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West Bengal: Allegations of Land Encroachment at Historic Aliah University Cause Concern

Recently, the noted alumnus of Aliah University and ISF MLA Nawshad Siddiqui alleged that the state government is attempting to seize the university's land and destabilise it.

Kolkata: Allegations have surfaced that a faction within the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), who are involved in real estate, are attempting to encroach upon the Aliah University's lands.

The University, formerly known as Alia Madrasah, has a rich history spanning over 200 years. The main campus of the university is located in the Park Circus area of the city, where land prices have risen exponentially. Unfortunately, several acres of land that were intended for student housing have been reportedly identified by the government for transfer to real estate developers. This has caused concern and uncertainty about the future of the university and its ability to provide adequate facilities for its students.

Aliah University holds a special place in India's history. It was initially established as Mohammedan College of Calcutta in 1780 by Warren Hastings, the British Governor General of East India Company, near Sealdah in Calcutta. Over the years, the institution has had various names, including the Islamic College of Calcutta, Calcutta Madrasah, Calcutta Mohammedan College, and Madrasah-e-Aliah, before being granted university status in 2008.

During the tenure of the former Left Front government, Aliah University was developed as a crown project to provide quality education to students from minority communities. As one of Asia's oldest modern-style educational institutions and the first in India, Aliah University has a rich legacy of imparting quality education.

The original building of the Mohammedan College of Calcutta was completed in 1782 near Sealdah in Bow Bazaar. However, in the 1820s, the college shifted to its current campus on Wellesley Square. The college's early curriculum included natural philosophy, Arabic, Persian, theology, Islamic law, astronomy, grammar, logic, arithmetic, geometry, rhetoric, and oratory.

For different subjects, the Calcutta Madrasa followed different models such as the Dars-I Nizami of Firingi Mahal for Persian and Arabic and the old Peripatetic School Model for Logic and Philosophy.

The college's first head preceptor was Mulla Maduddin, a renowned scholar and authority in Islamic learning in Bengal at that time.

In 2008, the Calcutta Madrasah was transformed into Aliah University. The university now has three distinct campuses located in Taltala, Park Circus, and New Town in Kolkata. The New Town campus primarily caters to science and technology students and serves as the main administrative office. The Park Circus and Taltala campuses offer programmes for nursing, arts, and Islamic theology students.

Aliah University currently offers a wide range of undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctorate programs in various subjects, including arts, science, management, engineering, nursing, and Islamic theology.

On December 15, 2011, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, laid the foundation stone for the Aliah University Campus at New Town. Later, on November 11, 2014, Mamata Banerjee inaugurated the finished campus, which boasts 156 classrooms with a capacity of 12,000 students and exclusively houses science and technology students. The campus also has separate boys’ and girls’ hostels, as well as three annexure buildings dedicated to various laboratories and a central library.

Meanwhile, the Park Circus campus is reserved for arts and nursing students, while the Taltala campus accommodates Islamic Theology students and the main administrative office.

Recently, the noted alumnus of Aliah University and ISF MLA Nawshad Siddiqui alleged that the state government is attempting to seize the university's land and destabilise it, following in the footsteps of BJP-RSS stable, which is purportedly against the growth of minority educational institutions in the state.

In 2001, the then Left Front government constituted a Madrasah Education Commission under the stewardship of noted educationist Dr AR Kidwai. Following the proposals made by that committee, the entire Madrasah education scenario of the state was revamped, and in 2007, Aliah University came into being. On April 5th, 2008, the West Bengal government adopted the bill in this regard in the West Bengal Assembly.

In a recent press release, Siddiqui alleged that at the start of the institution in 2008, 297 teaching posts were created, out of which 125 are now vacant. In the last 11 years, the government has only recruited 38 professors for the institution. Additionally, NAAC visits to the university, which are mandatory for all universities in the country to function, have not occurred in the last four years.

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