oppn parties Jinnah's Portrait Is Just An Excuse To Browbeat Muslims

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Jinnah's Portrait Is Just An Excuse To Browbeat Muslims

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
Some people in the ruling dispensation are adept at creating controversies out of irrelevant things. The uproar in Aligarh over a portrait of Pakistan’s founding father Mohammed Ali Jinnah in the student’s union room of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) is an example of that. The portrait is hanging there since before Independence as part of a convention at the AMU to recognize those who were made life members of the union. It is not as if students pray before the portrait or light candles or incense sticks. The portrait hangs there as he was a life member, period.

Yet, the BJP MP from Aligarh, Satish Gautam, wrote to the university objecting about the portrait. Since Independence, the BJP has ruled at the Centre many times as part of a coalition. Never has the issue been raised before. The MP has raised it now to create mischief and polarize communities. Gautam and right-wing organizations have wrongly assumed that the presence of the portrait means that the students eulogize Jinnah. Even before the university could reply, hooligans from right-wing organizations stormed the campus and indulged in violence. Several students were injured.

This attempt at polarization is once again based on the wrong assumption that all Indian Muslims love all things Pakistani. It fails to differentiate between majhab and mulk, or religion and nation. Indian Muslims are Indians and have nothing to do with Pakistan. In fact, they know that despite being of the same religion, they will never be welcome in that country. Some misguided elements are there in all communities and our enemies from across the border win them over either through religious affinity or through monetary inducement. But to paint a whole community with the same brush is blatantly wrong and mischievous. Hence, calling Muslims Pakistanis and wishing to send them there is a surefire way of alienating even the large majority to them who swear by the Indian nation.

It is sad that people like Gautam choose to ignore repeated warnings by Prime Minister Modi to motor mouths in the party to keep their mouths shut. His act raises several questions which the BJP must answer. Did Satish Gautam take permission from the party leadership before raising the issue? If so, who gave the permission? If not, why has no action been taken against him for creating an unnecessary and violent controversy? Even UP CM Yogi Adityanath has taken the beaten path by saying Jinnah cannot be honoured in India. But who, pray, is honouring him? Does the students' union celebrate his birthday? Does it hold memorial services on his death anniversary? The simple fact that a historical figure’s portrait is there as he was a life member of the union has been twisted out of context by right-wing organizations and Muslims are being made to feel anti-national.

It is very easy to say that if the students do not eulogize Jinnah, why they are objecting to the portrait being removed. But is it only about Jinnah’s portrait? Ideologically committed activists – right or left - choose their targets one at a time with the express intention of doing away with symbols and practices they do not approve of. Dress code, eating habits, cultural ethos, living areas and religious symbols are all targeted and dictates are issued for what will do and what will not. There was talk of even starting an RSS shakha (of all things) in AMU. The protesting students know that today it is Jinnah’s portrait; tomorrow it will be something else. Hence they have rightly decided not to allow right-wingers to dictate terms to them.