Violent protests over Jinnah portrait at AMU, police cane students
The controversy over a portrait of Pakistan’s founder Jinnah started on Tuesday when Satish Gautam, Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Aligarh, wrote to AMU vice chancellor Tariq Mansoor and sought a justification for it.
Students at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) are on a sit-in protest after police allegedly caned them and used tear gas while they were marching to register a police complaint against Hindu groups that had barged into campus to protest the presence of a portrait of Pakistan’s founding leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Students were marching towards the Civil Lines police station to register a complaint after supporters of the Hindu Yuva Vahini and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) entered the university at around 3pm.
The Hindu groups allegedly shouted slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jinnah Murdabad” and asked the university to remove the portrait at the Students’ Union Hall in 48 hours.
A function to confer former vice president Hamid Ansari a life membership of the students’ union was called off after the two protests.
The controversy began on Tuesday when Satish Gautam, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Aligarh, wrote to AMU vice chancellor Tariq Mansoor and sought a justification for Jinnah’s portrait, which has been hanging at the university since 1938.
Surprisingly, Uttar Pradesh minister Swami Prasad Maurya, a BJP leader, described Gautam’s demand as “ghatiya” (cheap) and called Jinnah a “mahapurush” (great man).
Maurya’s statement left the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and BJP red-faced. The BJP quickly rebutted Maurya through two veteran leaders: Deoria MP Kalraj Mishra and Rajya Sabha MP Harinath Singh Yadav.
Mishra supported Gautam’s demand and said Jinnah’s portrait should be removed. Yadav demanded Maurya’s ouster as minister.
An AMU student leader said the portrait would not be removed. “The portrait came up as part of a protocol that the AMU students’ union accorded to all great leaders of the then undivided India who had visited the campus,” said Mashkoor Ahmad Usmani, chief of union.
A police officer, who didn’t wish to be identified, rejected the allegation that the police had not done anything against the Hindu groups and targeted the protesting students instead. “In fact while we exercised restraint the students targeted us with stones,” he said.
AMU spokesperson Shafey Kidwai said, “Former vice president Hamid Ansari was to be conferred the lifetime membership by AMUSU, but the ruckus caused by Hindu Yuva Vahini activists and others led to a situation of unrest because of which the event was cancelled.”
“In the afternoon, right wing activists reached the university gate, raised objectionable slogans, burnt effigies and manhandled half-a-dozen security guards. They came face-to-face with AMU students. About a dozen AMU students, including the student union president, were injured in police action following their march towards the police station,” said Kidwai.