Aligarh: The Aligarh Muslim University was on Tuesday at the centre of a raging controversy over not giving access to women undergraduates to the main library in the campus, evoking sharp criticism even as Government sought explanation over the "insult to daughters".
In a bid to defend his remarks, AMU Vice Chancellor Zameer Uddin Shah not only cited space constraints but also lack of security for not allowing students of Women's College in the Maulana Azad Library.
Responding to Shah's defence, AMU Women's College Students Union president Gulfiza Khan said that instead of imposing restrictions on girls, the college authorities should introduce safety measures.
"I don't think there should be any such restriction,but if it's a matter of safety and security, then they should themselves take some measures instead of stopping us," said Khan.
Taking serious note of the whole issue, the Human Resource Ministry has asked explanation from the AMU Vice Chancellor with Minister Smriti Irani asserting that education and constitution rights were same for all.
"...There are some reports which hurt you as a woman and also agitates you that when we attained freedom there was a belief that education and constitution rights were same for all....And now we get reports that amounts to insult to daughters," Irani said on the sidelines of a function in Delhi.
The Vice Chancellor's remarks that allowing female undergraduates will attract "four times more boys" to the library, added fuel to the fire.
Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptullah termed the Vice Chancellor's remarks as "appalling" and "shocking" while the new MoS in the Ministry Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said such remarks were "not acceptable in a civilised society".
Terming Shah's statement as "regressive and antediluvian", National Commission for Women chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam wondered "Is it legal for them (AMU) to bar any student regardless of gender from accessing such services in a university?
The Vice Chancellor's explanation that there was no fresh ban and that undergraduate girl students studying at the off-campus Women's College do not have access to facilities of the Maulana Azad Library since it was established in 1960 found few takers.
He said there over 4,000 female undergraduates and the library cannot accomodate them due to space constraints. "There will be no place even to stand (if this is allowed)," he said.
Shah noted that all postgraduate girls and women research scholars "have been enjoying round the clock access to the Maulana Azad Library since its inception" and rejected allegations of gender bias, terming them "not only erroneous but mischievous and defamatory".
(With PTI inputs)