Aligarh Muslim University in Hindutva regime

The protests still continue in the university with even more spirit and enthusiasm. Photo: Muhammed Hazil

Mubarak P

After the Narendra Modi-led BJP Sarkar came into power in 2014, Aligarh Muslim University has remained in news for different reasons, certainly not good. The emergence of Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of the country has favored the false allegations and attacks on the university. This piece tries to study the various struggles in the campus since 2014. The report was prepared after research on the happenings in the university and also after gathering firsthand accounts of students and teachers who have been a part of the campus since 2012.

When U.P elections are studied closely, the usual agendas occur to be the Uniform Civil Code, Ramjanmabhoomi, and Aligarh. The very evident tactics used by almost all political parties in U.P to gain power is to polarize the people on religious or communal grounds and create vote banks. For this very purpose, to polarize the people, these parties have been trying to defame Aligarh Muslim University, an educational institution that has gifted Prime Ministers to three countries. The ‘Muslim’ in its name is prompting such powers to raise false allegations to defame the university. Aligarh Muslim University has always proclaimed and stood for its Muslim politics, which has made it prone to the communal attacks.

Students of AMU painted graffiti on the road inside the varsity. Slogans like ‘Intifada Inkilab’ were painted on the road by protesting students.

The Minority struggle

According to Article 30(1) of the Constitution of India, every religious, linguistic minority in India has the right to set up and maintain educational institutions such as schools and universities. The law asserts that the minority status of such institutions should not be used as a reason to prevent or reduce the allowances including financial assistance provided to them. The constitution through this aims at the betterment of such communities. Two such universities that were given minority status are now being subjected to brutal violence by the Police. The Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia, has played an eminent role in flagging off the Anti-CAA-NRC-NPR movement which has spread across the country. An amendment in the minority status of the Aligarh Muslim University was brought before the Allahabad High Court in 1981. The Attorney General informed the Supreme Court that AMU can no longer be considered a minority institution. Afterward, in 2006 Allahabad High Court revoked the minority status of the institution. Though the then ruling UPA government challenged it in the Supreme Court, in 2016 when Yogi Adityanath stepped up to power, this was withdrawn.*

The fascist regime has attacked AMU since 1956 on the grounds of its minority status. Along with AMU, Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi is also in the hit list of the fascists. These institutions were primarily focused on the betterment of education and development within the Muslim community. The minority status was merit given to these institutions. The revocation of minority status of such institutions will in a large way prevent good education from reaching the minorities which will further help the fascist government to oppress these communities in different ways. The government has started controlling funds provided to these institutions. Once the minority status is revoked, there are evident chances for things to get worse.

Keyholders of varsity and their loyalty

From Vice-Chancellor to Chief Proctor, the postings in Aligarh University happens in a way that favors the communal agenda of the Hindutva government. The Modi-Yogi government chooses Muslim-named people who can be their puppets and take decisions for them inside the campus.

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Prof. Dr. Tariq Mansoor, who succeeded Shah as the V.C was in controversies for the corruption in V.C’s appointment and his close relationship with R.S.S leaders.

Lieutenant General Sameerudheen Shah was appointed the Vice-Chancellor of the university after he served as the Army Chief in charge during the Gujarat genocide in 2002. His actions during the incidents have resulted in several allegations against him. The promotion of some professors appointed by him to the post of Chief Proctor has raised controversies during his reign as the V.C. But Sameerudheen Shah was later celebrated by the media for his anti-fascist stands.

Prof. Dr. Tariq Mansoor, who succeeded Shah as the V.C was in controversies for the corruption in V.C’s appointment and his close relationship with R.S.S leaders. The recent incidents that happened on the 15th of December once again prove the allegations against him to be true. He forcefully dispersed the peaceful protest against CAA- NRC-NPR by the students of the university by allowing the Police to enter the campus and use brutal ways to attack and unleash violence on students. It was in his reign as the V.C, for the first time a working IPS officer was appointed the Registrar of a university. Abdul Hameed IPS was an IPS officer from batch 2006. He was appointed the University Registrar, while in technical service as S.P in UP Police. There were allegations against him that the Yogi government has promoted him to the D.I.G of police after his involvement in the police attack on the campus on the 15th of December.  Most of the professors appointed in the university are either not ready to take a political stand or are in favor of the fascist government. As the protests continue in the university, the students very strong demand for the resignation of the V.C and the Registrar.

