Lucknow: Under pressure from the Allahabad High Court, the Aligarh Muslim University has agreed to open its Maulana Azad library – one of the best in Asia – to women students and provide extra security in the area.
The court’s order came today during the hearing of an appeal that said women students be allowed to use the library.
The university, which had earlier argued that women were barred due to a space crunch in the library, told the court that security was an issue, since the women’s college was 3.5 km away. But the court dismissed the argument and asked the university to provide security.
The AMU’s decades-old policy to bar the library for women came under the spotlight after Vice-Chancellor Lt Gen Zameeruddin Shah said, “If we allow girls into the library, there will be four times more boys”. The remark, made at a packed function at the University earlier this month, was widely reported and drew fire from all quarters.
Education Minister Smriti Irani wrote to the Vice-Chancellor, saying keeping out women from the library was a “human rights violation” and demanded a report on the matter. The Vice-Chancellor’s comment, she said, “not only hurt me as a woman but agitates. It is an insult to daughters.”
Lt Gen Shah had argued that the policy was not a matter of gender-based discrimination, but the fallout of space crunch at the library. “There are 4,000 under-graduate girls. If we allow them, we will not have space. Plain and simple – we can’t allow them into the library. We are not against women’s empowerment,” he had said. The library can sit 1,300 people at a time.
The university, which is counted among India’s best, allowed all graduates to use the Maulana Azad library, barring the 2,500-odd under-graduate women. The Vice-Chancellor had said they were to go to the Women’s College, which has its own library though not as well-stocked.