Aligarh: "If we allow girls into the library, there will be four times more boys," the Vice Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University has said in a roundly condemned comment rejecting demands to end restrictions on women students using the main library in the campus.
"The issue is not that of discipline, but of space. Our library is packed. There is no place for even boys to sit," said Vice Chancellor Lt Gen Zameeruddin Shah, addressing students at a function on Monday.
Following the uproar over his remarks, Education Minister Smriti Irani has asked for a report. The ministry has written to the vice chancellor saying that keeping out some women from the library is "human rights violation."
The university, which is counted among India's best, allows all graduates to use the Maulana Azad library but some 2,500 under-graduate women are banned from entering it; the vice chancellor says they can go to the Women's College, which has its own library though not as well-stocked.
Today, Lt Gen Shah tried to explain his concerns. "There are 4,000 under-graduate girls. If we allow them, we will not have place. Plain and simple - we can't allow them into the library. We are not against women's empowerment," he said.
The Women's College was established in 1906 and the Maulana Azad Library was set up decades later. Students of the Women's College were never given membership of the library, which can seat 1,300 at a time.
Women students are angry and upset.
"Aren't we part of AMU? At least let us borrow books, if we can't sit inside," said one student.
Another complained, "We have not even looked inside the library. Don't we deserve this facility? We only wanted library cards."
The university has been in trouble before over a controversial diktat asking women to wear
"proper and decent looking dresses" and own not more than one mobile.