Aligarh Muslim University is in the news. It was always in the news since pre-partition days. Many felt it was responsible for creating a leadership which demanded a separate state of Pakistan. The latest controversy is over a photograph of founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah in a hall at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). Goons masquerading as activists intruded when former Vice President Mr Hamid Ansari was delivering a guest lecture in AMU campus. The attempt to attack Ansari is diverted by the demand to throw out Jinnah’s photograph, dating back to 1938, from the campus.
It is not the first time that AMU is being targeted. Several years ago, the Hindu fundamentalists tried to put Raja Mahendra Pratap’s picture to target Sir Syed Ahmed birthday celebration. Now there are reports that his grandson wants to put Raja’s portrait inside the campus as AMU stands on the 3.04 acre land Raja had leased in 1929 at the rate of Rs 2/- per annum. There is no doubt that AMU should have given due respect to him. I am not sure why it did not happen, but RSS’s attempt to claim Raja Mahendra Pratap is out of ignorance and is sure to boomerang. The Raja was a secular man who had close association with Muslims. In fact, Jan Sangh stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee lost his deposit against Raja Mahendra Pratap in the first election he contested from Mathura Lok Sabha constituency in 1957. So Jinnah’s portrait is not the issue. The issue is to create problems and polarize the debate to reap rich harvest of communal hatred elsewhere.
The worrying issue here is the advice being given to Muslims on how to handle the issue: that the BJP and Hindutva forces will always rake up such issues so it is only prudent that AMU should do away with Jinnah’s photograph and also put up the photograph of Raja Mahendra Pratap to do away with the controversy which is a deliberate ploy to vitiate the atmosphere in the campus. Now, for all practical purposes, this has found support from political parties who have stopped speaking about Muslims just because they fear ‘BJP and Hindutva forces would use it to communalise the voters’. The question is whether this is a solution or a problem.
The political parties are now afraid to raise even the socio-economic-cultural issues of Muslims. It shows that the democracy has been reduced to a majoritarian propaganda tool, which is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. A healthy democracy is a place where minorities and even the dissenters can live without fear, holding their heads high. Minorities can’t be held responsible for every act of the past and history cannot be an instrument for the lynch mob to settle scores on the ground. Academic institutions should actually debate and discuss these issues. As both India and Pakistan enter into fourth generation, the younger ones should be free from prejudices, at least the ones who are in the academics. Unfortunately, situation in India is getting worse with the Sangh Parivar pushing its agenda and wanting to convert all academic institutions into Gurukuls, not allowing dissent to flourish and deeply fishing into old stereotypical agenda against the Muslims and other minorities. So, after seventy years of our partition, we can’t discuss the follies of the political class on both sides of the border. Historians and political writers during those days might have been influenced by then political thoughts, but so many years after the partition, we now have the opportunity to independently analyse the reasons for division. We must respect that India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka are different countries and there is nothing to discuss here that talks of an ‘Akhand Bharat’ kind of fictitious idea that the Sangh Parivar nurture for political purposes. It serves us better to analyse things independently and learn a few lessons from our past. It would be absolutely stupid and absurd to say that we can’t talk about Jinnah or revere him, while we can bow to the Queen and feel proud of being part of the British Commonwealth. But then the Sangh Parivar’s history version is not bothered about the struggle against colonialism, but the one against the Muslims. In fact, if Great Britain opens up its citizenship for Indian citizens, I am sure, a majority of these ‘Deshbhakts’ won’t have a second thought about leaving India.
Aligarh Muslim University is a prestigious institution of our country. It has a secular past also. It created a growing middle class and its intelligentsia. Muslims are equal citizens of India and hence to deny them space and seek answers from them all the time for the ‘alleged’ sins of creating Pakistan is highly objectionable and must be condemned. History cannot be corrected. What will happen if the Dalit Bahujan population of this country starts seeking compensation and retaliation for the brahmanical sins perpetuating untouchability and caste system on the vast population of India? Mature societies do not hound their people for the past sins of their ancestors. In fact, it is better to admit mistakes and faults. Those who seek response from Muslims about Jinnah’s sins should introspect whether they are ready to acknowledge the sins their ancestors committed on the vast Bahujan communities. Has any of India’s brahmanical politicians apologized to the indigenous population for the historical wrongs? It is better history be dealt by historians and not street rogues and third rate politicians who want to divide communities for their vote banks.
Politics in the country should be issue based. Let the governments go to people on the basis of their performance and not on the stories they build up vilifying the minorities and claiming to respect the Dalits. Your good intentions should be reflected in the work you do and not what you talk.
Finally, history has lots of lessons for us. Pakistan today is not really that of the dreams of Mohammad Ali Jinnah who wanted an inclusive Pakistan. In fact, so powerful are the religious forces there that it is difficult for a common person to stand up against them, yet those who believe in human rights and human values are fighting for just rights.
I have Pakistani and Bangladeshi friends who actually speak against Islamic fundamentalism and share a common secular approach. Pakistan and Bangladesh have paid the price for state’s active support to Islamic fundamentalists. The main victims of their fundamentalism and hatred initially were minorities particularly the Hindus, Christians and Ahmedis. Gradually, the fundamentalists felt that those Muslims championing the cause of secularism and protection of minorities are a threat to their society and Islam. At the end, common Pakistani and Bangladeshi are fed up with the moral policing of the Islamic fanatics and look forward for a better life where the rule of law prevails.
Though Pakistan came into being on the basis of religious identity, it got divided later on ethnic Bangla identity issue. India was careful enough when it allowed its diversity as its strength and not allowed domination of Hindi as being done today. Brahmanical hatemongers in Europe and America, who seek equal status and enjoy all the strength of democracies there, should think twice before exporting hatred against minorities in India. We will only become a strong nation once we allow its diversity to flourish and learn positive lessons from history and not by hiding or deleting the uncomfortable chapters but by researching on them well so that future generation is better prepared. You can fight Jinnah-ism with inclusive politics and not by Savarkarism which talk of exclusivism and denial of rights to minorities.
Muslims and Christians too are Indian citizens and need to be defended on the basis of their citizenship rights. You cannot paint an entire community and its institutions as anti-national just because it has a photograph of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. We have accepted Pakistan as a reality and that is why BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani went to Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore and Jaswant Singh paid rich tribute to founder of Pakistan. Truth from history can expose us. Who can deny the fact that India and Pakistan elite followed the same pattern in the constituent Assembly? The chairman of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly was Mr Joginder Nath Mandal, a follower of Dr Ambedkar from Bengal. He became the first law minister there. The Jinnah which RSS hates so much fought the case of Bal Gangadhar Tilak as well as organized lawyers for Bhagat Singh in Lahore. He called Bhagat Singh a national hero. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was the Minister in Nehru’s cabinet along with Sardar Baldev Singh, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Maulana Azad, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai and many others. Similarly, the same Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was Finance Minister in the Krishak Praja Party-Muslim League Coalition led by Fazul-Haq in Bengal. They all joined Nehru’s cabinet despite diversity of ideas because the aim was to build a united India.
Is it not wonderful to see how lawyers and activists are today fighting a case for Shaheed Bhagat Singh to be declared a hero of Pakistan too? Will it not be great if Lahore High Court give a judgment on Bhagat Singh’s execution terming that as farce and seeking British apology? We have not been able to do so even after so many years but if our neighbours do it, we must appreciate it.(Published on 14th May 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 20)