Aligarh Muslim University: Little has changed between then and now

Recently, a huge controversy has erupted over Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s portrait being hung at Aligarh Muslim University. Many wondered why even after 70 years of independence does an Indian University honour a person who was integral to the partition of the country in 1947. However, when one looks at the history of the AMU and its founder, it becomes evident that it’s indeed natural for them to have a portrait of Jinnah.

Anand Ranganathan, author and columnist, in his tweet series on Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of the AMU, exposes the many deplorable views that the man seemed to harbour.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan also stated that it was the duty of Muslims to be loyal to the British empire. He even called the Revolt of 1857 an act of ‘haramzadgi’. He even asserted that being subjects of the British Empire which was Christian was preferable to being that of the Hindus as the former were ‘people of the book’.

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And who could ever forget that Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was indeed the first true proponent of the Two Nation Theory. He even asserted that it was ‘impossible and inconceivable’ for Hindus and Muslims to coexist peacefully and it was necessary for one to vanquish the other.

Under such circumstances, it is only natural for a University that had Sir Syed Ahmad Khan as its founder and continues to eulogize him to continue to have a portrait of Jinnah. It is no wonder that the student organization of a university that recently objected to the administration’s invite to President Kovind for the convocation ceremony continues to have Jinnah’s portrait in its walls, a man who was responsible for millions of deaths.

The manner in which Jinnah’s portrait disappeared after the controversy erupted is really intriguing as well. And more intriguing was the administration’s response on the matter. According to the authorities, the portrait was taken off as clean was in progress. And then, they claimed AMU is a ‘secular’ institute. Of course, nothing proves that it is secular more than the fact that it hung the portrait of an individual who was responsible for the partition of the country.

It is a testament to the perverted vision of secularism in the country that Islamist figures such as Jinnah and Sir Syed Ahmad Khan are eulogized while even legitimate concerns of Hindus are deemed communal. And for the liberals of this country, Jinnah is more of an admirable and respectable persona than the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. A close aide of Arvind Kejriwal, Ram Subramanian, hailed Jinnah as a freedom fighter and asserted that every Indian should be proud of him.

The same perverted vision of secularism is also displayed when liberals did not utter so much as a whimper when a ten-year-old was raped at a Madrassa and members of a particular community suggested that the minor victim is married off to her rapist. And it is the same perverted vision of secularism when every transgression of the minority community is glossed over while every crime is communalized shamelessly to paint the minority as a victim and the majority as the aggressor.

Mainstream media outlets often wax eloquence on the ‘greatness’ of the man. In their bid to portray him as a ‘rationalist’, they ignore the foundations he laid for the partition of this country. In 70 years of independence, the contribution of the founder of the AMU to the propagation of Two Nations Theory is ignored while Hindutva ideologues are often blamed for the initial propagation of the theory. It is no wonder then that we have arrived at a time when the portrait of a man is hung at a university that claims to be secular.

India worships numerous false heroes who have been put on a pedestal where they cannot be questioned and any effort at scrutinizing their hallowed legacy is dubbed as fascism and bigotry. That the University that Sir Syed Ahmad Khan founded still honours a man who partitioned the country is merely a natural progression of affairs and that secularism in India still romanticizes Islamists and feels little hesitation in allying with Islamists to counter Hindu assertiveness.


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