Mushirul Hasan, historian, former vice-chancellor and later, a professor of Jamia Millia Islamia, a minority institution in Delhi, may have never imagined such a bitter end to his career.
Charged formally with dereliction of teaching duties by the university authorities, Hasan quit his post on October 1, but denied the charges. And since the controversy is over someone like Hasan, the episode has rocked the academic world.
Hasan told HT: “There was a conspiracy. The broader issue is the exclusion of someone who could question the university’s decisions and (the fear) that I was interested in becoming vice-chancellor again. I did nothing to deserve this.”
He pointed fingers at some darker forces – Muslim conservatives and some “external forces at work” since his exit seems to have resulted from a conflict between “left liberal progressive” groupings of teachers and those who won a legal battle to preserve the university’s minority character guaranteed by the Constitution.
While Hasan led the Left liberal group, who saw supporting the “minority character” as continuing with “ghettoisation” that could harm the minorities, orthodox Muslims see Jamia’s “minority character” as an emotional anchor, which allows the institution to set aside 50% of seats for Muslim students.
And Hasan is seen as somebody who stood in the way of Jamia’s fight for a minority status. The university, under him, filed an affidavit in court opposing the status, despite having endorsed it earlier.
That’s why, he said, “The Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, the Jamaat-e-Islami and Ittehadul Muslimeen went after me.” He said he was also accused of eroding Jamia’s minority character by appointing Hindu academics.
One of the Jamia professors, who opposed Hasan on minority status issue, however, rejected that the action on Hasan had anything to do with it. Instead, he said, Hasan was now pointing fingers at everybody who didn’t agree with him. “It is surprising that GP Sharma and Prof Amiya Sen are now being considered as Muslim fundamentalists by Hasan.”
What Hasan has to say about his old followers is that they had stabbed him in the back. On university dean GP Sharma and head of the history department Amiya P Sen, who endorsed the charges against him, Hasan said, “I promoted them both. They are now swimming with the tide.”
Hasan, who didn’t support the idea of banning Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses – or any book, for that matter – and faced violent protests inside the university campus in 1992, said, “They (the orthodox section) don’t invoke my scholarship or my contribution to Jamia. They only invoke Satanic Verses.”
But as vice-chancellor, Hasan had offered the university’s legal assistance funds reserved for students to some Muslim students arrested on terror charges in the Batla House encounter case in 2008, for which he was attacked by the BJP.
Hasan could be more sinned against than sinning, it seems. As an intellectual with liberal values, he has often been a far more effective defender of minority rights. He wrote about VS Naipaul in an article in the Hindu last year: “He (Naipaul) had known Muslims all his life in Trinidad, but knew little of Islam.”
Also, reviewing AG Noorani’s best-selling book on Babri Masjid, he wrote that “disputes like these could be resolved only with Muslim consent”. History isn’t all that black and white all the time.