The disgraceful part of the controversy over a portrait of MA Jinnah in the Aligarh Muslim University campus is not so much the presence of the portrait but the vehement refusal to remove it. The AMU students’ union and the management have both justified Jinnah’s presence on the ground that he was a co-founder of the university as well as a life-member of the students’ body, which is why his portrait finds place in the union hall.
That Jinnah was both is not being disputed, but given the role he played in the country’s partition which led to the massacre of millions of people, Hindu Muslim and Sikh, one would have expected greater sensitivity on the part of the students’ union and the management in the matter. The fact that the portrait has been around for decades does not justify its continued presence.
The refusal to remove the offending item has been defended by drawing ridiculous comparisons with VD Savarkar whose portrait finds space in the Central Hall of Parliament. One may disagree strongly with many of Savarkar’s thoughts and beliefs, but he was a patriot. Savarkar did not favour the country’s partition, and certainly not on religious grounds. Supporters of Jinnah’s portrait have also tried to drag in the RSS into the controversy, insinuating that the organisation was equally responsible for the country’s division. But how? The RSS always held on to the belief of Akhand Bharat — a united India. In fact, from available records, the RSS had been taken aback by the announcement of partition as part of British plan to quit India. That being the case, it says something about the mindset of those who are backing the portrait at the AMU that these people are also the ones who had tacitly or openly supported the gang which had raised cries of Indian’s dismemberment, spoke in favour of terrorists Yakub Memon and Afzal Guru, raised slogans of freedom of Kashmir from India, and more.
Jinnah was not only the architect of India’s break-up, he also popularised the theory of Hindu-Muslim divide, saying that the two communities had nothing in common to live together. No great harm would be done if the AMU decides to remove Jinnah’s portrait. This is the same university’s students’ body which had protested the visit of the country’s President recently, because it did not agree with the head of state’s ideological background. It objected to the establishment of a branch of the RSS in the campus on similar grounds. Are we to then assume that the AMU students’ body endorses Jinnah’s ideology, which is why it insists of retaining the man’s portrait in the campus?