When we talk about the issues of the campus we don’t want to be stuck in the binaries of left and right. Because the issues are not about these binaries. The issues that have recently gripped the AMU campus, particularly the hue and cry against Shehla Rashid’s visit to the university in a “All India Student Leader’s Meet” and the severe retaliation on the organizers from the people who claim to be the defenders of Islam, is to be understood in a larger context.
Let’s just state this clearly first, Shehla Rashid did not criticize Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W). I request students of this University to see on their own the post of Shehla Rashid where she merely quotes a blasphemous sentence and not be swayed by religious rhetoric that some groups in the campus are using to further their own selfish ends. Religion has always been used as a tool to serve political ends. And a small section of students who have gotten hold of some resources are claiming to represent the entire Aligarh Muslim University Students’ fraternity and further their own agenda of hate and regression in our names. Our campus has never discouraged dialogue and dissent. No individual, group or organization of repute and integrity would be scared for its identity just because a few voices oppose that individual, group or organization. The fear of these student groups, who have organized themselves against Shehla Rashid and other left leaning student leaders invited in Student Leader’s Meet (that was postponed latter) from different campuses, thus appears unfounded and reflects their own lack of content.
The gross publicity of the act of protesting against Shehla Rashid’s visit to AMU and filing an FIR against her by some of the AMU students is harming the University. AMU, we all should now accept, does not exist in isolation of the larger democratic setup that our country sustains.
The fact that Shehla Rashid’s ideology would not be acceptable to a number of people should not be the reason behind the aggressive hatred that is being levelled against her. Let’s not forget that Quran itself says, “And let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice.” (5:8)The idea is to argue and debate and discuss which furthers the cause of justice and is a democratic way of arriving at solutions.
AMU students here should know that there is nothing religious about the protest against Shehla Rashid. So if the student fraternity of AMU wants to understand the real complexity of situation it should start with understanding the fact that the so called claimants of defender of religion have nothing religious as their concern when they speak against Shehla. The protest and propaganda in the name of religion is about the following issues:
- It is about the political divisions within the AMUSU, where one group is trying to sabotage the activities of the other group and it is about the threat to the orthodox Muslim elements from a left woman activist who has always taken stands for the issues of actual concern of Muslim community, be it the case of Najeeb or AMU’s minority status. I again reiterate that let’s not get stuck in the binaries of left and right, because the issues are not limited to them.
- It is the threat that somebody else might start defining AMU and its identity apart from these particular orthodox religious elements in the campus that have made them launch such an attack on dissenting voices. It is these dissenting voices within the campus that have spoken up for democratic and fundamental rights that are being targeted through the aggression in the name of religion. We should also wonder about the level of organization that goes into building such enormous hate propaganda against people who actually want to make AMU campus and India more inclusive.
- It is about the voices which talk for gender justice, against corrupt activities and for reformation in the regressive elements of the cultural paraphernalia in the campus and for a better and progressive University which have hurt and disturbed the political calculations of several groups of the campus that has led them to take huge regressive measures.
And these people, who claim to be the face of AMU, by doing such activities, are doing nothing but pushing AMU into the very bubble where the Hindu Right Wing wants AMU to be. Thus these so called defenders of AMU’s culture are serving the saffron flag instead of the green one by stifling and threatening the reasonable and progressive Muslim voices from the campus. Because if Vinod Dua, a reputed Indian Journalist says that he’s sure that there will be no general elections in 2019, we as people of the country should at least understand the gravity of the political situation in our country. And to understand the need to keep a united front against the Hindu Right’s agenda of dividing people on irrelevant lines.
Secondly, as they declared the proposed meet as “Left Leaders Meet” as their case to oppose it, they must be well aware of the fact that it was at the responsibility of organizers instead of invitees to make the choice of guest speakers in a way as to maintain the idea of proportional inclusivity to make the meet a Pan Indian meet. But, prima facie, it appears that the office bearers of AMU Students Union and organizers have failed that idea at their own hands. There are also some reports that the organizers initially contacted many leaders (as reflected by another circular/pamphlet issued by AMUSU) from various campuses but most of them expressed their inability to commit the participation on very short notice. So, at last the organizers were left with some Student leaders from Delhi who had agreed to make it to the meet, as may be the case, co-incidentally or obviously that Aligarh is just 2 hour run from Delhi. But, for some anti-left people in AMU it becomes a matter of ego due to their prejudices towards left wing as a whole. In sum, it was a mixed failure at the helm of organizers as well as student respondents who were fed on with ‘half baked’ & ‘surreal’ explanations of events unfolded.
In addition, some people are still feeding lies to general students and outside community about the whole controversy. We came through two such articles just published at www.counterurrents.org and The Companion’s online portal where they haven’t even touched the main issues which actually led to the controversy and instead were trying to justify the wrongdoings of the orthodox section of the campus through some of the recent events actually organized and led by alternative progressive section of the students. In fact, some of the student organizers of the events, they quoted in their articles as the defence tool, were actually been humiliated and threatened orally for organizing #OneBillionRising march on campus this 14th February and those students are living in constant fear of retaliation since then. It is actually very hypocritical at the part of authors who wrote those two articles, that to undone the damage done by some orthodox people they are giving the examples of activities organized by some progressive forces at campus, which are thriving restlessly to make AMU a more inclusive and vibrant address.
I just want the larger audience at AMU to understand the nature and the reason of the aggression of the people claiming to represent AMU and the harm it’s causing to our campus and to us as students, who have to go out and face the world. The silence or fear which is keeping us from taking stands for the just cause will not be of great help when we would be questioned about our University’s stand on democratic and constitutional rights. It’ll be a baggage we all would have to carry as students of Aligarh Muslim University, just because a few people want to serve their political and personal ends in the name of religion.
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of AMU, himself had faced a serious backlash for his reformative opinions, I’d like to end this letter by quoting Sir Syed’s frustration with the orthodox Muslim clergy, “When urged to give up something harmful, they (Muslim orthodox sections) say it has religious merit and when asked to do something positive they assert it is prohibited by religion. So we have no options but discuss the religious context to push our agenda forward.”
-From a concerned Student of AMU