Since a few days past AMU has been in the centre of a controversy: Is AMU a mini-Pakistan, with its students anti nationals and followers of Muhammad Ali Jinnah? If not so why do they still have a portrait of Jinnah adorning a wall of a building on the campus? If the Aligarians are not anti nationals, why are they not removing the portrait of the man who tore the country into two on the basis of religion?
On a day when Hamid Ansari Sahib, the former Vice President of our country was in the University and a function of the AMU Students Union was to take place to confer upon him the Life Membership of the Union, a handful of RSS-VHP-Bajrang Dal goon, bearing pistols and sticks, and escorted by a number of policemen entered the University Gate and moved towards the Guest house where the former VP was sitting. They were confronted by the handful of AMU “bulls”. Surprising there was no security arrangements for a former VP and the goons were allowed to come precariously close to him! But for the skeletal AMU stick wielding half famished security none blocked their path! The bulls closed the gate and caught a few goons.
Unfortunately they were handed over to the district police who immediately released them, in spite of their reported provocative and communally loaded slogans and allegations of firing katta. The police apparently believed that there was no case against them!
As news spread like wild fire, the students rushed to Bāb-i Saiyid and a protest started. They wanted the police to catch the culprits. As they came out of the University gate and tried to march towards the police station, the police who till yet had been mute spectators started blowing lathis on the unarmed protesters! The irony was very apparent: release those wielding and firing and brandishing lāthis, and brutally attack those who would protest against this goondaism! Dozens were injured! They took care to ensure that almost the entire leadership of the AMUSU be brutally beaten up. The President, the former President, the Secretary and dozens of others were severely injured!
By late evening the goons were successful in accomplishing their nefarious agenda! Almost all TV channels were talking of Jinnah’s image in the Building of the Union Hall. None referred to the fact that the attack was in fact against the former VP and an attempt to malign a Central University!
None also paused to mention that the Students Union Building was in fact a semi-independent entity: It originally was a Debating Club, The Siddon’s Club, which like clubs in Oxford and Cambridge was a place for serious debates and deliberations. After the M.A.O. College became a University by an Act of Parliament in 1920, it was converted into a building of the Students Union. Starting with Mahatma Gandhi to a number of Noble Laureate, as well as politicians, scientists, and social scientists were conferred Life Memberships. Jinnah was one of them. He was conferred this honour in 1938 when he came for the first time to AMU. He came as a leader of the Congress.
He was with Motilal Nehru and was known for his secular views. According to Gandhiji he was the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity! It was a time when Veer Savarkar and Golwalkar were talking about separate representations to Muslims. Muslims, according to Savarkar were to be thrown out of India! Jinnah when he walked in to accept the award of Life Membership of AMUSU, was talking of a throwing out of the foreign yoke, who were being felicitated by Hindu Maha Sabha!
VD Savarkar had proposed the two-nation theory in 1937 three years before Jinnah did so in 1940. Further, Hindu Mahasabha ran coalition governments with the Muslim League in 1942 in Bengal, Sindh & NWFP.
The photograph of Jinnah which hangs in the Students Union Hall is of Jinnah the Congressman and the tormentor of the British! It has been there since 1938!
Further, the building that houses it is a repository of all the relics and artefacts related with the history of the Students Union. It is a sort of a Museum which contains the portraits of those given Life Membership starting with Gandhiji. It is also the repository of all the documents related with the Union. It since it’s inception is a restricted place with entry allowed only to bonafide members!
One should also point out that it is not the only place where something related with Jinnah is preserved in India. There is no Museum in India dedicated to National Freedom Struggle which doesn’t have one! And why should it not be there? He is a part of our history; and history can not be wished away! Like our parentage we cannot change it! Like it or hate it, it is our past!
And let us not forget: those who believed in the two-nation theory of Jinnah migrated to Pakistan long ago. Those who remained back are those who rejected his nefarious ideas!
Unfortunately those who believed in the two-nation theory of Savarkar and Golwalkar, still shout the slogan of “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan” and are ruling over our country and maligning Jawaharlal Nehru who had opposed Jinnah and his divisive ideas!
However whatever happened in the past one week had some positive after effects as well! I will highlight two:
a) The events united Aligarh as never before; and
b) Aligarh leapfrogged towards gender equality and women’s emancipation
Today we find all concerned interests and parties on one platform: there is hardly any dissenting voice, from retired teachers, to those in service, to researchers to students and the Alumni: all stand steadfast behind the fair name of alma mater! In spite of the media hunting desperately for a contrary viewpoint, all are condemning the fascist forces, condemning Jinnah but all appear to firmly with the University and the concept of freedom of expression!
As Gandhiji, or Lohiaji, or Jai Prakash Narayan ji, Muhammad Ali Jinnah is also a recipient of Honorary Life Membership of the Students Union. None of them can be wished away! Their ideologies have nothing to do with their portraits hung here!
The second positive development has been that for the first time in the entire history of the University, the girls participated at equal footing as the boys! Since day one they have been shoulder to shoulder with the boys! Although gates were closed for them, they came out in large numbers.
Hope this continues even after this particular episode is over!
In the end please hear this appeal of Faizan Mustafa, VC NALSAR (former Registrar, AMU) in full: