A section of Aligarh Muslim University students took out a protest march on Sunday demanding the university to be reopened after the COVID-19 pandemic without delay. The university was closed in March 2020 after the government shut down educational institutions because of the pandemic.

In December 2019, AMU was shut down and students were asked to vacate the hostels after anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests on the campus turned violent. Later, students protested against the university administration for allowing the police to enter the campus.

‘Career suffering’

A female research scholar, requesting anonymity, said their career was suffering. “Many of us could not afford electronic gadgets necessary for online classes. Also, lab and other practical work are not possible online. Research work could not be done with proper access to the university library. As the number of COVID-19 cases has come down considerably, we demand the administration to open the university and hostels as soon as possible or at least give us a timeline,” she said.

Sources said around 1,000 to 1,200 students, mostly males, were staying in hostels without permission. As the women’s hostels were strictly locked, they were forced to stay in PG accommodation.

Some teachers said if the Aligarh Numaish (exhibition), a popular annual event of the city, could be held, why a central university could not be opened in phases. Ali Nadeem Rezavi, professor of History, asked, “If cinema halls, political rallies, Numaish and absolutely anything could be allowed, why this obsession with having the doors of educational institutions closed.”

Talha Mannan, a final year student of post-graduation, said, it seemed the university administration “deliberately” wanted to keep students out of the university.

“Ours is a different case as after the university was shut down in December, it opened only in February for a few days. At least other universities such as the BHU and JNU have come up with a schedule. The University administration can open the faculties and the hostels in a phase-wise manner.”

Tough SOPs

University spokesperson Shafey Kidwai said the government’s COVID-19 SOPs stipulated that only 50% of students could attend offline classes and that only one student should stay in a hostel room. “It is not possible to conform to these SOPs in a residential university. We have four students in one hostel room. What would we say to the other three,” he asked.

He admitted that the COVID cases had come down considerably in Aligarh and that there was no active case in the corona ward of the university hospital.

Prof. Kidwai said the University Academic Council had met and the administration would soon come out with a plan.

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