“What’s in a name?” wrote renowned poet and playwright William Shakespeare, but the present bone of contention that has sparked off tension in Uttar Pradesh seems to be a name only. In this case, it’s none other than Muhammad Ali Jinnah popularly known as Quaid-i-Azam in Pakistan, similar to the nomenclature "Bapu" used for Mahatma Gandhi in India.
The eye of the storm is a portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah that has been there in the student union office of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) since decades.
To get into the core of the issue, one may need to glance briefly at the history of AMU and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. AMU was established as an Anglo-Indian institution (skewed towards the Islamic style) by Syed Ahmad Khan. It is largely believed that Syed Ahmad Khan wanted to establish an institution, especially for Muslims which can promulgate knowledge of English language and other fundamental courses. The reason was to ensure that Muslim opinion was given due weightage in the political affairs of the country, more particularly in Northern India.
Over time, the institution transformed into a centre of excellence and was conferred the status of Central University. Today, AMU imparts education to many irrespective of caste, creed, religion and constantly ranks among top universities in India. But if everything has been so rosy in AMU then how come the university suddenly turned into a battle zone?
The story behind the AMU battle zone
Well, here goes the story, Jinnah was granted a lifetime membership of the Aligarh Muslim University Students Union (AMUSU) in 1938. As a customary practice, his portrait was hung in the office of AMUSU along with other honorary members. Jinnah having played a pivotal role in the India-Pakistan partition is not a popular figurine among Indian sentiments, therefore anything to do with Jinnah gets an auto-connect to Pakistan.
The cinder behind the recent row
The fire was rekindled when Aligarh MP Satish Gautam enquired from the AMU vice chancellor why the portrait of the said gentleman was present in the college room? This cinder was enough to mobilise an army of pro and anti-protagonists, what followed thereafter was clashes in the campus, suspension of internet, imposition of Section 144, political blame-games, dharnas and strikes. Now, this trivial issue has snowballed into a massive one with more clashes taking place inside the AMU campus.
What the students have been failing to realise
Students in our country are the safest bet as their ignited mind could be bent in any direction, they have been used many a times for both political and non-political gains. What the student community has been failing to realise constantly is that they are the power house of energy which, if harnessed positively, can do wonders and, if misused, can consume everything. They must learn to differentiate between the RIGHT and the WRONG.
In case of AMU, the clear loss is for those who came from far and away with only one aim--to learn and become a support to their families.
Lately, there has been a pattern of issues galvanising into a conundrum and soon taking the shape of a national menace. It will not come as a surprise if reports of similar incidence start rocking other states as well giving another chance to some of the self-proclaimed contractors of democracy to question the competency of the present government.
Plethora of questions
However, the bigger picture may throw up a plethora of questions, like was it a deliberate move by the BJP to project itself as the most nationalistic party in the lights of Karnataka Elections or whether it was a curtain raiser to the type of politics which the nation may witness in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections or whether the seeds of a greater agenda for Uttar Pradesh is being sowed here like the students’ movement of Osmania University which ultimately lead to the division of Andhra Pradesh and formation of Telangana. Every politician knows that the road to 7, Lok Kalyan Marg goes via Uttar Pradesh, whoever emerges as the King of Uttar Pradesh will become the king-maker of the country.
When the deed is done
Now, it hardly matters whether Jinnah’s portrait remains in AMU or not but the atmosphere, the ambience, the fragrance in the air of the AMU campus will not be the same anymore at least till the elections are not over. Surely, the cut is deep and it’s not going to heal soon.
The author is a political observer and writes on socio-political affairs.