AMU clashes: Why should shakhas be established in educational institutions?

Students protest at the Aligarh Muslim University

Prior to this so-called Jinnah portrait controversy, one had been getting the news of right-wing outfits’ efforts in full swing to set up RSS shakhas inside the premises of AMU

The MET department can forecast the ‘severe’ storms that will hit the skies, but, alas, there isn’t a department that can broadcast the storms hitting our lives. Yes, I’m more than hinting at the communal polarisation being played by RSS with a certain agenda in mind. It is clear that the right-wing wants to deny, if not kill, the very existence of the largest minority community of India- the Mussalman of Hindustan.

For the last two weeks I have been on the move, travelling from Uttar Pradesh to Uttarakhand and hearing of the provocations whipped to such an extent that the ‘other’ reacts and with that rioting begins. The communal havoc in Western Uttar Pradesh seems spreading, what with non-issues played up to such an extent that killings and displacements are no longer news!

After all, it wasn’t a question of Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s portrait on the premises of Aligarh Muslim University but more of an excuse for the RSS cadres to enter the premises, hit students and disrupt the academic structure. In fact, prior to this so called Jinnah portrait controversy, one had been getting the news of right-wing outfits’ efforts in full swing to set up RSS shakhas inside the premises of AMU.

Tell me, why should shakhas be established in educational institutions? Quite obviously to provoke and then attack and kill not just students but also academic space! Though I have not studied at AMU but on the occasions I had visited the campus it was not just peaceful but orderly; with students moving about in that disciplined manner. Along the strain of that fading old world charm, it houses traces of the past grandeur of togetherness. Not to overlook an underlying fact which seems getting trampled upon in the midst of the communal virus: a large number of the students and faculty in AMU are non-Muslims and there’s been little trace of communal disruptions.

During one of my earlier visits to this University township, I met several offbeat personalities. Professor Jamal Khwaja and his spouse, Hameeda Durreshahwar Akbar Khwaja, who were so taken up by Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru’s call for secularism that way back in the 1950s, this couple named their four children with a combination of Hindu and Muslim names! Hameeda told me that Jamal Khwaja’s father, Abdul Majeed Khwaja, was a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi and he had stayed in their ancestral Aligarh home in 1920. Later they came in close contact with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and this changed their entire outlook. “I also feel that names are linguistic and not much to do with the religion one is practicing...in earlier centuries Muslims kept names according to their native places from which they’d come to settle down here. And though we are practicing Muslims but decided to name our four children with a combination of Hindu and Muslim names - the eldest is Jawahar Kabir, the second Gita Anjum, the third Rajan Habib and the youngest Nassir Navin. In fact , when we named our daughter, Gita Anjum, born in the mid-50s , she was blessed with words to the effect “may God grant her the purity of Gita and the sparkle of Anjum,” said Hameeda.

And with immense pride this couple even detailed the details to their children - Rajan Habib – retired IAS of Andhra Pradesh cadre, the other two sons engineers working in the US and Gita Anjum a senior neurologist in a New Delhi hospital.

Keeping with old traditions, this couple has not flaunted their secularism nor their political lineage. Though Professor Jamaal Khwaja was a parliamentarian decades ago but after his term ended he went back to the teaching profession at AMU and today he and his spouse lead a quiet, retired life in Aligarh.

Aligarh is also home to the Lall Khani Muslamans. Lall Khan was in the court of Emperor Akbar and one of his sons had converted to Islam and his descendants are known as the Lall Khani Mussalmans and they are of Rajput lineage. In fact, in Aligarh I had met well-to-do Muslims, who‘d talked with much pride about their Rajput lineage. Rao Ghufraan explained, “Over 400 years ago my forefather was the Raja of Jwalapur in the Haridwar region and his son converted to Islam after being born by the blessings of a Sufi… we are practising Muslims but do retain the Rao surname…I describe myself as a Muslim Rajput. After all, Rajput blood runs in my veins. One can’t overlook the lineage factor but I’m also bound by my religion -Islam.”

In Aligarh I’d also met a descendant of the Nawab of Chattari, Javaid Said, who told me that they still follow several Rajput practices. “My grandfather had always encouraged us to touch the feet of the elders for their blessings. This when my grandfather was a practising staunch Muslim.” And another interesting input which Javaid detailed was his family’s bonding with his Hindu Rajput relatives. “One of them, Kunwar Madhusudan Singh of Barauli is also based in Aligarh and our families meet regularly. After all, it’s the great Rajput blood flowing through our veins which holds strong.”

*****

Whilst keying in, I’m trying to recall what I’d spoken to the AMU students for one of the guest lectures I‘d been invited for. Well, that was soon after the 2002 pogrom of Gujarat and I had spoken of the dangers of the fascism. Today, there’s little left to be said or heard, as RSS cadres seem running our country, out to devour and demolish each one of us, one by one. Today, no sector remains untouched. Even the so called commercial and technological hub of Haryana, Gurugram, is controlled by right wing goons who have grabbed ‘namaaz’ as an excuse to hit and hound the Muslim community of Gurugram, who are primarily labourers and migrants and rickshaw pullers.

For last several years I have been witnessing Friday namaaz being held under trees along the side of the streets and roads…and soon after the namaaz is over, prayers- mats are piled on rickshaws and carted away and the namaazis walk to their various work places. There is no noise or confusion or chatter …all very peaceful.

And when I has asked the namaazis why do pray out in the open, in the midst of the afternoon heat and sun, they told me, “ Where are masjids in Gurugram? Only two mosques. And we are not permitted by the administration to construct any mosque! The only thing left is to be told not to pray at all! We are getting targeted on any pretext!”Yes, such is the state of affairs! Shocking …but nothing really shocks today as fascist forces are controlling and manipulating our lives.

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