The targeting of a university, ahead of Lok Sabha polls, is a grim reminder of what happened in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in February 2016. This time, it is Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). But the purpose here is to cause a communal flare up, before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
As reported earlier by NewsClick, sedition charges have been slapped against fourteen AMU students after a row with Republic TV, a right-wing news channel that supports the Modi government. This is reminiscent of how sedition was invoked against some students like Kanhaiya Kumar and others in JNU in 2016. While JNU was targeted by the BJP government at the Centre for giving space to students with "left ideology", AMU seems to be in the cross hair for being a minority institution where majority of students are Muslim.
AMU Being Used for Communal Polarisation
In the past few years, AMU has been turned into a laboratory for communal polarisation by the Sangh parivar. It started in 2014, when BJP claimed that AMU should celebrate Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh's birthday like it celebrates its founder Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. Then there was the manufactured controversy on Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s portrait. And now, AMU has been brazenly labelled as a "terrorist university" by Republic TV reporter Nalini Sharma.
Also Read: JNU Redux? 14 AMU Students Booked For Sedition After Row With Republic TV Crew
Mohammad Sajjad, a professor of history at the AMU told NewsClick, "We can’t compare AMU with JNU as this is far more dangerous. The crew of the news channel was trespassing as they had entered the varsity campus without taking permission. Interestingly, an outsider, Mukesh Lodhi who is a functionary of BJP’s youth wing, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), had given an “ultimatum” of 15 days to the university authorities to build a temple inside the campus. Then, he filed an FIR against AMU students, following which the students were booked under sedition charges. He has no proof about his charges but the police have registered his FIR. The same police are not registering an FIR sought to be filed by AMU since day before yesterday. This is a clear case of blatant collusion with saffron outfits."
He further added, "Another thing they are accusing AMU students of is allegedly setting bikes on fire. But they have been unable to state where and how these bikes came to be inside the university campus and who they belong to. The police are also not holding the reporter accountable for having used such an objectionable phrase.”
A former AMU Students’ Union president Maskoor Ahmad Usmani is one of the 14 persons booked under sedition. He told NewsClick that he was not even present in Aligarh on that day when the incident took place.
Usmani said, "I was in Delhi to give support to Jamia students on February 11. I was not in the university campus for the last four days. It is from the media I came to know that an FIR has been registered against 14 students including me. This clearly exposes the agenda of this authoritarian government which frequently uses sedition charges against anyone who shows dissent against the government.”
"This is not the first time that AMU was forced into controversy by RSS and BJP. Ever since the Modi government came to power at centre in 2014, the university has been dragged into controversy at least 10 times. It started with Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh’s Jayanti in 2015. The politics of communalism and polarisation practiced by RSS and BJP government to win elections can be seen in these fabricated controversies in the AMU campus in the last four years. We can see the same pattern of attack, and controversies created by these right-wing goons in different universities of India like JNU, Delhi University, Allahabad University and many more institutions which are known for dissent and student activism.”
He added, “During the JNU controversy, it was Zee TV and now during AMU, its Republic. You can see whose foot prints they are following.”
Meanwhile, reports suggest that the Uttar Pradesh police did not have any evidence to file sedition charges against the students. They were booked on the basis of primary investigation on Wednesday, February 13. The UP police have also claimed that the charges will be dropped if there is no evidence to substantiate the said claims.
Students Want Harmony
Speaking with NewsClick about the ongoing controversy, Nishant Bhardwaj, a cabinet member of the AMUSU said, "There are almost six thousand Hindu students in AMU. Except for 4-5 of them, nobody has any issues. Let's assume that some students have problems – then, instead of taking their problem to the administration why do they speak to the media? It shows their ambition and motives.”
He also said, “I have been living in AMU since 2007, but it is only after 2014 when the Modi government came to power that moves to suppress the voices of students began. They forgot their slogan 'sabka saath, sabka vikas (Development for Everyone) and turned to 'ek saath, sabka vinash (Destruction for Everyone)'. If Ajay Singh has any issues, he should talk to students and university administration about his misconceptions rather than playing into the hands of the saffron party that wants to destroy the social fabric of this university.
Jinnah's Portrait Controversy and Others
The controversy around Jinnah’s portrait arose last year in May, after BJP MP Satish Gautam wrote a letter to AMU Vice-Chancellor Tariq Mansoor, seeking an explanation for a portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah hung in the Students’ Union Hall. Soon after the letter, Hindu right-wing forces allegedly entered the campus, armed with weapons, and manhandled students over putting up the portrait of Jinnah.
Later, activists from Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV), Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and some other Hindu outfits clashed with AMU students, wherein several students, including the president and vice president of the students' union got severely injured.
Also Read: AMU Students Beaten Up for Hanging Jinnah's Portrait in Student's Union Hall
Tiranga Yatra Controversy
Ahead of Republic Day, few students held a “Tiranga Yatra” on bikes in AMU campus without prior permission of university administration. The rally was led by an LLM student, Ajay Singh, grandson of BJP MLA Dalveer Singh who has been at the centre of a number of controversies haunting the prestigious institution in the recent past.
Speaking with NewsClick just after the incident, the proctor had said, “AMU itself officially celebrates Republic Day and a week-long programme was held in university. The students should join that instead of creating chaos in the campus on the name of bike rally.”
Taking out a Tiranga Yatra (Tricolour Rally) has been used as a cover for provocation and inciting communal violence by the Sangh parivar in other places. The horrific riots in Kasganj happened after such a Yatra.
Read More: BJP Legislator’s Grandson Served Notice For ‘Tiranga Yatra’ in AMU