I was 15 when I joined the Aligarh Muslim University in 2000. Going to this varsity was not thought out. It just happened. Before, having spent oblivious years of childhood, I was an average student with poverty in maths. I was the first in the ancestry to study in a university.
I took arts despite having to listen to dissuading remarks of parents as to what I would do studying arts going that far from a humdrum town of Jharkhand. When I began living in Aligarh, I started learning mannerisms, etiquettes which I was completely unfamiliar of.
Gradually, I was transforming into a humanist, unshackling the baggage of ignorance. Knowledge came from books and class lectures. But what shaped my persona, tossing violently my thinking was the arrest of Mubin Ahmed over his [alleged] anti-national charges and affiliation to SIMI on September 3, 2000, just a month after I joined AMU. He’s now been acquitted, proven not guilty!
Two years later in 2002, Godhra riots occurred in which pogroms were orchestrated against Muslims after hapless burning of 59 Karsevaks aboard Sabarmati Express. Riots were not new to me. I witnessed riot as tender at an age as five in 1989 in Hazaribag.
I remember how chants of ‘Allahuakbar’ would collide with ‘Har Har Mahadev’ in the neighborhood, and how my family members broke glasses, bricks, and boiled water to be prepared to face rioters in worst case! The horror still echoes.
Aligarh days shaped my self as an Indian citizen first and then a Muslim. It taught me what patriotic values are. It taught me to practise respect for other faiths. But, today, all the principles, values of nationalism, patriotism seem dissipating post 2014.
Two years ago, some of my school friends, mostly belonging to Hindu faith, reunited. But I found shortly the warmth of the bonhomie fizzling. I was joked with labels of Jihadi, and Owaisi follower. And their blindness and numbness of being fans of Shri Narendra Modi, cost the friendships. Today the circle doesn’t exist. All friends have disappeared, lost, as animosity creeped in.
I would sometimes have hallucinations of riots, only to wake up after being stabbed by a sword! I would often wonder what if they would come armed with swords, weapons and attack the university which was my second home!
On May 2, I saw it coming true. The University of knowledge, of enlightenment was attacked. I could not sleep the intervening night. And since then.
I wish India, my great nation, does not have to see a future what Shri Shri Ravi Shankar prophesied.
Author is AMU alumnus. He is Assistant Professor at Banasthali Vidhyapeeth, Rajasthan.