ALIGARH: Wednesday’s violence at the AMU campus when armed goons of the Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) barged into the University campus, even while a handful of policemen watched on helplessly, was clearly a premeditated attempt to disrupt the normal functioning of the University.

But, was it also an attempt to attack or browbeat the former Vice President of India Hamid Ansari, who was at that very moment sitting at the VIP guest house in AMU, barely 50 meters away from the scene of violence?

The President of AMU Students’ Union, Mashkoor Ahmad Usmani thinks so. He has just announced that he will be approaching the Human Rights Commission of India for highlighting the fact that if the former Vice President of the Republic was facing a security threat, then it clearly is the time for all secular forces in the country to take cognizance of this entire episode.

Usmani pointed out that this was an unprecedented breach of security at AMU because in times of violence and protest, the University Circle serves as no man’s territory which no protester is allowed to cross from inside or from outside.

The Vahini goons were shouting “AMU Gaddar Murdabad” and burned an effigy of Mohammad Ali Jinnah to highlight their anger over the fact that a portrait of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan still adorns the walls of the picture gallery at the AMU Students’ Union hall.

The small police force remained a mute spectator while the goons continued to shout inflammatory slogans. It was the University security staff who finally confronted and over powered the goons when they were moving towards the guest house where Mr. Hamid Ansari was sitting, totally oblivious of what was going on outside.

Incidentally, Vice President Ansari was at the campus at invitation of the AMUSU, which was honouring the former Vice President, an alumnus of AMU by granting him a life membership of the Students’ Union that evening.

When, on April 30, 2018, the BJP Lok Sabha Member from Aligarh, Satish Gautam, decided to write to the AMU Vice Chancellor regarding a dusty portrait of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, which has been hanging inside the Hall of AMU Students’ Union since 1938, he knew well that he was stirring a hornet’s nest. This portrait, along with all those who have been accorded the life membership of AMU Students’ Union, including Mahatma Gandhi, is a part of the rich archival legacy of this institution. It also should serve as a grim reminder to the youth of today that if secularism and India’s rich pluralistic ethos is not protected and preserved, it bodes ill for the country.

Intriguingly enough, even before the letter would have been dispatched to the Vice Chancellor, Prof Tariq Mansoor, it found its way into the hands of a select group of media persons.

Coming close on the heels of the purported move by an RSS activist to hold Shakhas inside the AMU campus, this appeared to be a part of well orchestrated move to push AMU to the wall by questioning its commitment to the BJP’s own version of nationalism. Within hours of this news breaking out in some newspapers, an impression also set in as if this picture was placed in the near past and was consequently “conclusive proof of this institution’s questionable commitment to nationalism”.

When the story broke out and media persons from the nearby capital descended upon the University premises, the University spokesman, Prof. Shafey Kidwai sought to explain that photographs of all luminaries of the past, including Sarojini Naidu, C Rajgopalachari, Dr C V Raman, British writer E M Forster, Dr Rajendra Prasad and a host of others have been adorning the walls of the Students’ Union since nearly three quarters of a century.

He said that such archival photographs continue to be placed in many other national institutions of importance and none of the visiting dignitaries invited by the Students’ Union after independence, including Jawaharlal Nehru and Jinnah’s arch opponent Maulana Azad or Dr Rajendra Prasad and Dr S Radhakrishnan had objected to this display of Jinnah’s photo.

It may be mentioned that the matter pertaining to Jinnah’s photographs was also raised a few years back and was also widely reported. Senior BJP leaders of this district were well aware of this and this issue was hardly given any importance at that time. This time, however, the scenario is widely different and there appears to be a calculated move by the electronic media to whip up public sentiments on this sensitive issue.

Usmani told newspersons that there appears to be a deliberate move to destabilize the Aligarh Muslim University by raising this issue at the present juncture. He pointed out that the AMU Students’ Union had awarded life membership to Jinnah in 1938, much before the demand for Pakistan was raised by the Muslim League. He said that Muslim youth today share not an iota of the views of Jinnah and the two-nation theory. He said that despite our strong political differences with him, we see no reason to discontinue a tradition which is nearly a century old.

Jasim Mohammad, an AMU alumnus viewed this incident as a move by the local BJP MP Satish Gautam to derail the Prime Minister’s Sab Ka Sath, Sab Ka Vikas campaign. Jasim Mohammad, who is a diehard supporter of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said in a statement yesterday that if Mr. Gautam had any objection on Jinnah’s portrait, he could have raised this at a University Court meeting of which he is a member since the past three years or better he could raise the matter in the Parliament also.

If this entire episode, which clearly appears to be well planned, is not thoroughly probed and the culprits are booked and brought to justice, then it is indeed going to be a hot summer at the AMU campus.

On the other hand it is equally true that if AMU students continues with their ongoing dharna at the campus, the situation will only need a spark to light a fire . Clearly it is time to tread carefully or the institution may be facing perhaps most serious crisis in recent times