Forget Jinnah portrait, let Aligarh Muslim University become subject to Indian laws

The Aligarh Muslim University is in the news, thanks to the local BJP MP demanding that the 80 year old portrait of Jinnah be removed from its position of honor. Outrageous, I know. They already changed the name of Aurangazeb Road. Now they are demanding that Jinnah’s portrait be removed.

It is curious that the Congress – Communist – Islamist axis has come out so strongly in expressing its desire to honor Jinnah. One comrade was so swept with emotion that he  probably did not realize that he was implicitly putting Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the same bracket.

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Have they all forgotten that Jinnah was the main opponent of their Lord Nehru? Have they all forgotten that in Congress mythology which is taught to us as “official history” in schools and colleges, the blame for Partition is placed entirely on Jinnah, leaving Nehru as pure as driven snow?

Shall we conclude then that the ecosystem is tactically conceding that Nehru is also to blame for Partition of India? They really seem to have tied themselves in knots on this one.

Nobody in their right mind would believe that the ecosystem is supporting Jinnah’s portrait out of some exalted sense of historical significance. Who can forget that within 3 months of coming to power in 2004, the UPA government ordered the removal of a plaque commemorating Vinayak Savarkar from the erstwhile Cellular Jail in the Andamans? Mani Shankar Aiyar, then a minister, issued this instruction personally.

They could not let Savarkar have a small plaque on a remote island. But touch the portrait of the villainous Jinnah in Aligarh and they wince with pain.

Like Mayawati and Akhilesh supporting each other, the ecosystem going to bat for an arch rival of Nehru is a symptom of the Congress – Communist – Islamist axis in modern India, an alliance formed against the resurgent Hindus of this nation.

However, my article is not about this portrait. In fact, I say forget the portrait. With the spotlight on Aligarh Muslim University, the time is ripe to correct a much bigger and much more grievous historical wrong at the heart of this Institution.

First, let us bring the Aligarh Muslim University under the purview of laws of the Sovereign Republic of India. Let the Constitution of India apply to its campus. 

What am I talking about? Let me explain.

Have you ever wondered how Aligarh Muslim University can be a public institution and a minority institution at the same time? How is it possible that in a modern secular democracy with freedom of religion, a public institution can also be a religious institution?

Well, it isn’t. So, how is Aligarh Muslim University possible?

This contradiction was easily noticed soon after the independence of India. In 1967, the Supreme Court ruled (Aziz Basha v Union of India) that AMU could not possibly keep its status as a minority institution, since it was established by an Act of Parliament. Open and shut case really.

Only the Government of India then decided to shut its eyes and pretend like the Constitution does not apply to Aligarh Muslim University.

In 1981, the Government passed an amendment allowing for AMU to keep its special extra-constitutional status. There was of course a legal challenge and this dragged on in the courts. Until 2006 when the Allahabad High Court, not surprisingly, found the 1981 act to be ultra vires of the Constitution.

You would hope that the Government of India finally gave up in 2006 after 40 years of trying to stop the Constitution from being applied to a university located on Indian territory. But then you know nothing about the “idea of India.”

The UPA government filed yet another appeal. And can you believe that the case is still pending in the courts? In case you are curious, Modi sarkar has toldthe Supreme Court that it will withdraw the Government’s appeal against the 2006 decision.

So, before we worry about the portrait, let’s get the Constitution of India to apply to AMU.

Don’t let liberals draw you into a much lighter argument about some guy’s picture gathering dust in some corner of the campus. Ask them how it can be that merely implementing the Constitution, buttressed with not one but two clear cut court judgements, one from the Supreme Court and one from the Allahabad High court, can be seen as “malice.”

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Prove where? Before the extra-constitutional trial court of Indian liberalism?

By the way, the intentions don’t even count. The law is the law is the law and it must be implemented.

In fact, if anything, it is AMU that must be put in the dock, along with the governments that supported this unconstitutional demand for decades.

The ongoing minority status of AMU has very real consequences for the running of the institution. The most important of these, of course, is the question of reservation. Until AMU is made compliant with Indian law, SC/ST persons and other weaker sections of Indian society, will not enjoy the constitutionally guaranteed benefits of reservation.

It is AMU that stands accused of malice. What is the prejudice that keeps AMU from throwing open its doors to SC/ST students?

Until the question of AMU is resolved in the evidently constitutional manner, it is secular political parties and the liberal ecosystem that stand accused of malice. What is their pressing need to deny SC/ST students their just representation at AMU? How is this social justice? Beyond all the talk of Dalit-Muslim unity, is there a desire to keep Muslims segregated in minority institutions and a desire to keep Dalits out of education altogether?

Some day I hope these questions will be answered. Some day, I hope that Aligarh Muslim University is brought under the ambit of the Constitution of India. But until then, AMU survives like the Salman Khan of Indian universities. Every few years, we feel that the law has finally caught up with them. But then, they always get bailed out.

Aligarh Muslim University needs to get it. ‘Being Muslim’ isn’t enough. You have to be constitutional as well.

Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.

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