SIO AMU has issued a statement of condemnation on the virtual visit of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a centenary celebration. The main points of the students’ protest against his visit are a) his handling of the anti-Muslim Gujarat pogrom in 2002, b)his government withdrawing the appeals to retain the minority character of the AMU c)Rohith Vemula tragic institutional murder and his BJP minister involvement, d) passing of anti-Muslim CAA law and the consequent police crackdown on AMU (and Jamia) students protesting the CAA, and e) the AMU callous attitude during the pandemic towards students’ issues. Below we reproduce verbatim the Statement.
In a letter to the students on December 16, 2020, the Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University revealed that he has invited many government authorities of India including the Prime Minister in the centenary celebration event. He also appealed to keep this program ‘above politics’ as we keep Republic Day, Independence Day, Milad-un-Nabi, etc. above differences.
SIO AMU, on behalf of the students’ fraternity of the Aligarh Muslim University, strongly condemns the decision of the Vice-Chancellor to invite the Prime Minister to the centenary year celebration event that is to be held on December 22, 2020.
In AMU, we nurture a tradition to put our most profound disagreements through debate and discussion, and we believe that this statement is a continuation of that tradition and provide the rationale for our protest. Our University, for which Mr. Narendra Modi will be virtually present on 22.12.2020, educate students from all nooks and corners of the country; whose intermixing of ideas has produced one of the finest democratic traditions which represents the very idea of what our country constitutionally stands for, the legacy of the freedom struggle we fought.
To continue the same democratic tradition, we, hereby, register our protest on the following grounds:
1. To be explicit, we have profound disagreements with Narendra Modi’s idea of India in conjunction with the political ideology he represents that is ‘Hindutva’. We were among the very firsts to raise the issue of his response to and handling of the Anti-Muslim Gujarat pogrom of 2002 while he held the position of the chief-minister and it is a fact that his administration was complicit – languid on the riotous mobs while criminalizing victims of killings, loot, rape, arson and other gruesome crimes.
2. The Aligarh Muslim University was established by the Muslim community in the leadership of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan to impart modern education to the Muslims with Islamic values. Development of Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College into Aligarh Muslim University itself reveals that the AMU was established by the Muslim community. Hence it deserves the protection of a Minority institute that Article 30 of the Indian Constitution guarantees to the minorities of this country.
But Narendra Modi led government has been at forefront in taking away this constitutional right from our university. Firstly, this government withdrew the appeal filed by previous government before Supreme Court that had sought to retain the Minority Status of AMU, clearly stating that AMU is not a Minority Institute. Then, the Chief-Minister of Uttar Pradesh Mr. Yogi Adityanath at different times had questioned the Minority Status of our university. Member of Parliament from Aligarh constituency Mr. Satish Gautam also had spoken several times in similar tone in the past against the Minority Status of AMU.
In 2015, the Hindu Yuva Vahini state chief Sunil Singh called this prestigious institution ‘nursery of terrorists. This group HYV was founded by the present-day Chief-Minister of Uttar Pradesh Mr. Yogi Adityanath. Last year, Naveen Jain, a BJP leader who also served as the deputy mayor of Agra, labelled our university as the ‘hub of terrorists’ and questioned the Minority Status of AMU.
In 2018, we witnessed a systematic attack on our university in the name of a portrait. Attempts were made to target former Vice-President of India Mr. Hamid Ansari Sahib physically when he was in our campus. Many students got injured when the right-wing goons and Police attacked on them during the protests.
The silence of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his party leaders’ controversial statements and hate speeches compelled us to believe that he has given freedom to his party members over these issues and therefore we are protesting against his virtual visit to our university.
3. Rohith Vemula, a budding research scholar at Hyderabad Central University, committed suicide after unnecessary and unwanted intrusion from one of the BJP ministers. Not only did BJP supporters insensitively troll him after his death but efforts were made to prove that he was not a Dalit, when in fact, he was and lived as one. The Police very kindly responded with lathis and water cannons when we demonstrated to seek justice.
4. In October of 2016, Najeeb Ahmed, a student of Biotechnology at JNU ‘mysteriously’ disappeared. He had an altercation with students supporting the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, after which he was beaten by a mob and humiliated. He was the son of a mother who had high hopes from him. He was targeted on the basis of his Muslim identity. The Police and other investigative agencies including CBI failed to find him till now. Prime Minister often post pictures with his mother but unfortunately, he could not feel the pain of another mother whose son has gone missing for 4 years 2 months, and 7 days.
5. Last year when the Narendra Modi-led government attempted to seize our citizenship and introduced the ‘Citizenship Amendment Act’, we, at AMU, were the first to initiate the movement against this draconian law, and as result, we faced a systematic and planned crackdown by the government in our university. On 15th and 16th December 2019, AMU and JMI witnessed the worst form of state excess resulting in hundreds of students to physical injuries and mental trauma. The state continued to target our fellows during the COVID-19 pandemic when the whole country was in crisis. Hundreds of students were booked and charge-sheeted in false cases and many of them were arrested and tortured in Police custody. Fact-finding reports revealed that it was a systematic attack on our university due to its Muslim identity. No student was compensated and no action has been taken against the Police and University authorities till now who led this crackdown like never before.
6. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a disaster for all students. In our University, as well, we have observed online education leading to mental health issues and other serious difficulties among students. Despite of various letters and mails, it would appear that not even the mere thought of calling back those students who are in urgent need and have no internet and infrastructural facilities (especially the research scholars), ever occurred to the AMU Vice-Chancellor. Moreover, he conducted online examinations in these tough situations. Besides this, the Vice-Chancellor claims that quality research is being done in the university but the reality is that the Ph.D. admissions for the session 2019-20 are still pending and the application notification for the session 2020-21 has not been released yet.
However, it is learnt that the cabinet colleague of the PM, the Education Minister will be present in the centenary year celebration event. He has been silent on the poor functioning of educational institutes during this pandemic. We wonder why in a democracy, students and ministers cannot discuss the issues of concern on a mutually respecting and equal platform.
This is a long statement and we are doubtful regarding any agreement from the Prime Minister pertaining to our concerns. But we believe that the Prime Minister of the country requires one to listen to the critics as well. He has many a time stated that criticism is like a treasure which he would cherish. Hence, we would like to appraise the Prime Minister of the situation in AMU, caused majorly by the actions of his government and the Vice-Chancellor who has been placed by it. We see the decision to accept the invitation for this event as a token of his support for the actions of the AMU Vice-Chancellor over past few years, unless he retracts the decision for the same and hold the Vice-Chancellor accountable for his failures.
We know that most people in the ideology Mr. Narendra Modi hold like our university to be shut down and for us to be put in jail. But we would like to inform the Prime Minister that this university has produced thousands of academicians, politicians, law makers, policy makers, doctors, engineers, scientists, educationists on whom India feel pride today. Despite of being targeted many a time, this university has continued its legacy that too with its Muslim identity. And today again we ensure that we shall continue this legacy and we will be there to oppose every act that we feel is detrimental to the interest of our university, our Muslim community and the country at large.
Since the record of Mr. Narendra Modi’s party in government on opening new universities has been dismal, we still sincerely hope that we get to behold him in an inauguration or convocation of a centrally funded university that this government started. Thank you! Long Live AMU!
Students’ Islamic Organisation of India (SIO)
Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh