A photo of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya was missing from a poster designed to announce a webinar on Urdu Day, and that has lead to the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) issuing a “warning letter” to the Head of Urdu Department (HoD) Prof Aftab Ahmad. According to news reports, the University has also formed a committee to ‘probe the matter’. Meanwhile, Prof Ahmed has publicly apologised on Monday saying, he did not intend to hurt anyone’s sentiments.
The Indian Express reported that the department has also withdrawn the poster “after a group of students belonging to Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the RSS’s students’ wing, took objection to the fact that the poster had the photograph of Urdu poet Allama Iqbal but not that of BHU founder Pandit Malaviya.” The university issued a “warning letter” to Prof Ahmad, though he said his intention was not to hurt anyone’s sentiments. On Monday, the official handle of BHU Dean of Arts Faculty tweeted, “Urdu Department, Faculty of Arts, BHU, is organizing a webinar as per details given in the poster. Sincerest apologies for the inadvertent mistake in the earlier poster that went viral on social media.” The revised poster tweeted by the Dean replaced Iqbal’s photograph with that of Malaviya.
The BHU’s public relations officer Rajesh Singh told the media, “On the occasion of Urdu Day, a webinar was scheduled to be held by the Urdu Department. Department head Aftab Ahmad shared an e-poster on Facebook from the department’s official handle on Sunday. (It) had poet Allama Iqbal’s photo.” It added that the opposition to the poster started after people began commenting on social media that the poster did not have Malaviya’s photograph. On Monday, Singh added that the ABVP students held a protest and submitted a memorandum to BHU officials after which the university “formed a committee to probe the matter. We also issued a warning letter seeking a clarification from Ahmad about how he shared a poster without consulting the Arts Faculty dean and other senior officials.”
According to IE, Prof Ahmad said, “The moment I was informed about objections by some people, I apologised and said Iqbal’s photograph should be removed and replaced with Malviya-ji’s photo… The poster was shared on Facebook by some students. I had not seen it before…(but) it is my responsibility even if it was shared by students.”
November 9, the poet’s birth anniversary is celebrated as International Urdu Day and Iqbal Day. Ahmed added that, “Many say Iqbal had migrated to Pakistan after Partition. I would like to say Iqbal died in 1938, seven years before the Partition. We teach Iqbal as a poet and writer, who wrote ‘Saare Jahaan se achha Hindustan hamara’. His writing is taught in Hindi in universities…. One does not become British if one reads William Shakespeare… Iqbal had called Lord Ram ‘Imam-e-Hind’” quoted the IE. He said the webinar held on Tuesday was intended “to spread awareness about opportunities in Urdu learning and education. In the Urdu department, every event is started after paying tribute to Malaviya-ji. We have always paid respect to him.”
According to news reports, English department head, M K Pandey, will head the probe committee, which will have Bimlendra Kumar, HoD, Pali and Buddhist Studies, on the panel. The committee has been told to submit its report in three working days.