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What Led To The Cancellation of All India Student Leaders Meet At AMU?

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Aligarh Muslim University Students Union (AMUSU) had scheduled to organize an ‘All India Student Leaders Meet’ on 18-02-2017 at Kennedy Auditorium wherein some student activists/ leaders were supposed to speak. Usually, this event is hosted every year by AMUSU to call student leaders from various parts of country to deliberate and discuss the issues concerning student community. This year, the scheduled meet was postponed by AMUSU because of  the controversy which arose in the AMU campus. There has been much furore especially on social media about the reasons which led to postponing of the proposed meet. Here is the actual series of events about the controversy.

1.The whole controversy started brewing up when students noticed that for the scheduled Leaders Meet, 6 students were invited to speak from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Majority of the students were aghast over the decision of AMUSU to invite only a section of student leaders from a single institution with a particular ideological lineage, which according to them was neither inclusive nor representative of all students in the country. Most students protested through social media and some student groups at AMU called the AMUSU president and apprised him about the anger among the students community about the scheduled meet.

2.The second thing which added fuel to fire was when two days before the scheduled programme, a facebook post written by Shehla Rashid went viral, wherein she attempted to differentiate between what is hate speech and what is not. In her post, she used derogatory and blasphemous terminology for Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), to which general students of AMU were offended. Students henceforth started a campaign to not allow any such speakers to come to AMU.

3. One of the female office bearers of AMUSU, Ghazala Ahmad, went a step further and lodged an FIR against Shehla Rashid for her inappropriate and objectionable words against the Prophet (PBUH) and against other religions, thus sparking a new controversy among the already divided students at AMU and JNU.

In response to the popular sentiment at AMU, Students Union postponed the scheduled programme. The union was largely appreciated by AMU fraternity for its decision to cancel the ‘Student Leaders Meet’. However, a few of AMU well-wishers have been misinformed about the entire episode. Many people from JNU and elsewhere eventually started a gross misinformation campaign to defame AMU, which most of them always do.

The preamble of Student’s Union clearly says that AMUSU is a democratic body of students and it respects the views of majority of the students. When the majority of the students opposed a proposed event, it was cancelled, and rightly so. This is a democratic method in practice.

But then the discourse was set in a different way, the people who were out there demanding the cancellation of Shehla Rashid’s visit to AMU were  being  labelled “Mazhab ke thekedaar”(custodians of religion), “Musanghis” (Sanghi Muslims), “patriarchs” by those who call themselves champions of  liberalism and perceive that they are the only ones left on earth with an understanding of democracy. The speakers other than Shehla who were supposed to speak had maintained a silence for the time, a campaign against their colleague was run by students of AMU, but they were monitoring the situation online and also were in regular touch with organizers. After the Union cancelled the meet they too took to social media expressing their support to Shehla, while demonizing the students who had opposed the entry of Shehla in the AMU campus. They too like Shehla resorted to name calling and leveled baseless allegations against those who were opposing the whole event and Shehla’s entry for the reasons of its ‘non-inclusiveness’ and derogatory remarks .

It is difficult to understand that why these champions of ‘Freedom of expression’ and democracy in Delhi or elsewhere were most pained while noticing the Muslims at AMU practicing  these values. Isn’t this a ‘sheer’ hypocrisy? The Delhi based defenders of Freedom and Liberty should have respected the majority view point of AMU students. But we remember from Palestine to Egypt, that democracy is acceptable to liberals in Muslim Lands only when it serves the agenda of Liberal, nude, oppressive and abusive democrats.

The fact is that AMU students unanimously rejected an attempt to damage the inclusive nature of AMU. This is well established that AMU stands for an inclusive culture and AMU students’ meet should not have been used to trumpet a particular ideology. There are various active unions and students’ organisations besides leftists(far, liberal or radical) who stand for social justice and equal opportunities for all. The AMUSU event that attempted to silence others and appreciated a selected few was denounced by the majority at AMU students and hence AMUSU was compelled to stand with them. The unison of AMU fraternity on this issue and the solidarity shown by general students was a land mark step to safeguard the sanctity of AMU. AMU in one voice denounced those who intentionally or unintentionally wanted AMU to become hostage to a redundant ideology and ensured that our leaders in future will take care for the same. AMU will continue to organize ‘Student Leaders’ Meets’ like always, which will be a representative of all and not a few. AMUSU has now understood that student leaders do exist beyond a so-called progressive JNU as well.

The other issue that was unanimously presented by AMU was to reject those who attempt character assassination. AMU has a cultural legacy of respect and dignity derived from its Muslim roots. Those whose statements reflect abuse and obscene, especially to our Prophet, who is most revered, are appreciated to stay away from AMU. We understand the quote unquote more than those who attempt to teach us; the unanimous understanding reflected at AMU in the campaign was to stand for decent language and choice of words. Let intentions not be judged, the words be. AMUSU’s acceptance of popular demand of avoiding the visit of those with questionable language has been widely appreciated. This has only strengthened our message of respect for all. Moreover, if the champions of ‘Freedom of Speech’ and ‘Liberalism’ have the right to protect their culture and ‘Idea of University’ in their respective institution and for that they can go to any extent, why shouldn’t this right be extended to students of AMU? People  being written off as “mazhab ke thekedaar” because in this “free society” one can only be a “liberalism ke thekedaar.” What kind of free speech are they preaching where One has the “right to offend” but the other does not have the “right to be offended”?

On Najeeb’s issue, entire Alig fraternity in general and AMUSU in particular have contributed from the day one and continue to do so, and we need no one to appreciate us for this. AMU has always been the front runner for those whose rights are violated in any part of the world, besides the fact that AMU is a target institution of fascist forces.

Moreover the threat of fascist forces and the rising need of Student Solidarity on common minimum program, we understand it better than anyone, and have in past expressed it not only by our words but through our actions too. However, we can’t make mockery of the ‘Idea of AMU’, just to receive verbal and digital solidarities of people who don’t want to respect that very idea.

Those who use the redundant terminology of extremists and the like for Muslims should know that they have used this kind of terminology to kill and maim Muslims across the world and sanctioned their oppression. We at AMU understand these words better when they used against us. Calling AMU extremist and conservative, is a way to create in roads into the Muslim heritage and abuse it for the reasons everyone knows.

Rest, opportunists who had maintained a silence till the event was cancelled, are now seen sermonizing us about tolerance, freedom of expression and need of solidarity movements, they need to understand that we too know very well the history of their tolerance and how much they practise it when in power. Let us keep that debate for another time. And how far is it justified to troll AMUSU president on his FB post for a simple grammatical mistake in the afternoon and calling for solidarity in evening?

Lastly, some people who have risen to fame on the manufactured controversies seem more interested in repeating such things in order to present themselves as martyrs. They are trying to present it as AMU Vs JNU or AMUSU Vs JNUSU, which by no means is truth. AMUSU and JNUSU and for that matter AMU and JNU would always stand against a common enemy and fight against the fascist forces in unison. Those who are trying to portray it like that way can win political points by making it so. But the reality is that they are merely trying to distract people from the principal issues and are weakening the nationwide students’ movement.

However, one should also neither take a single individual, (whosoever he/she might be) as the sole institution nor should preach and limit democracy to a single place. Moreover, no one should take hostage of victimhood that too based on brazen lies to obfuscate facts in order to gain sympathy. Let’s learn to respect each other’s views and  move forward with our collective struggles without making this incident an impediment, which ultimately benefits none of us.

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