When Assam University was established in 1994 under a Central Act, it was expected to go a long way in meeting the aspirations for higher education in Barak valley. In the last two decades, the university has grown with a multi-discipliry approach to learning, having at present 35 departments grouped under 16 schools. Surely people of Assam can be proud of the way this Central university has shaped up with more than 300 faculty members. But a darkness within threatens to drown out the light of learning that the varsity ought to be spreading widely. And fingers are being pointed at some teachers by their colleagues and students with allegations of serious import. Questions are being asked whether terrorist organisations like the Maoists, Indian Mujahideen, Bangladesh-based Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB) and the Pakistani spy agency ISI are striking roots in Assam University. The activities of some teachers are reportedly under the scanner of Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Army intelligence sleuths. Some of these teachers are alleged to have gone on secret tours to Gulf countries without taking leave of absence, and serving as conduits of terrorist funding. The All Cachar-Karimganj-Hailakandi Students’ Association (ACKHSA) has also added fuel to these suspicions. Its founder president has alleged that a section of teachers have already indoctrited several students in extremist ideology. Clandestine meetings in the campus are said to be held regularly under the very nose of the university authority. These secret modules are reportedly spreading their tentacles into large pockets in Barak valley.
For parents and guardians of students pursuing academic studies in Central University, such allegations are deeply disturbing. Investing in their wards’ futures comes at a great cost in these cut-throat competitive times and the stakes are very high. Once an institute of higher learning falls into disarray, loss of priceless years is the most likely result. The disruptions in Jamia Milia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University serve as reminders to such an alarming possibility. It took a Vice-Chancellor with army background like Lt General MA Zaki to pull Jamia Millia Islamia back from the brink. Lt Gen Zameeruddin Shah too has been instrumental in Aligarh Muslim University improving its rankings lately. But his appointment as Vice-Chancellor being challenged in court, has raised the question whether universities should become ‘dumping grounds’ of retired generals and bureaucrats. The problem is that if university students take to extremist ideology in their impressioble years like many xalites did in West Bengal during the Seventies, the government strikes back by appointing tough administrators to head educatiol institutes. turally academic pursuits of both teachers and students suffer in such a situation. Even the Assam Agitation and rise of the ULFA in the early Eighties had an adverse impact on Gauhati and Dibrugarh Universities, and the academic setbacks took years to rectify. The Vice-Chancellor in-charge of Assam University has now said that the authority is ready to cooperate with investigating agencies if the presence of extremist and terrorist elements in the varsity campus is proved. It is now up to the State government to reciprocate to this welcome stand by the university administration, and deal with the problem sensitively but firmly.