Naima Khatoon becomes first woman vice-chancellor of AMU

Seen as part of the BJP government’s Muslim women outreach, the timing of the appointment, days ahead of the second phase of the Lok Sabha election, is noteworthy

April 23, 2024 10:39 pm | Updated 10:39 pm IST - Ghaziabad

Professor Naima Khatoon at her office, after her appointment as the Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh on April 23, 2024. Photo: AMU VC office via PTI

Professor Naima Khatoon at her office, after her appointment as the Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh on April 23, 2024. Photo: AMU VC office via PTI

Breaking a century-old glass ceiling, President Droupadi Murmu has appointed professor Naima Khatoon as the first woman vice-chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

Seen as part of the BJP government’s Muslim women outreach, the timing of the appointment, days ahead of the second phase of the Lok Sabha election, is noteworthy.

Pending for a while, the appointment is also being seen as a message to the Muslim world as the AMU vice-chancellor holds an important position in the community in India and abroad. Ms. Khatoon took charge from her spouse professor Mohammad Gulrez who was officiating as the vice-chancellor for almost one year.

Professor Naima Khatoon takes charge from officiating vice-chancellor professor Mohammad Gulrez. Photo: Special Arrangement 

Professor Naima Khatoon takes charge from officiating vice-chancellor professor Mohammad Gulrez. Photo: Special Arrangement 

Though the founding chancellor of the university was Sultan Jahan, the Begum of Bhopal, and at least three alumnae of AMU went on to helm prestigious universities, it took more than 100 years for the university court to propose the name of a deserving woman from a modest family from Jajpur district in Odisha. Old-timers say certain customs and the residential nature of the university perhaps prevented a woman from getting the top post.

Retired AMU professor Kafeel Ahmed Qasmi who is also from Odisha remembered Prof. Khatoon came to Aligarh in 1977 after completing her high school. “She stayed with us for a few days before shifting to the hostel. It was rare for an Odia girl to travel to shift to Aligarh for education those days,” he said. A meritorious student, she completed her PhD in psychology from AMU. She was appointed a lecturer in the same department in 1988. She was elevated to professor in 2006 and continued being promoted in the department before being appointed the principal of the Women’s College in 2014.

Prof Khatoon has been appointed for five years from the date on which she enters his office or the date on which she completes seventy years of age, whichever is earlier.

Naima Khatoon completed her PhD in psychology from AMU. Photo: Special Arrangement

Naima Khatoon completed her PhD in psychology from AMU. Photo: Special Arrangement

The university did not have a full-time vice-chancellor since April 2023 when her predecessor Tariq Mansoor’s term ended. Notably, the appointment letter came five months after the selection panel had sent three names to the Centre and 48 hours before Aligarh votes for the Lok Sabha.

With the Model Code of Conduct in force, the communication from the Centre said the Election Commission of India has allowed the government to go ahead with the appointment subject to the condition that “no publicity shall be there and no political mileage may be derived from it”. Therefore, Ms. Khatoon is not interacting with the media and the university has not issued a press release.

Different stakeholders on the campus were keen on the new vice-chancellor putting an end to the culture of ad hocism. University spokesperson professor Asim Siddiqui said the new vice-chancellor’s focus would be on research and the development of education at the university.

Aligarh Muslim Teachers’ Association (AMUTA), which had earlier questioned the selection process, has acknowledged Ms. Khatoon’s appointment. In a letter to Ms. Khatoon, AMUTA’s honorary secretary professor Obaid Siddiqui hoped that she would be fair, transparent and impartial. He said the association would continue to be a “loyal watchdog” of the institution.

Ms. Khatoon’s candidature for the post was challenged in the Allahabad High Court in November 2023 because her name was shortlisted by a committee headed by her husband Mohammed Gulrez, who was officiating as vice-chancellor of the university. The petition was, however, dismissed.

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