Media attention

The media, which is called as the watchdogs of democracy and are expected to stand by the truth and speak against injustice is doing a clearly disappointing and condemnable work regarding the issues related to Aligarh university. The media outlets in India, that have stepped on cow dung and those which haven’t yet compete in ignoring any good news about Aligarh and try to exaggerate or cook up the negative narrative and make it a prime-time discussion. The recent negligence of the national media regarding the incidents that happened on the 15th of December is an example of how the media has been unjustly ignorant toward the university. The national media has always tried to defame the institution.

The 2014 controversy about the female student’s entry into Moulana Azad Central Library was clearly manipulated and cooked up by the media. When the then Vice-Chancellor of the university, Sameerudheen Shah, visited the Aligarh Muslim University Women’s College, the students demanded to increase the curfew timing of female students into the library. The stand V.C took regarding this was condemnable but the media used it as a tool to manipulate the news and defame University. The Times of India national daily wrote about this as there is an entry restriction for female students into the library. This made the university prone to attacks by the right-wing political parties and the Hindutva lenient media. A protest of female students was held under the leadership of the then union president Azzam Abdullah, against this attack on the university. It grabbed media attention due to the large mobilization of girls.

The Republic T.V about six months back has attempted a planned attack on the students of the university by using statements such as “reporting from the terrorist hub”. The Republic T.V barged into the campus on the excuse of reporting the visit of the AIMM leader Asadudhin Owaisi which was not confirmed. The article was written by union president Salman Imthiyas condemning the Babri Masjid verdict democratically was not published in any of the Hindi or Urdu newspapers in U.P. This clearly shows the ignorance and Hindutva leniency of electronic media and also the print media.

Contradictory politics

The B.J.P has been very evidently playing its dirty politics in Aligarh. While calling for violence and executing it against the Dalit minorities in U.P, the B.J.P and R.S.S take a different role in Aligarh. In this district, B.J.P and R.S.S present themselves as the protectors of Dalit minorities and try to build hatred between the Muslim and Dalit population. They create contradictory political rhetoric in different parts of the same state and try to polarize people so as to increase vote banks. They try to create insecurities in the minds of the Hindu population in a Muslim majority area and also the other way around. This hatred they are injecting into the minds of the children too. Another contradiction is regarding the relationship of Raj Mahendra Pratap Singh with the university. Pratap Singh was a member of a royal family from the Jat community. He competed and won elections against Vajpayee from the Madura constituency. He had very clear political leniency towards communism. Raj Mahendra Pratap Singh gave about 3.24 acres of land for the expansion of the university for rent of Rs.2 in the year 1929. As a symbol of gratitude, his name was given to one of the hostels in the university. Without considering his anti-fascist politics, Pratap Singh is being made the leader figure of R.S.S in Aligarh and is used as another tool to attack the university.

The current Aligarh M.P Satheesh Kumar Gautham, who is also an alumnus and former court member of the university, has demanded that the university should be named after Pratap Singh for his contributions to the university. When this was opposed by even the administration, he came up with the argument that Pratap Singh’s birthday should be celebrated by the university. But the then V.C Sameerudheen Shah pointed out that this is not possible because Aligarh Muslim University was build up by using the donations from several people who belonged to different religious, political backgrounds. Now that Gautham has been elected as the M.P, he along with Yogi is trying to introduce new ways to defame the university. The Yogi Sarkar has already allowed funds for a university in the name of Raj Mahendra Pratap Singh in Aligarh district.

Another controversy that Satheesh Kumar lit up was one about Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in 2018. Aligarh Muslim University Students Union has honored him with a ‘lifetime achievement’ before partition. According to tradition, the university had the pictures of those personalities it honor with the ‘lifetime achievement’ hung on the walls of Students Union Hall. The picture of Jinnah was also hung on the wall among others. Santhosham Kumar Gautham alleged this an anti-national activity and demanded that the picture should be taken out and burnt. He even organized a rally to the University demanding it which was countered by peaceful protests from the part of students. The protests lasted for weeks. Two years later, Satheesh Kumar has raised these allegations again to gain votes in the election.

Autonomy

The central universities in the country were declared autonomous recently. This has affected the functioning of these universities. The greatest challenge that comes with autonomy is that of financial autonomy. The Universities are forced to find funds for its functioning as the government will reduce the funds allowed for this purpose. This puts the universities in a position of having to increase the fee. It adversely affects universities like Aligarh Muslim University as it is aimed at providing education to the students from underprivileged backgrounds who cannot afford the increased fee. Such measures are clearly intended to prevent education to the minorities and therefore hinder their empowerment. 

