Monday May 21, 2018
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AMU Controversy is Less About Jinnah And More About Anything Else

Ansari reached the university on May 2 at the scheduled time, that is, 1 p.m., and was lodged at the AMU guest house which is near the Baab-e-Syed gate of the university.

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Those with an academic bent of mind portray the incident as an attack not just on AMU but on all institutions of higher learning in the country and their pluralist ethos. They point to a pattern in the attacks and urge one to look at
An old pic of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, wikimedia commons
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There is consensus not only among the students, teachers and the administration of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) but also locals that, contrary to the perception created by media reports, the recent controversy and violence around the over the 143-year-old varsity has little to do with the portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. And there is more to it than what meets the eye.

One of the reasons behind this widespread scepticism is the fact that the man who stirred the controversy — BJP Lok Sabha MP from Aligarh Satish Gautam — had been a member of the AMU Court between 2014 and 2017. Why didn’t he raise the issue earlier, and how come his letter flagging the issue was leaked to the media even before it reached the Vice Chancellor office, ask those in the AMU community.

Of the “real purpose” behind the attack on the varsity by Hindutva activists, however, there are diverse views. While some insist on linking the entire episode with the ongoing Karnataka assembly elections, the others see it as a “diversionary tactic” by supporters of the BJP government at the Centre and state to hide its “failures”.

Still others feel that it had something to do with former Vice President Hamid Ansari’s visit to the university.

Those with an academic bent of mind portray the incident as an attack not just on AMU but on all institutions of higher learning in the country and their pluralist ethos. They point to a pattern in the attacks and urge one to look at “the larger picture”.

While the students have been openly questioning the local administration and the police’s impartiality, some of the teachers feel the university administration could have handled the portrait controversy “in a better way”.

The varsity administration, however, avers that it did everything “that needed to be done” on the first day itself and has been doing its best to “maintain peace on the campus so that that academics does not suffer and students’ future is not jeopardised in any way”.

The controversy started with a letter written by MP Gautam to the AMU Vice Chancellor on April 30 in which he questioned the presence of a portrait of Jinnah — Pakistan’s founder — in the AMU Students Union (AMUSU) office.

The controversy started with a letter written by MP Gautam to the AMU Vice Chancellor on April 30 in which he questioned the presence of a portrait of Jinnah -- Pakistan's founder -- in the AMU Students Union (AMUSU) office.
Student group protesting-Representational Image, wikimedia commons

On May 2, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy is said to have tweeted: “Somebody needs to teach AMU a lesson. Who will do it?”, with a link to an article with the same heading.

On May 2, former Vice President M. Hamid Ansari was scheduled to visit the AMU at the invitation of the AMUSU that was to confer its lifetime membership — an honour also bestowed on Jinnah in 1938 and which explains the presence of his portrait there — on the former Vice President and a former Vice Chancellor of the university.

The next day, on May 3, Ansari was to deliver a lecture on pluralism in the Kennedy Hall at the varsity and in the evening attend a dinner hosted by the AMUSU. His schedule had been conveyed the Aligarh administration in advance by Ansari’s office as per protocol.

Ansari reached the university on May 2 at the scheduled time, that is, 1 p.m., and was lodged at the AMU guest house which is near the Baab-e-Syed gate of the university.

A little later, a group of men, owing allegiance to the Hindu Yuva Vahini, an outfit founded and patronised by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, started creating a ruckus near the administrative block of the university by raising objectionable slogans. The AMU security confronted them and handed them over to the Civil Lines police.

As per the statement given by the AMU Proctor’s office to the police, the men returned barely half an hour later with more people — around 25-30 men, ome of them wielding pistols, lathis and stones — and shouting expletives and objectionable slogans against the AMU, tried to barge into the university through Baab-e-Syed.

“First the persons handed over to the police were let off easily. Then the miscreants were allowed to come near Baab-e-Syed at a time when a former Vice President of India was in the university guest house which is less than 100 metres away from Baab-e-Syed. Then the students going to lodge the FIR against all this were brutally beaten up by the police and Rapid Action Force. How could there be so many lapses on the part of the administration within a few hours,” AMU Teachers’Association (AMUTA) President professor Hamid Ali asked while speaking to IANS.

