In February 2015, as part of Bombay High Court’s sesquicentennial (150th year) celebrations, PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the High Court museum, showcasing many relics from India’s judicial history, including Barrister’s certificates of Mahatma Gandhi, Muhammed Ali Jinnah, and Dr. B R Ambedkar.
A few minutes’ walks from the Bombay High Court is Cathedral and John Connon, the school which Jinnah initially attended. In the same city’s tony Malabar Hill stands Jinnah House, the opulent bungalow Pakistan’s founder built in 1936 and lived in before partition.
But if Aligarh MP Satish Gautam and his ilk had their way, Jinnah’s Barrister certificate would have been drowned in the Arabian Sea or shipped to Pakistan, his attendance sheet at the school should be shredded and the house he built to be auctioned to the land sharks for yet another skyscraper in the area.
Since Gautam and members of Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) cannot muster the courage or are not interested in performing any of the aforementioned acts, they picked on a dusty photograph of Jinnah hanging at the Aligarh Muslim University’s Students Union Hall since 1938. Traditionally, the Students’ Union honors famous visitors with the honorary life membership and commemorative photographs.
Decorating the Union Hall’s walls are other luminaries like Mahatma Gandhi, Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, C V Raman, Rajendra Prasad, Mother Teresa and many more. No other leader who has visited it after 1938 and whom no less a nationalist leader than Sarojini Naidu once called “ambassador” of Hindu-Muslim ever objected to his photograph there. Incidentally, former vice-president and AMU alumnus Hamid Ansari was to be feted by the students union with life membership the day the clashes took place.
So why some members of the BJP and the extended family the Sangh Parivar want Jinnah’s photograph to be removed from AMU campus? The photograph, we are told by the student’s leaders on the campus and their supporters outside is just an excuse. “The purpose is to fix AMU,” said an alumnus and a media professional. “Just as they tried to JNU sometime ago.”
Is having a portrait of Pakistan’s founder that too taken much before Independence, a crime? Being anti-national? Oh, anti-national! We have heard it before.
Among the slogans, HYV activists raised while barging into the AMU campus was “AMU ke ghaddaron ko…” AMU and its resident community, at least those who oppose the demand to remove Jinnah’s portrait and open an RSS shakha (this demand came barely a few days before violent clash on May 2) on the campus, easily fit into the anti-national trope created by hot-headed members of the Parivar. Predominantly Muslim, AMU has largely nurtured and propagated the idea of India which is secular, inclusive, pluralist. A narrative the Hindutva votaries have increasingly lashed at and lampooned.
Founded by reformist Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in 1875 primarily to inject a modern and scientific temperament among the Muslims who wallowed in despondency in the aftermath of 1857 holocaust, Mohammadan Anglo Oriental (MAO) College which became AMU in 1920 has kept its doors open for all.
The first graduate to pass out from here was a Hindu, Ishwari Prasad. Raja Jaikisan Das and Raja Mahendra Pratap were among its donors. Yes, some of its students did back the diabolical two-nation theory and actively participated in All India Muslim League’s movement for Pakistan.
But then it also produced a galaxy of freedom fighters, including the patriot-journalist like Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar about whom H.G. Wells wrote: “Muhammad Ali possessed the pen of Macaulay, the tongue of Burke and the heart of Napoleon.” Participating at the 1930 Round Table Congress he told the British: “I would even prefer to die in a foreign country, so long as it is a free country; and if you do not give us freedom in India you will have to give me a grave here.”
Soon after he made this declaration, Jauhar died and his body was shipped to Jerusalem to be buried near the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
There is a case for keeping Jinnah’s memory alive. Many may cite his August 11, 1947 address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan where he sounds so conciliatory: “In course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”
Jinnah’s portrait should be preserved also because it has served and will serve as a reminder to the future generations to beware of the demagogues who, through their mindless machinations, bring untold misery to human civilizations.
The Savile Suit-donning, sausage-eating and wine-swirling Jinnah may be Qaid-E-Azam (leader of the nation) for Pakistanis; he has never been a hero for the Muslims in India. Yet, just as mass murderers like Genghis Khan,
Tamerlane, Nadir Shah and Hitler should not be scrubbed out of history books, Jinnah must remain part of our collective memory. The memory may be unpleasant and incongruous.
Author: Mohammed Wajihuddin, Copy Edited by Adam Rizvi.
DISCLAIMER: Views expressed above are the author’s own. First published in TOI Blogs on May 05,2018.