Aligarh, Feb 16 (IANS) Congress chief Sonia Gandhi Saturday assured the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) community that she would lend support to the institution to preserve its historical character and its autonomy.
Addressing AMU's 60th annual convocation through tele-conferencing, Gandhi noted that the issue of AMU's minority character was pending in the Supreme Court, but assured her cooperation in maintaining its autonomy.
Regretting her inability to participate in person due to adverse weather conditions, she congratulated the students who were awarded medals and degrees.
Expressing happiness that eminent women progressive writers like Rasheed Jahan and Ismat Chugtai were the products of the institution, Gandhi also expressed appreciation for the secular foundation of "this great seat of learning" and its contribution in nurturing the country's democratic and pluralistic culture.
She said that she had received a memorandum from the students' union and would talk to the government to take appropriate actions to implement the suggestions.
Gandhi also acknowledged the special relationship of Nehru-Gandhi family with AMU, noting India's first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited AMU five times and was awarded a honorary D. Lit degree while the students' union conferred him with its life membership.
On the occasion, former Indian Hockey captain, Zafar Iqbal was conferred the honorary degree of the D. Lit. He noted that it was for the first time in AMU's history that it has awarded a degree to a sportsperson and called it a good sign for the future of sports in the country. He urged the varsity to include sports in its curricula.
He said he had been a student here and was the varsity's hockey captain in 1982.
Presenting the annual report, Vice Chancellor Lt. Gen. (retd.) Zameer Uddin Shah said that this convocation was a historic one as it was only the second time that a woman had delivered the convocation address. Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum of Bhopal delivered the convocation address in 1925.
Shah said that restoration of minority status was biggest issue for the university and also sought a special grant for hostel accommodation and making the AMU a totally green university.
On this occasion, 223 students were presented medals and about 5,000 students were conferred degrees.
Nawab Ibne Saeed Khan of Chhatari was chief guest in absence of Gandhi.