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PM Modi, Thanks for Recognising AMU as Mini India & Not Pakistan

An open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi from a ‘proud Alig’, an alumna of Aligarh Muslim University.

Updated
Opinion
4 min read
Image of PM Modi, map of India (in the background), and Aligarh Muslim University used for representational purposes.
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As a proud ‘Alig,’ I was delighted to hear you, Mr Prime Minister, addressing us as ‘partners’ today. A welcome change from ‘anti-nationals’, ‘jihadis’, ‘Jinnah ki aulaad’, and more such epithets that have now become synonymous with AMU students, current or graduated.

Mr Prime Minister, it was, indeed, reassuring to hear your assertion that AMU is not a cluster of buildings but an integral part of India’s history. What we know about history is that it doesn’t judge its good, bad, and ugly aspects and remains agnostic. People do. And ill-informed people are adept at twisting history to suit agendas. AMU has seen and suffered it all.

Prime Minister Narendra speaking at Aligarh Muslim University’s centenary celebrations. 
Prime Minister Narendra speaking at Aligarh Muslim University’s centenary celebrations. 
Image: Screengrab from PIB video
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You start your speech commending AMU’s role during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and a little later you say how the university has been elemental in strengthening India’s foreign policy because of its Islamic research projects. I can’t help but think of the foreign members of Tablighi Jamaat who were wrongfully detained for intentionally spreading the virus. Can we ever forget how Muslims—citizens and foreigners alike—were demonised for even demanding food? Everyone jumped this bandwagon of diatribe but stayed silent when the Supreme Court acquitted 36 foreigner Tablighis.

This also caused us diplomatic embarrassment that you, an astute diplomat, are already aware of. You are proud of the 1000 foreign students at AMU and want them to carry all that is roseate about India and its people back to their motherlands. I’m a little concerned about the baton charge and indiscriminate police action against protesting students during the CAA protest this time last year. It is difficult for ‘soft power’ to obliterate hard state actions from the hearts and minds of witnesses.

I’m glad that you underscore the importance of teaching Urdu and Arabic alongside Hindi and Sanskrit. Hopefully, this will translate into ending vilification of madarasas scattered across India, which are, often, the only accessible education institutions for students in the dark pockets of our country.

Perhaps, your party colleagues shall now go easy with their name-changing spree. Surely, Hyderabad does not become better with merely a name change to Bhagyanagar.

You want the pluralism that AMU stands for to never get weakened. Hope is a beautiful thing and I choose to cling to it. It, however, gets pale when I see an irresponsible hounding of minorities merely on grounds of difference—in attire, food, forms of worship or even appearance.

Mr Prime Minister, you reiterate your mantra of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’ to decry any discrimination in either the intent or the policy of Indian government. You rightly list how your government has facilitated new bank accounts for more than 40 crore citizens, house allotments to more than two crore citizens, gas connections to eight crore women, free foodgrain to 80 crore people during the pandemic and so on sans discrimination. Why, then, are so many Indians still insecure about their lives (CAA protests) and livelihoods (farmer protests)?

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Mr Modi, as an educated, enterprising, and empowered woman I was heartened to hear you acknowledging the contribution of women like me in giving a direction to family and nation. But how can a woman steer a country when she is not even free to decide who she can fall in love with and marry? The bogey of Love-Jihad seeks to deny women this agency.

Do women have to continually live in fear? Of losing their husbands to jail and unborn children to miscarriages? This gravy train of homogenising has reached Jalesar, my hometown in UP, where six members of a Muslim family have been jailed because an adult woman decided to elope with an adult man.

Mr Prime Minister, you want AMU’s hostel students to spend time researching the contribution of lesser-known freedom fighters. It is a noble thought. However, how does a university deal with this suggestion when its students are made to be ashamed of, even attacked for, its history? I’m sure you are aware of the fracas over Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s portrait in 2018.

You also share your vision about ancient manuscripts in the AMU library that deserve to be digitised and made accessible to the world at large. What if there is something ‘objectionable’ in their content and hurts a group’s sentiments? Or worse, what if one discovers something even remotely considered as ‘seditious’? After all, countless students, academics and activists have been arrested for possessing seditious literature.

For example, Delhi Police chargesheet against Sharjeel Imam, an ‘Alig’, for sedition and unlawful activities mentions possession of Forms of Collective Violence, Riots, Pogroms and Genocide in Modern India by Paul Brass and notes the following:

“By reading only such literature and not researching alternative sources, the accused became highly radicalised and religious bigoted.”

You rightly pointed out, Mr Prime Minister, that politics can wait, society can wait, but development can’t. The weak and the marginalised cannot wait. Why, then, are we still stuck compelled by ruthless electoral gains at the cost of what India stands for fundamentally, constitutionally?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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