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AMU in a spot of controversy over Jinnah again: Portrait of Pakistan founder along with Mahatma Gandhi attracts criticism

Lucknow: The Aligarh Muslim University is yet again in controversy after a portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah along with Mahatma Gandhi was displayed in an exhibition organised to mark the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti at the AMU library on 2 October.

Following objections from people within the university and local political representatives, the university has served a show-cause notice to the librarian, Amjad Ali, who had organised the exhibition, says AMU spokesperson M Shafey Kidwai. While the portrait was removed on the same day after objections were raised, AMU pro vice-chancellor Mohammad Hanif Beg had himself inaugurated the three-day long exhibition on 2 October.

It is the second time this year that AMU is facing a controversy on such an issue. Earlier in May, the varsity had witnessed protests by right-wing elements over another portrait of the Pakistan founder placed at the Student Union hall.

Mohammad Hanif Beg at the photo exhibition, Image: Akram Khan

Mohammad Hanif Beg at the photo exhibition, Image: Akram Khan

Political pundits of Uttar Pradesh may like to fuel the dispute, but academicians in the state term the row as “unnecessary”.

MP Ahirwar, a professor of history at the Banaras Hindu University, sees nothing wrong in displaying a portrait of Gandhi along with Jinnah. “AMU is one of the oldest varsities and it has records of history. The portrait of Gandhi along with Jinnah is also a part (of history) and we cannot eliminate that part,” he says.

Nadeem Rezavi, who heads the history department at AMU, says that since the exhibition is on the life and times of Mahatma Gandhi, they couldn’t have excluded Gandhi’s portrait with Jinnah, as the two leaders together participated in the freedom movement.

“This is an important part of history, and when the exhibition was on the life of Mahatma Gandhi, then how can we move away from the fact that Mahatma Gandhi met Jinnah 18 times to hold discussions on important issues before independence?,” Rezavi says. He adds that he fails to understand why Gandhi’s photographs with colonial rulers don’t meet the same backlash.

Rezavi says that the controversy could be part of the preparation for the 2019 elections.

Describing the photograph in question as a part of Gandhi’s life that can’t be erased, Rezavi says, “It is very unfortunate that people who did not participate in India’s struggle for independence are making comments on patriotism today.”

Some academicians, however, suggest that the varsity must be cautious to steer clear of such controversies.

VK Rai, a political science professor at Allahabad University, says a portrait would do no harm as far as it is not an attempt to glorify Jinnah, who was responsible for the deaths of many during partition.

“It should be treated as history. However, the university is being targeted on Jinnah again and again and must remain cautious,” he adds.

(Saurabh Sharma is Lucknow based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.)

Updated Date: Oct 05, 2018 17:58 PM

Updated: October 5, 2018 — 6:32 pm
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