AMU loses dozens of its teachers and staff following the Numaish this year

Kumbh and Panchayat elections are not apparently the only super spreaders allowed by UP government. The permission for the annual exhibition or Numaish to be held seems to have been another culprit

Aligarh Muslim University
Aligarh Muslim University

Faraz Ahmad

Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) appears to have lost an alarmingly large number of teachers, both serving and retired. AMU is a residential university and the campus is spread over 1155 acres of verdant land with not just a majority of students but most teachers, professors and even Minto Circle High School and its teachers all living on the campus. The teaching community in AMU is like an extended family whose social interactions are also mostly restricted within the campus and therefore if anything happens to any one teacher, within no time the word spreads and others come rushing in.

The spate of deaths, claim anecdotal evidence, began after the annual Aligarh exhibition, called Numaish (the Urdu/Hindi/Hindustani word for exhibition). It is generally held on the outskirts of the town, not very far from the AMU campus. Visiting the Numaish is a ritual for residents in Aligarh, and even more so for AMU teachers and students, although there is really not much to see. But this is the only time in the year when they can freely mingle with other residents of the Aligarh city. The Numaish arrives in town around the Republic Day at the peak of winter and is held for around ten days or a fortnight.

All this is worth mentioning because friends from AMU claim that the second surge of Covid deaths began to be reported soon after the Numaish this year. Since the university has not yet fully reopened after the first wave of Covid and most students have not returned, the hostel occupancy is generally low. That is the reason, it seems, why research scholars or those in the Medical College including the resident doctors have borne the brunt of this wave.

But then besides the AMU faculty and students, city residents too visit the Numaish every evening. But how many of them might have succumbed to Covid is difficult to assess in the absence of any data what with the Uttar Pradesh government warning hospitals, doctors and even crematoria to suppress figures of those dying of Covid.

Aligarh Numaish is actually an Agro-industrial fair travelling around the year in several districts of the state on different fixed months and dates. When it is held in Meerut it is called Nauchandi and it is also held in Bulandshahr, immediately before or after Aligarh. It also goes to Kanpur and Allahabad. It’s very old. I remember my father talking about visiting it as a child and in his youth in Allahabad. That means it must have been established during the British period.

So, this exhibition travels through UP and provides residents the opportunity to assemble and enjoy each other’s company without much of a social distance. The fact that the Numaish was also allowed means that the Kumbh mela or the panchayat elections alone are not responsible for the wild spread of the disease in Uttar Pradesh.

Unmindful of the consequences of creating an environment for assembly and social interaction, the fiefdom of Ajay Bisht aka Yogi Adityanath has been carrying on in a cavalier fashion. The point is that even after the Kumbh mela fiasco the UP government has not made any effort to ban such fairs.

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