Row over Jinnah’s portrait: Aligarh Muslim University authorities, student leaders call it historical preservation
AMU spokesman Shafey Kidwai today defended the portrait, apparently hanging there for decades, saying that Jinnah was a founder of the university and granted life membership of the student union.
NEW DELHI/LUCKNOW: THE Ministry of Human Resources Development on Tuesday sought a report from the Aligarh Muslim University after local BJP MP Satish Gautam objected to the presence of a portrait of Mohammad Ali Jinnah at its students’ council hall.
HRD secretary (higher education) R Subramanyam told Express that AMU vice-chancellor Tariq Mansoor clarified to the Centre that “the portrait has been in the students’ hall since 1938 and it was not a recent development”. “The issue will be discussed in the vice-chancellor’s national conference on Wednesday and the university has informed it will talk to the students’ union,” Subramanyam said.
Sources said Gautam wrote to Mansoor demanding an explanation on the Jinnah portrait.
Coming nearly a week after some RSS members sought the university’s permission to hold ‘sakha’, the episode is likely to raise tension at the campus.
Responding to the letter, the AMU authorities and the student union president called the portrait “just a historical preservation of the university’s legacy”.
AMU spokesperson Shafey Kidwai asserted Jinnah was a founder member of the university and he was conferred with life membership of the students’ union. “His portrait has been there on the walls of the student union hall since 1938. It was a pre-Independence era (portrait) much before the Partition.”
Kidwai said the students’ union is autonomous and the university did not interfere in its affairs as much as possible.
Jinnah’s portrait was hanging among a galaxy of luminaries like Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Azad, Jawaharlal Nehru, CV Raman, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, VV Giri and APJ Abdul Kalam, he added. “All these personalities were the life members of the AMUSU.”
He added AMU was conferring life membership on eminent personalities since 1920 and Mahatama Gandhi was the first life member of AMUSU. “Their portraits add to the rich heritage of undivided India and no one ever raised this issue before.”
AMUSU president Maksoor Ahmad Usmani contended the row was created as a “diversion tactic”. “The government is a failure and they (BJP leaders) have been unable to do anything, so they are trying to make an issue,” he said.
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh minister Swami Prasad Maurya slammed Gautam for questioning the Jinnah portrait decorating the walls of the AMU.