The I.B, Police surveillance

After Yogi Adityanath came into power as the C.M, the Intelligence- Police presence on the campus has increased. The Police officers who come to the campus in mufti is present in spaces like canteens where students gather. They shoot videos on mobile phones and when caught doing so, they claim to be the non-teaching staff. There have been several such instances. Apart from this the vehicles of U.P police often patrol inside the campus. For one year, the Rapid Action Force (RAF) has been deployed outside the campus with guns, grenades and water cans. They are working as if in a war front. On the 15th of December, it was this force that entered forcefully into the campus, unleashing violence on students.

CAA-NRC-NPR protests

Aligarh Muslim University has been the stage for anti- CAA protests from the very beginning. From the day Amit Shah introduced the bill in Lokhsabha there have been discussions and debates regarding it on the campus. Such political, intellectual and academic debates often happen in the university. After the public meeting conducted in Kennedy Lawn on the 9th of December, the University has been in the streets protesting against the communal and anti-constitutional bill. This was a time when protests were sprouting only in Lok Sabha and Assam. When the bill was passed in Lok Sabha on 10th December the University organized a protest march in which 15000 students participated. The public gathering afterward was addressed by Rajiv Yadav. The students of the university considered it their responsibility to speak up against a bill that is very specifically attacking the Muslim community in the country and is a threat to the constitutional values. They also realized the need to mobilize the whole nation against such a bill. Since December 11, Babe Sayed, in the university has been staging protests every day. Student leaders like Abdulla Azzam, Sharjeel Imam, Afreen Fathima, Jitendra Suna, and Shuhaib P.V addressed the students in these protests. On 11th Dec, the students declared a hunger strike of 25000 students. They distributed the food prepared in the hostel mess to the nearby slums and made the protest meaningful.

25,000 students of Aligarh Muslim University have called for a hunger strike on 11th December 2019 against the ‘anti-Muslim’ Citizenship Bill.

On the 12th of December, the female students broke the hostel gates and came to join the protests in large numbers. Dr, Kafeel Khan, Yogendra Yadav, Adv. Fawaz Shaheen and Mashkoor Usmani were on the campus to address the gathering the same day. On the 13th of December, the Students Union called for a march to the Office of the District Magistrate. A group of University professors was also present to extend solidarity with the march. The U.P police avenged this by filing serious charges such as rioting against 20 named and 200 unnamed students.

The Uttar Pradesh police visited and interrogated the family of a student activist and former student of Aligarh Muslim University, Sharjeel Usmani on Saturday. Police registered FIR against Sharjeel in his involvement in the agitation led by students of Aligarh Muslim University against CAA and police crackdown at Jamia Millia Islamia on 15th December last year.

It was on the 15th of December that the Police terrorism with the support of the administration occurred on the campus. A peaceful protest march was called by the students of the university to extend solidarity to the students of Jamia Millia Islamia, who were subjected to targeted violence by Delhi Police. The march was made violent by some infiltrates who pelted stones at the police after which the force without any warning fired sound grenades, tear gas shells and bullets on the students. The police forced into hostels and set fire to rooms. Police destroyed vehicles of students parked inside the campus. Students who fainted or got seriously injured were stopped and arrested even from ambulances while on the way to a hospital for treatment. Since the university did not provide an ambulance, private ambulances were used to take the students to hospitals. The police did not spare the ambulance driver too. The ambulance driver and a student who lost his arm are among the 60 people who were seriously injured in the police violence. 22 to 25 students were arrested and taken to the police station where they were beaten up and tortured. Police filed FIR against 500 named and 2000 unnamed students. The university then went for an indefinite shut down and students were asked to clear the campuses immediately. The students residing in the hostels were asked to vacate and leave, which put the students from Kashmir and North East in big trouble. 

The protests still continue in the university with even more spirit and enthusiasm. Arundathi Roy, Medha Patkar, Irfan Habeeb, Kannan Gopinathan IAS, etc. have come out and extended their solidarity to the students. The Allahabad High Court has finally asked the National Human Rights Commission to submit a report regarding the incidents that happened in the university. The students are carrying on with their protests, demanding the resignation of the V.C and the Registrar who have facilitated the state-sponsored terrorism unleashed by the U.P police in the University campus. The clear negligence of the politicians, activists, and media regarding the Aligarh Muslim University has been evident throughout these incidents. The stories of violence from U.P and Aligarh Muslim University are not brought out to the world by the media.      

Mubarak P is a student of Master in Commerce, Aligarh Muslim University       

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