NEW DELHI: Is Aligarh Muslim University next on the government list of educational institutions to be targeted? It would seem so given the government’s decision to take away its minority character, along with threats and intimidation by local BJP leaders, including MP Gautam Shah who has recently written to the AMU Vice Chancellor warning him against the holding of “anti government and anti-BJP” meetings inside the campus.

The Supreme Court will be hearing the minority status case on April 4. Meanwhile the anti AMU campaign is being whipped up with the students and faculty feeling the pressure of the rising heat.

Those who had opposed the appointment of a retired military officer as the Vice Chancellor are now all supportive as Lt General Zameer Uddin Shah, having served in the military for 40 years, is not exactly a soft target as the local BJP in Aligarh is finding out to its chagrin.

The general has not hesitated to pick up the cudgels where required and did not hesitate to shoot off letters to HRD Minister Smriti Irani drawing her attention to created controversies in 2014 where he warned of the possibility of a communal conflagration in the University following the local BJPs decision to observe the birth anniversary of Raja Mahendra Pratap inside the campus. The threat was averted finally, and AMU that had become tense overnight was able to breathe in relief.

Tensions are again on the rise over the larger issue of AMU Minority character, with the BJP leaders keeping up the pressure on an almost daily basis. The sudden attack on the University with loud rhetoric for serving ‘beef biryani’ was diffused by immediate action by the University authorities. General Shah told The Citizen that he had taken immediate action, pointed out it was buffalo beef, and said that cow beef was not served by the University for a 100 following a deliberate decision taken by the authorities at that time to respect the sentiments of non-Muslim students on the campus. He said that he had been able to diffuse the situation through a sane, and immediate rebuttal.

This controversy had barely subsided when Gautam wrote to the VC saying that “anti-government and anti-BJP” functions had been held inside the University and that in future he should ensure that no “permission is given to any function which can be construed as anti-national and anti-BJP.” Gautam claimed that AMU had been inviting only those personalities to the campus for conference and seminar who are known for their anti BJP views. The letter referred to the JNU controversy saying that everyone knew of the “anti national” activities there, and that efforts were on to spread such sentiments and activities to other Universities in India. The letter, according to the VC at the time, was first circulated to the media.

General Shah told The Citizen on Friday that no anti national activities had been held on the campus at all. He was firm, “we will not and do not allow anti-national activity., But we will also guard our right to freedom of expression and speech.” He said he had been in the Army for four decades and “I know what anti national is all about so no one needs to tell me.” But that the right of the University to free speech and expression would be zealously guarded.

Asked if he was feeling pressure, the VC said, “no pressure, this is a situation that I am confident we will overcome.” He was confident that the minority status of AMU would be preserved as “we have a strong case.” He said that the money for the University had come from the Muslim community---Rs 30 lakhs in 1920 that today is equivalent to Rs 105 lakh crores.” He said that there in the competitive departments of Science, Medicine, Engineering, MBA in AMU, the ratio of students as per religion was 50:50. He said that AMU ran ten schools, and reservation in tamuAMU University for students from here was not based on religion at all.