From Sultan Jahan Begum to Naima Khatoon, tracing Women’s leadership at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU)
Continuing the Legacy: Sultan Jahan Begum to Naima Khatoon at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU)
AMU’s V-C search amid India’s women empowerment quest
AMU’s path to equitable leadership
By Prof. Jasim Mohammad
In a historic move on 21 September, the Indian Parliament took a significant step forward by passing the Women’s Reservation Bill “Naari Shakti Vandhan Adhiniam”, marking a landmark in the nation’s journey towards gender parity in legislative bodies.
The bill, securing nearly unanimous support in both houses of Parliament with just two dissenting votes, signals a transformative stride towards ensuring women hold at least 33 per cent of the seats in state legislative assemblies and the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of Parliament.
This legislative advancement aligns closely with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s overarching vision for women’s empowerment and their active participation across varied sectors in the country. The government has consistently placed emphasis on supporting and promoting women, underscoring their crucial role in India’s development and advocating for equal opportunities in decision-making roles.
Notably, this broader context of women’s empowerment within India’s societal and legislative fabric resonates strongly with the ongoing selection process for the next Vice Chancellor (V-C) at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). The current proceedings stand out in the university’s 100-year history as they feature women candidates contending for the esteemed position for the very first time. This momentous step signifies a shift towards greater inclusivity within an institution that has predominantly been shaped and led by men.
Sultan Jahan Begum, an iconic figure and a trailblazer in her era, left an indelible mark in history as the founding Chancellor of AMU from 1920 until her passing in 1930. Not only was she a great reformer in the tradition of her mother and grandmother, but Sultan Jahan also founded several pivotal educational institutions in Bhopal, particularly emphasizing free and compulsory primary education in 1918. During her reign, she placed particular emphasis on public instruction, specifically advocating for female education.
Her contributions included the establishment of numerous technical institutes and schools and a significant increase in the number of qualified teachers. Her tenure as the founding Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University remains unparalleled even today, making her the only woman to have served in this capacity. She stands as a towering figure in the institution’s history, symbolizing the profound impact of women in leadership roles.
However, it’s important to note that despite such historical milestones, AMU’s trajectory has largely been shaped by male leadership. The current scenario, featuring five exceptional candidates vying for the V-C position, stands as a crucial juncture. The responsibility entrusted to the AMU Court in shortlisting three finalists assumes a pivotal role in charting the course for the institution’s future
Amidst this process, the importance of inclusivity and diverse representation comes to the forefront. The selection, driven by merit and competence, should also consider gender diversity and representation, recognizing the invaluable contributions and perspectives women bring to leadership roles. Encouragingly, this move aligns with the recent legislative push for gender inclusivity, marking a substantive step forward in achieving a more balanced and equitable leadership landscape within academic institutions.
While the decision-making authority rests with the President of India, who serves as the Visitor to the University, there lies a significant opportunity to reinforce the commitment to gender inclusivity and equality within the academic sphere. This decision has the potential to set a remarkable precedent, aligning with the government’s vision of promoting and facilitating women’s active participation in leadership roles, thereby empowering and nurturing a more inclusive environment at AMU.
In the broader context of India’s societal fabric, the inclusion of women in leadership roles across various sectors, including academic institutions, stands as a testament to the country’s commitment to gender equality and the realization of a more balanced and representative governance structure. This moment in AMU’s history presents an opportune moment to underline the importance of inclusivity and representation, ensuring that the best-qualified individual, regardless of gender, assumes the role of the V-C, thereby fostering an environment that cherishes and upholds equality and diverse perspectives.
Professor Naima Khatoon, the esteemed Principal of AMU’s Women’s College. Prof Naima boasts an extensive academic background, having held prestigious positions as a professor and chairperson in the Department of Psychology before taking on the role of principal in July 2014. Her contributions to academia and her intimate knowledge of AMU’s institutional culture make her a compelling candidate. Her vast experience and pioneering roles in the women education sector highlight his potential to lead AMU forward.
Hailing from a remote Muslim “Pasmaanda” community in Odisha, Prof. Naima Khatoon has established an extensive and diverse academic and administrative career. Initially serving as a Professor and Chairperson in the Department of Psychology, she transitioned to her role as Principal of Women’s College in July 2014, accumulating a remarkable journey within Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
Her professional trajectory is adorned with an array of accomplishments, showcasing her commitment to academia and institutional development. Prof. Naima Khatoon holds a PhD in Political Psychology, honed through her work at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi and Aligarh Muslim University. Presently, she holds the esteemed position of Director at the Centre for Skill Development & Career Planning at AMU since October 2015.
Her academic and scholarly endeavors have transcended international boundaries. With an extensive repertoire of experience in delivering lectures and participating in national and international conferences, she has contributed significantly to the academic discourse. Prof. Naima Khatoon has also authored, co-authored, and edited six books, alongside publishing numerous papers in esteemed national and international journals.
Furthermore, her expertise extends to supervising fifteen Ph.D. thesis and an extensive number of dissertations, primarily focusing on Clinical, Health, Applied Social, and Spiritual Psychology. Beyond her academic contributions, she has a rich administrative background, serving in various pivotal roles within AMU, including Deputy Director positions, serving as Provost in key halls, and contributing to the Women’s College Student Union.
Her exceptional contributions and multifaceted expertise have earned her recognition, including the Papa Mian Padma Bhushan Best Girl Award for her exceptional achievements. Prof. Naima Khatoon’s dedication, both in academia and administrative roles, underscores her pivotal role in the university’s multifaceted growth and development.
Out of the 20 names initially proposed for the executive council’s deliberation, these five candidates were selected following a meticulous voting process utilizing ballot papers.
The subsequent phase in this selection journey involves the upcoming AMU Court’s meeting scheduled for November 6, where they will convene to deliberate and shortlist three final candidates. These three names will then be submitted to the President of India, who, in their capacity as the visitor to this esteemed central university, will make the ultimate decision in appointing the 21st Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University. This thorough and transparent selection process underlines the institution’s commitment to securing an able and visionary leader to steer AMU into its next chapter of growth and development.
The Indian government has significantly emphasized women’s empowerment, acknowledging their pivotal role in driving progress. For instance, during Professor Najma Akhtar’s tenure as VC of Jamia Millia Islamia, the institution achieved an A++ grade from NAAC, highlighting the impact of women in leadership roles.
Similarly, the appointment of Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit, a political science professor at Savitribai Phule Pune University, as the first female Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) brought new heights of recognition to the university.
Also, Professor Nilofer Khan, currently serving as the Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University, has spearheaded significant changes and development within the institution.
While the court deliberates on the next AMU V-C, there’s a keen focus on the potential for a woman to take the helm. Granting a woman this position could significantly benefit the University, enabling her to play a pivotal role in managing critical situations and advocating for the welfare of students, staff, and other crucial matters. Her leadership could potentially lead to proactive steps for the betterment of the university.
(Writer is Professor in Comparative Literature & Donor Member of AMU & Former Media Advisor of Aligarh Muslim University.
Email: [email protected] )–
Dr. Jasim Mohammad
Professor, Arunachal University of Studies (AUS), Namsai.
Former Media Advisor, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh
Email: email@example.com, 099970 63595