Apparently under the pressure of Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani, Delhi's Jamia Milia Islamia university is thinking of closing two prestigious units:  the Centre for Jawaharlal Nehru Studies and Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies. Instead, the university plans to merge them into a new Department of Development Studies.

The proposal is set to come up for discussion in Jamia Milia’s academic council meeting on Friday.

The proposal is listed as item number 15 in the agenda circulated to the members of the academic council.

According to the agenda, the two centres are being merged on the recommendation of a committee constituted by Jamia Milia Islamia Vice-Chancellor Professor Talat Ahmad. “The committee, after detailed deliberations, has suggested certain reorganisation/restructuring of the Faculties, Departments and Centres based on their core thematic focus and activities,” it said.

The agenda lists several proposals to restructure departments, including the merger of these two departments.  But it does not list the details of the committee.

“Nobody knows when the committee was appointed, who headed it and who its members were,” said Jamia Teachers Association secretary, Professor MS Bhat, who is also a member of the academic council. “Nor does the agenda paper give any justification for the proposed restructuring. Perhaps all this detail would be provided to us in the meeting...”

According to government officials, while a large-scale restructuring of faculties and centres had beenon the cards in Jamia Milia, the suggestion to merge the Centre for Jawaharlal Nehru Studies and Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies came straight from the Human Resource Development ministry.

The two centres were established during the vice-chancellorship of historian Professor Mushirul Hasan from 2004 to 2009. The Centre for Jawaharlal Nehru Studies was set up in 2004 with the objective of promoting research and teaching on processes that have led to major political, economic, social and cultural changes. The centre endeavours to “build a spirit of scientific inquiry, a democratic spirit and secular values within the university community”, says the official website of Jamia Milia.

The Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies became operational in February 2005 with the objective of addressing the web of concerns faced by the two weaker sections. Inaugurating the centre, former president KR Narayanan had said, “This arrangement will enable scholars to study the issues in an inter-related manner, which would bring out the totality of the real situation for the world to know and act upon.”

Said Professor Bhat, “The name of a centre symbolises the vision under which it is formed. The name is not always there for the sake of it.” he added. After the death of the former president in 2005, the unit was rechristened the Dr KR Narayanan Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies.