Maulana Azad Library
Maulana Azad Library, Aligarh Muslim University.Wikimedia Commons/Farzan44

Gender discrimination has found a whole new meaning in the latest decision of banning female students from entering the library in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). University vice-chancellor Lt Gen Zameer Uddin Shah has disallowed Women's College students' entry into AMU's Maulana Azad Library stating that they will attract "four times more boys".

However, the VC claims that he is more concerned about the space in the Maulana Azad Library, which is not enough to accommodate girl students from the varsity.

"The issue is not of discipline, but of space. Our library is packed," he said.

Not only the VC holds this discriminatory opinion, Women's College principal Naima Gulrez too considers girls' presence in the library as a distraction and an invitation to indiscipline.

"We understand the demand for access to the library. But have you girls ever seen the library? It is jam-packed with boys. If girls too were to be present in it, discipline issues might crop up," The Times of India quoted Gulrez as saying during oath-taking ceremony of the new students' union.

This tussle between the female students of the university and its authorities is however not new. While students have long been requesting permission to avail the library facilities citing ways to counter the discipline problem, the authorities have been persistent on their decision by not addressing their request.

"We are students of Aligarh Muslim University. We, too, should have the benefit of accessing the famous Maulana Azad Library. The library in the Women's College is not enough. If space is a problem, we can just issue books and not sit in the library," Women's College students' union president Gulfiza Khan said.

The university, however, does not seem to be satisfied with their suggestions and has yet again denied them the liberty to browse through the bulk of books in library and explore beyond their curriculum. They insist that they should remain away from the library premises and should ask for the books from their teachers when they want.

"... In my time in 2010, the teachers told us that we will issue books for you in our name, so you will not have to go there," a post-graduate AMU student, who is also an alumna of the Women's college, said.

Even the Maulana Azad librarian has a solution ready for the girls' concern over getting books from the general library, if the books in Women's College Library are not enough. "If the Women's College library demands books, we send them instantly. The purpose is solved without the students coming here," librarian Amjad Ali of the Maulana Azad Library said.

The discrimination goes on despite the reservation of 12 out of 1,300 seats for AMU girl students in the library, however, the reservation system for female students within the university library is already a sign of discrimination.

Unlike the Women's College principal, assistant professor of History Shadab Bano thinks that the peanut-size reservation granted in the library is in fact responsible for the indiscipline that the VC fears.

"The discipline issue can be tackled only if women are not in a minority in the library, which is usually packed with male students. And also, it is the responsibility of the university to assure the safety and protection of women," Bano said.