high court after the state government had started giving the college land to third parties.

Observing that successive state governments turned a blind eye to encroachments on the land, a ubiquitous phenomenon in Mumbai, shrinking the campus to only about 54 acres, he wrote, "Now the government itself has become an "encroacher". It first decided to establish the National Law University on a part of the campus. Now it wants to build a full-fledged educational hub."

Rejecting questions that the Muslims should not object if the government decides to use the land for expanding educational facilities, he wrote, "That Ismail Yusuf is not a typical general-category government college is also evident from the fact that Anjuman-I-Islam, the most reputed Muslim educational institution in Mumbai, is managing 20 per cent of admissions for Muslim students.

"Since the affairs of the college have been controlled by incompetent, indifferent and unaccountable sarkari babus - a disease that afflicts many government-run educational institutions in the state - it has seen a steep fall in standards", he wrote.

Muslims are demanding possession of this land since independence. Their demands became stronger when the state government, after violent protests by Dalits, announced to use Indu Mill compound to build a memorial for Dr. Ambedkar.

Dr. Mehmoodur Rehman Committee, constituted in 2008 by the Congress-NCP alliance government to look into socio-economic and educational status of Muslims in Maharashtra, had also supported the demand in its report.

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