Several students were badly injured in the police assault and had to be hospitalised.

Ansari cut short his two-day programme and returned to Delhi soon after the incident as the local administration expressed its inability to provide him security cover. Last year, there was an attempt to poison the drinking water tank of a madrasa in the town run by Ansari’s wife, Salma Ansari.

AMUSU Presdent Mashkoor Ahmed Usmani said that neither is the controversy about Jinnah’s portrait nor is the students’ protest.

“Jinnah’s djinn will disappear again after Karnataka elections. Our protest is not about him or his portrait because the portrait has been there long before us. We are protesting against the use of brutal force against the students who were moving peacefully. We are also demanding a judicial probe into the entire incident and quashing of FIR against the unknown students of AMU,” Usmani told IANS.

“But a section of the media is portraying our protest as if we are supporters of Jinnah. We are not. His portrait is there since 1938, along with many others who were conferred with the lifetime membership of the AMUSU,” he added.

The students are also nursing a resentment against the university administration which, they think, “failed to rise to the occasion”.

Nevertheless, Vice Chancellor Tariq Mansoor did visit on Tuesday the dharna site — where students were preparing for the final exams commencing from Saturday — to “express solidarity with the genuine demands of the students”.

Those with an academic bent of mind portray the incident as an attack not just on AMU but on all institutions of higher learning in the country and their pluralist ethos. They point to a pattern in the attacks and urge one to look at "the larger picture".
Department of Law, Aligarh Muslim Univeristy, wikimedia commons

“I share our students’ pain and have endorsed the demand for judicial inquiry and conveyed the sentiments of the AMU fraternity to all concerned,” Mansoor said in a statement on Tuesday.

University Public Relations Officer (PRO) Omar Peerzada said that the administration had no objection to the students’ protest as this was being done “in a peaceful, democratic way inside the campus”.

Also Read: Shiv Sena Declares Rahul Gandhi a Threat For BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha Elections

Of the students and teachers unions raising questions on the impartiality of the local administration, Peerzada said the AMUSU and AMUTA were independent bodies and were “entitled to their views”.

“On our part, we have very good relations with the local administration as well as the Union HRD Ministry and we have had their full support so far,” Peerzada told IANS.

Meanwhile, it is business as usual in the rest of the town even as armed police surrounds the campus of the historic and multi-faceted university that has a long list of distinguished alumni who have made their names in politics, armed forces, civil service, sciences and academia. Incidentally, the university was ranked No 1 in the country this year in official rankings.

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69 Years a Slave? Balochistan’s Struggle for Freedom : A Detailed Report

Baloch nationalists assert that theirs is a freedom struggle; they were occupied by Pakistan in 1948 and have been fighting since to free themselves.

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Balochistan
Baloch people address their protests as a freedom struggle to liberate and unify their people and land from control of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Wikimedia
  • Even after 70 years of Pakistan’s creation, Balochistan refuses to associate itself as a part of the country
  • Pakistan’s military occupation of Balochistan began in 1948 before which the province had existed as an independent state
  • The insurgency in Balochistan traces its roots in ethnic nationalism along with feelings of political and economic exclusion

Balochistan, August 31, 2017 : Located in the South West of Pakistan, the Balochistan province of Pakistan constitutes nearly 45 per cent of the country’s territory. However, even after 70 years of Pakistan’s creation, the people of the province refuse to associate themselves with Pakistan or its framework of a nation state. They believe they have been Balochis for over three thousand years, who have now been invaded.

“It is freedom struggle,” believes activist Naela Quadri Baloch like many other Baloch nationalists. According to her, Balochistan had been occupied by Pakistan in 1948 and “ever since we have been fighting against Pakistan to free ourselves”, she believes.

In 2016 during an interview with The Times of India, the women’s leader and activist Naela Quadri Baloch had asserted that Pakistan is not interested in Kashmiris but specifically in the territory of Jammu and Kashmir for its desire to control the Indus river system. Similarly, it is also not interested in the Balochis, but the land of the state for its strategic location and mineral reserves.

