Police Violence, UAPA Loom Large in Reactions to Modi’s AMU Speech
The anniversary of the violent police action on AMU’s campus against CAA-NRC protests loomed large.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address at Aligarh Muslim University’s (AMU) centenary celebrations on Tuesday, 22 December, elicited a range of sharp reactions on social media, on the text as well as sub-text of his words, especially in the backdrop of the anti-CAA-NRC protests, the ensuing violence, and the PM’s remarks on development and nation-building.
The anniversary of the violent police action on AMU’s campus against CAA-NRC protests loomed large among many on social media, who saw the PM’s 34-minute speech as “hollow.”
Others highlighted aspects of his speech regarding development, education of Muslim girls, AMU’s history and how his “direct dialogue will definitely add to the prestige” of the 100-year-old university.
Modi, who spoke as chief guest at the inaugural event, showered praises on the university’s history, its contribution to society, and also referred to its campus as representation of “a mini-India.”
“The diversity which we see here is not only the strength of this university but also of the entire nation,” PM Modi said in his address, adding, “The AMU campus is a city in itself. Its classes, hostels, students and teachers give a glimpse of a mini-India.”
Police Attack on AMU
PM Modi, in his address, steered clear of any references to the violent attacks on AMU campus on 15 December. However, several former students of the university and others referred to the violence in their comments and analysis of the speech.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Kumar Jha tweeted that since PM Modi himself “praised #AMU for its diversity and inclusiveness... Let’s hope denigration and demonisation of #AMU #JMI #JNU #HCU and other universities shall see a delete button.”
Journalist Saba Naqvi, who described the address as “very civilised, very polite” said “the fact of him going to AMU is in itself interesting enough.”
Referring to the violence, Naqvi said on NDTV, “But let us not forget... AMU had vicious violence on 15 December, the anniversary of which has just passed. The students were brutalised.”
Moreover, Modi’s “mini-India”comment elicited sharp reactions as well as social media users saw the reference as an attempt to normalise the violence and “anti-national” discourse from a year ago.
Tarique Anwar, an AMU alumnus, tweeted, “Same mini-India was brutally attacked a year ago for simply registering protest against govt’s actions a year ago.”
Modi on Muslim Girl Students
A particularly divisive topic that was hailed and panned in equal measure was the prime minister’s comments on the education and welfare of female Muslim students.
Speaking on the topic education of girls, PM Modi said, “School dropout rate among Muslim girls was more than 70 percent and this situation persisted for 70 years. After the Swachh Bharat Mission built toilets in villages and toilets for school-going girls, this rate has fallen to nearly 30 percent.”
Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, commenting on the speech, tweeted, “PM Narendra Modi’s words make it clear that he is serious about educating the daughters of the country.”
However, alluding to the topic raised by PM Modi, poet and activist Iqra Khan listed the names of Muslim women who have been put behind bars on various charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
“Ishrat Jahan, Gulfishan Fatima, Payal Tadvi, Safoora Zargar, Masrat Zahra, Fathima Latheef. The Muslim daughters the prime minister cares so much about,” Khan tweeted.
Naqvi, in her analysis on NDTV, also added that while “the speech is being made in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where lovely things were said about Muslim women but where Muslim men are being picked up on 'Love Jihad' charges in a way that the world is watching sort of a Nazi kind of thing happening here.”
Another Twitter user referred to Shaheen Bagh, where women led the anti-CAA-NRC protests and how they were vilified. He wrote while Modi spoke about “Muslim women empowerment at #AligarhMuslimUniversity,” he “belongs to the same same party which shamed the women of #shaheenbagh by calling them paid protestors.”
AMU Legacy, Development & Nation-Building
PM Modi urged everyone to find a common ground, just like the freedom fighters did during India’s battle for Independence.
“The vision of a ‘New India’ refers to an India where we don’t look at development through a political lens,” Modi said, adding that, “The country is marching forward on the path where every citizen would get the benefits of development happening in the country without any discrimination.”
He also congratulated the university on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of the university fulfilling its “obligation towards society.” Speaking on the topic of development, PM Modi touched upon issues of Constitution, religion and discrimination.
Hilal Ahmed, Associate professor, Centre for the study of Developing Societies, tweeted, “I do hope that this positive attitude towards educational institutions will continue to encourage students, teachers and researchers in the country.”
“The country is marching forward on the path where every citizen would get the benefits of development happening in the country without any discrimination. The country is on the path where every citizen should be rest assured about their constitutional rights and their future,” he said.
“The country is on the path where no citizen would be left behind because of their religion and everyone would get equal opportunities so that everyone can fulfil their dreams. Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas is the mantra behind it.”Prime Minister Narendra Modi
BJP spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain tweeted, “His presence at AMU and a direct dialogue will definitely add to the prestige of AMU & also encourage its students & teachers.”
Hussain’s comment comes as a stark contrast to historian and AMU professor emeritus Irfan Habib’s comment on Monday when he told reporters, “There is no reason for AMU to boast of a PM’s participation. He represents Indian culture in a wrong manner. AMU is for scholars and not for those who believe in their own divisive culture.”
ANI editor-in-chief Smita Prakash also weighed in on the issue on NDTV, saying while Modi who comes with “the baggage of RSS karyakarta, who is anti-Muslim,” AMU has been seen as a place where “thoughts of Muslim separatism, two-nation theory had been born and discussed.”
Referring to AMU as a university “where progressive thoughts did come out,” Prakash said, “That is what Modi, in his speech, was reminding them, that when it comes to nation-building, set aside your opinions and there should be no two ways.”
Journalist Naqvi, however, taking a sharp stance on Modi’s words regarding AMU’s work toward development and alluding to the university to “be part of nation-building,” said the words would “ring hollow” if other issues against Muslims weren’t addressed.
“I am all for courtesies and the prime minister has been very courteous in his words but the words will ring hollow and it will have no meaning beyond an event on which you came… It will be meaningless. This is the reality in the backdrop of what has happened.”Saba Naqvi, journalist
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