Hamid Ansari, Jinnah’s portrait and intimidation of AMU 

Police control the situation after a clash between two groups at Aligarh Muslim University

With the AMU episode, the Hindu nationalists hoped to attack Hamid Ansari’s secular credentials, create another divisive issue in the name of Jinnah’s portrait and intimidate everyone on AMU campus

Recently (May 2018) Hamid Ansari, the ex-Vice President of India, was invited by Aligarh Muslim University to honor him with life membership of AMU Students Union (AMUSU). He had the necessary security with him, still the Hindu Yuva Vahini-ABVP activists could reach near his place of stay.

The pretext of the armed protesters was that Mohd. Ali Jinnah’s portrait was put up to please Ansari and that they wouldn’t allow Jinnah’s portrait in AMU. The usual violence followed, few Vahini volunteers were arrested, most of them were then let off. This has been followed by series of statements from Yogi Adityanath, who incidentally is also the founder of this Hindutva group, saying that portrait will not be allowed. Subramaniam Swami questioned as to who will teach a lesson to AMU! The students of AMU are on the protest against the violence unleashed by Vahini and ABVP.

Too many angles to the story! First of all how did the armed volunteers of Vahini and ABVP reach near the place where Hamdi Ansari was staying? One recalls that on every occasion there has been an attempt to humiliate this distinguished scholar and diplomat who held the high office. His photo of not saluting the Republic day parade, hinting he is disrespecting, was made viral only to bring in the realisation that he was following the rule book as only the President salutes and no one else. When he was given a farewell, Modi hinted at him being a Muslim and him being attached to issues related to Muslims as if it were a humiliation. In this light, him being targeted is just the continuation of what the RSS combine has been doing to Ansari so far.

How did someone suddenly recall that Jinnah’s portrait was there on campus and how did the armed volunteers sneak into the AMU campus? Was the portrait put up just before the Ansari’s arrival. Quite contrary to that, the portrait has been there from 1938, as AMU students Union had conferred a rare honor on him by giving him life membership of AMUSU.

The statement was that Jinnah divided the country, so how could we celebrate him. The role played by Jinnah in the freedom movement is not a linear one and is not uniform. He began as a part of the movement and was part of it in the beginning. He was the Chairman of the reception committee, which welcomed Gandhi on his return from South Africa. He was the one who fought the case in which Bal Gangadhar Tilak was given the death sentence and it was due to his legal brilliance that he could save Tilak’s life.

He was also the lawyer for the young revolutionary, Sardar Bhagat Singh, and to cap it all he entered into a Hindu-Muslim unity pact with Tilak (Lucknow, 1916). India’s nightingale Sarojini Naidu called Jinnah as the ‘ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity’.

Mohd Ali Jinnah was the one who fought the case in which Bal Gangadhar Tilak was given the death sentence and it was due to his legal brilliance that he could save Tilak’s life. He was also the lawyer for the young revolutionary, Sardar Bhagat Singh, and to cap it all he entered into a Hindu-Muslim unity pact with Tilak (Lucknow, 1916). India’s nightingale Sarojini Naidu called Jinnah as the ‘ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity’.

There is another side to the story also. He dissociated from national movement once Gandhi launched the non-cooperation movement in 1920, in which for the first time the regular people of the country were involved. This movement laid the foundation of the biggest ever mass movement in the history of the World. Jinnah was a constitutionalist and he felt involving citizens in the struggle against British is unwarranted.

Similarly he opposed Gandhi’s role in the Khilafat movement and gradually dissociated from active involvement in politics and left for London to practice law. The second major flaw which transformed Jinnah, who was basically secular, was his associating with and leading Muslim League. Muslim League was given the status of being the representative of Muslims by British. This was a motivated exercise by British as Muslim League began from the Nawabs and Landlords, with feudal values inherent in it down to the core.

His role as a leader of the Muslim League and his Lahore resolution of a separate country for Muslims, Pakistan, is what made him a communal leader. To blame him alone for partition of the country is a distorted presentation of history of modern India. The process of partition was begun by the British who pursued the policy of ‘divide and rule’. This was supplemented by communalists from both Hindu and Muslim. Savarkar was the first one to articulate that there are two nations in the country, the Hindu and the Muslim. As per this understanding the country belongs to Hindus, so the Muslim nation will have to remain subordinate to Hindus. This is where Jinnah falls in the communal trap and the logic he puts forward is, if there are two nations in the country, so why not two countries? So why not Pakistan? Jinnah that way has been the subject of various biographies and interpretations.

His August 11, 1947, speech in Pakistan Constituent Assembly, where he stated that people were free to follow their own religion and that the state wouldn’t interfere in that, elaborated his secular values. Advani, quite late in his life, after having launched the biggest attack on secular values by demolishing Babri Mosque, realised that Jinnah was secular. He called Jinnah secular and paid with his career as the RSS combine was built on the understanding of ‘Hate Jinnah’, and had presented Jinnah as a symbol of Indian Muslims and Jinnah as a symbol of India’s enemy Pakistan!

With this AMU episode, the Hindu nationalist politics is killing many birds with a single stone. First, was to target Hamid Ansari, whom they don’t approve of as his credentials are thoroughly secular. Second is to create yet another divisive issue in the form of Jinnah’s portrait, to add to other emotive issues manufactured so far. And thirdly, to intimidate the AMU campus in line with what has been done in JNU, Hyderabad universities, to name the few. One can say the ghost of Jinnah, who can be called a ‘Secular soul in a Communal body’, will keep visiting us, and RSS combine through its efforts will keep propping up divisive issues one after the other!

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