Baloch nationalists assert that Pakistan’s economy is dependent on loans from the IMF, World Bank and the Western countries that are allegedly taken on the pretext of Balochistan’s rich mineral resources. They further claim that Pakistan’s strategic importance is also due to Balochistan coast. Pakistan would not be able to survive, which is why it does not want Balochistan to emerge as an independent state.

Balochistan
Balochistan comprises of about 45 per cent of Pakistan’s territory. Wikimedia

While the world views it as an insurgency movement, Balochis address their protests as a freedom struggle to liberate and unify their people and land from control of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

They maintain that Balochistan was never a part of India or Pakistan and it had always been an independent country.

Balochistan At The Time Of Partition

Balochistan comprises of four erstwhile princely states – Kalat, Kharan, Lasbela and Makran, that had been unified by Naseer Khan, the Khan of Kalat.

During the British rule, the province was divided into British Balochistan (25 per cent) and Native Balochistan, occupying 75 per cent of the total territory with people pledging adherence to Naseer Khan.

Immediately following partition and the creation of Pakistan, Khan’s descendant, Mir Ahmed Yaar Khan was faced with three options – independence, or accession to either India or Pakistan. He decided upon independence, following which a communiqué was released on August 11, 1947 giving independent sovereign status to Kalat.

However, by October 1947, Mohammad Ali Jinnah mooted Kalat to formally join the state of Pakistan. The Khan of Kalat did not agree to the accession which was followed by a standstill between the two leaders upon the status of present-day Balochistan.

Becoming A Part Of Pakistan

By April 1948, the Pakistan army moved into the province and captured Kalat. The Khans’ attempts of an armed campaign against the Pakistan army went futile and the province was merged with Pakistan by June 1948.

At the center of Balochistan’s forced accession was Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who had previously been hired by the Khans for his legal services to negotiate Kalat’s independent status with the Britishers.

Before partition, Jinnah had successfully mooted an ‘Independent Status’ of Kalat for which he was graciously awarded with gold. But, Balochistan breathed as a free country only from August 1947 to March 1948, after which Jinnah breached trust and betrayed the Khan, forcing the Pakistani invasion and eventual accession of Kalat.

ALSO READ Violence surges yet again in Balochistan

Surprisingly, during the struggle and annexation of present-day Balochistan, the Indian Congressmen, Mahatma Gandhi or the then-Governor General Lord Mountbatten made no attempts to hinder in the remonstration. This indifference can be attributed to the Indian leaders’ failure to realize the strategic implication of a sovereign Balochistan at the time.

A Growing Ethnic Nationalism

Following the formation of Pakistan, distorted power relations existed among different Muslim ethnicities. Additionally, unchallenged power was exercised by Punjabis who comprised of about 56 per cent population of the state.

In 1954, the One Unit scheme was launched by the federal government of Pakistan to merge the four existing provinces of West Pakistan (Khyber-Pakhtunkawa, Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab) to form a homogeneous, united political entity in an attempt to,

  • Forge national unity on basis of Islam and geography
  • Reduce gross expenditure
  • Help eliminate ethnic prejudices.

The move triggered violence throughout the country and especially in Balochistan, wherein this was interpreted as a strategy to establish Punjabi domination.

Balochistan rose against the move, which came to an end in 1970 with the overthrow of the One Unit scheme.

However, following the rebellion, a strong sense of nationalism, propounding larger political autonomy and a separate state for Balochistan broke a full-fledged insurgency from 1973 to 1977; over 80,000 personnel were deployed to quell the rebellion.    

Armed struggle to achieve separation from Pakistan lasted throughout the 1970s, in which 3,300 army personnel and 5,300 Balochis were killed. However, the Pakistani government successfully compressed the movement.

Economic Alienation

Baloch nationalists have repeatedly argued that they are yet to receive any benefit from the development projects that have been initiated by the government in Balochistan.

