A portrait of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, which has been hanging on one of the walls of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) since 1938, became the reason for right-wing protest, which turned violent on Wednesday. At least two dozen people, including students of AMU, were left injured when activists associated with the Hindu Jagran Morcha, an affiliate of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) stormed into the University campus, demanding the removal of Jinnah’s portrait from the Student Union Hall. Many claim that the attack on the iconic minority-run central university by right-wingers shows that the RSS has set its eyes on AMU.

Around six varsity students were injured when the police lathi-charged and lobbed tear gas shells to contain the violence that ensued on the campus. When the violence broke out, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, former Vice President (VC) of India, was present at the varsity campus to attend a felicitation programme, organized by the Aligarh Muslim University Student Union (AMUSU).

One of the Injured AMU Students

Maksoor Ahmad Usmani, the President of AMUSU, alleged that the attack on the university was a pre-planned attack. He said, “The event is more disturbing as we realize that it may be an attempt to tarnish the image of the varsity, as, at the time of the attack, former vice-president, Mohammad Hamid Ansari was present at the campus as the AMUSU was going to host him and felicitate him as the lifetime member of the students’ union. We also consider this attack as a threat to the security of the former vice-president of India.”

He then went on to add that the AMUSU had given the ultimatum to the Uttar Pradesh police, which had done precious little to control the situation other than attacking the university students, to arrest those involved in disrupting the varsity’s functioning or else the students of AMU would start filling up the jails as a mark of protest.

Condemning the attack on the iconic university, AMU Vice Chancellor (VC), Prof. Tariq Mansoor, in a statement, said, “Aligarh Muslim University strongly condemns the trespassing of University boundary and raising of objectionable and intimidating slogans by a group of Hindu Yuva Vahini youths today afternoon.”

The press statement issued by the varsity condemned the attack and expressed sympathy for the AMU students, who had been injured during the mishap. The university has even demanded the district administration to take action against the culprits and the youths of Hindu Yuva Vahini, who had disrupted the varsity’s decorum and peace. While the VC has requested the state and central authorities regarding the sentiments of the AMU community, he also requested his students to maintain peace during the hour of crisis.

In another development, the AMU Teacher’s Association (AMUTA) wrote to the district magistrate, seeking swift action. Prof. Nazimul Islam, the honorary secretary of AMUTA, said, “We demand the government of India to constitute an impartial time-bound judicial inquiry and punish the culprits. We also demand that an FIR should be lodged against the persons who instigated and was responsible for sending the mob at the university and inflict injury to AMU students and disturb the conducive atmosphere of the university. This is a serious security lapse on the part of the police as the former VP of India was present at the guest house number 3 when the incident happened.”

Another Injured Student

Sources within the varsity campus have alleged that this attack was a pre-planned attack, as a local BJP leader had already written to the VC of AMU seeking an explanation for having Jinnah’s portrait in the student union’s hall room.

Prof. Shafey Kidwai, the official AMU spokesperson, explained the reason for having Jinnah’s portrait on the campus. He said, “AMUSU has a long-standing tradition of according life membership to national leaders, writers and social achievers. Jinnah too was accorded a life membership in 1939, which was long before Muslim League had put forward the demand for the creation of Pakistan.”

He added, “According to traditions, the photographs of life members are hung in the student union’s hall. Hence the portraits of Jinnah, Mahatma Gandhi, E.M. Forster and many others are found within the campus.”

However, this not the first time that the right-wingers have targeted AMU. Earlier on April 27, RSS activist Amir Rasheed had written to AMU’s VC seeking permission to organize RSS Shakha at the University campus, a request which the varsity had politely turned down, claiming that it was against the university policy to allow any camp or Shakha to be organized by any political party.

Speaking on the same, Kidwai added, “AMU has a tradition of not allowing political parties to organize camps or youth leaders associated with certain parties to contest student union’s or AMUTA’s elections. The student union enjoys a certain level of autonomy in accordance with an act of the Parliament.”

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Reporting by Shabina Akhtar
Special Correspondent, Aligarh