  1. Reportedly, the Sui Gas Field in Balochistan caters to most urban households in the country. Despite producing about 45 per cent of gas for Pakistan, the province gets to consume a mere 17 per cent. Additionally, the Balochis get a nominal amount of Pakistani Rupees 6 for a 24-hour supply.
  2. The Pakistani government, in collaboration with China, initiated the development of the Gwadar port in the province, with an aim to better trade ties with Asia, Europe, and US. However, a large number of Punjabis and non-Baloch people were hired for the project, leaving an increasing population of Baloch engineers and technicians unemployed.
  3. Balochistan has one of the world’s richest reserves of copper and gold. However, as much as 16 kgs of gold is seized everyday by the Chinese under an arrangement with the government, which robs the Balochis of major economic benefits.
  4. Despite being one of the country’s key providing areas,
    • 80 per cent population of Balochistan continue to live in the absence of safe drinking water
    • 80 per cent people do not have access to electricity
    • 70 per cent children have never been to school
    • 63 per cent of Balochis live below the poverty line

While ethnic nationalist interests continue to worry Balochistan, a primary demand has also been about better control over the economic resources of the region.

However, the Pakistani government blames the nationalist struggle in the region for impeding the developmental process.

Political Subjugation By Islamabad

Balochistan makes up nearly 45 per cent of Pakistan’s territory but the Balochs comprise only 5 per cent of the total population, making them a minority in Pakistan.

Their representation in the National Assembly of Pakistan is also negligible (17 out of 342) which reveals that the Balochis have lost their say in policy formulations and are forced to adhere to laws that have been put in place for them by power honchos sitting in Islamabad.

Additionally, the Pakistan government centered in Islamabad has eradicated most of the Baloch activists and nationalists, calling them ‘foreign agents against the state’. This can be supplemented with the murder of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti who was an ex chief minister of Balochistan.

ALSO READ Akbar Bugti: Remembering the Balochistan Hero on his 11th Martyrdom Anniversary

Pakistan And Its inherent Demand of Balochistan

Ever since the creation of Pakistan, it has been evident that the Pakistan government is more concerned with occupying the physical territory of Balochistan, with meager interest in its indigenous population.

The Pakistan army, on command of the government has employed every possible armory against its own people of Balochistan, in an attempt to contain the province within its seizure. Furthermore, army cantonments have been established at Dera, Gwadar, Bugti and Kohlu to gauge activity and movement of the Baloch people.

Additionally, despite occupying 45 per cent of Pakistan’s territory, the budget allocated to Balochistan is minuscule in comparison to its vast landmass.

In 2002, General Pervez Musharraf had striked a deal with China over the Gwadar port development as part of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Baloch people condemned the allocation of land to the rich businessmen of Punjab and Karachi and further lamented the unemployment stemming from the project. The move also instigated further violence in the region.

Balochistan
Gwadar port in Balochistan. Wikimedia

As of now, according to report, all 22 districts of Balochistan continue to suffer at the hands of the enduring insurgency with the tally of displaced people now crossing over 2 lacs.

In more recent times, the Pakistan army took aid of suicide bombers to tackle the ongoing insurgency. On August 8, 2017, as many as 54 lawyers became victims of a suicide attack, which is being touted as a State-funded action as the group included several Baloch activists who had been vocal about Pakistan army’s interference in state affairs.

ALSO READ Balochistan Suicide Bombing: Provincial Government Falsely blames India for the Attack

According to a report published in Dawn,prince of the now redundant Kalat state, Prince Mohyuddin Baloch who is now the  Baloch Rabita Ittefaq Tehreek chief,  had said that Balochis are not looking to wage wars. Until now, Balochis have not once attacked Pakistan, but only defended themselves.

He said the objective of their protests has been to draw the government’s attention. However, regretfully, no one is paying any heed to their cries.

Dr. Aasim Sajjad Akhtar had rightly quoted in an article in the Economic and Political Weekly that the “ethnic difference remains the single biggest fault line in Pakistani politics.”

The Balochistan insurgency thus, traces its roots in a ripe ethnic nationalism along with feelings of political and economic exclusion. This animosity among the country will continue unless Pakistan accepts its non-Muslim history.


 

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