Naved Ashrafi | April 16, 2017
In the opening passage of Aashufta Bayani Meri, noted Urdu writer Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqui wrote:
میری تحریروں میں یہ نقص بتایا جاتا ہے کہ ان میں “علی گڑھ ” بہت ہوتا ہے . اس لئے وہ لوگ جو علی گڑھ سے کم یا با لکل واقف نہیں ہوتے ان کو ان مضامین یا اس طرح کی باتوں سے دلچسپی نہیں ہوتی. اس حرکت سے بعض احباب مجھ سے چڑھنے بھی لگتے ہیں . ان سب سے مجھے بھی ایک شکایات ہے، وو یہ کہ وو خود علی گڑھ سے کیوں واقف نہیں !
[Tr. In my writings, this deficiency is pointed out that they contain too much “Aligarh”. Therefore, those people who are less or not-at-all acquainted with the Aligarh, have no interest in those articles or in things like that. By the dint of this gesture, some colleagues get nettled with me. I too have one grievance with all of them and that is, ‘why they themselves are not acquainted with the Aligarh’ !]
The Aligarian Fraternity is slated for bicentenary birth celebration of their founder Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898). On 17th of this October, this will be the 200th birthday of great visionary Syed Ahmad Khan—the outstanding personality—as Jawaharlal Nehru in his Autobiography calls him on grounds of Syed’s efforts to make Indian Muslims learn Western education.
Of the major contributions by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, journal Tahzeebul Akhlaq (Refinement of Manners) deserves unqualified mention as far as cultural setup of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) is concerned. Tahzeeb in canons of Aligarh Movement is an overarching term embracing a wide range of phenomenon in students’ life and its repercussions, in the larger course, for the nation and the humanity. Tahzeeb must not be limited only to the etiquettes in socio-political life, wearing sober attires, talking and dealing with others with due humbleness etc.
When one talk about riwayat, tahzeeb, tamaddun and other sister terms, strictly in Aligarian (Aligarhite) sense, one should keep in mind that Aligarh is essentially all about mastery, excellence, and dexterity. This is an ideal proposition. And extending it further, one should mark that these attributes, for any single student in Aligarh, should not be limited only to their own discipline. Aligarh calls for “multidisciplinary excellence” and an “umbrella mastery”. Sir Syed wanted his youth to shine with more luminosity than that of sun on global firmament.
In classical literature of Aligarh Movement, Aligarh’s residential life has been the main force in fulfilment of vision of founding fathers of Aligarh College. Patterned on the collegiate system of the Oxford University, Aligarh’s hostel life had been shaping the Aligarh since decades. Now after 2007, an alarming shift is palpable on the campus that is taking its course gradually.
Real upbringing of an Aligarian actually used to take place in halls of residence. There would be responsibilities of self-administration bestowed upon students strictly following the portfolio system and this still continues, albeit in quite non-serious way. Portfolios of Hall Monitor, Hostel Monitor, Prayer Monitor, Cultural Secretary, Literary Secretary, Health and Hygiene Secretary, Editors of Hall Magazine in Urdu, Hindi, and English etc. are testimony to the fact. But concern is that how much honesty and integrity is observed while apportioning these portfolios among the students? I have bitter experiences with me on that score.
Not to discuss many things that are in vogue now a days, I must focus on new trends of how literary and cultural festivals are being celebrated in halls of AMU. In this era of IPL tournaments and that of ‘obscene capitalist splendor’, new ailment of ‘sponsorship’ has plagued cultural and literary pursuits in the halls of residence of AMU. Literary and cultural committees of halls with all possible impudence are approaching local business houses and enterprises and asking them for pecuniary support in the name of so called “sponsorship”.
There are problems with the current system where a hostel function starts with the Quranic verse of Ar-Rahman saying ‘the Lord is most compassionate who taught Quran to the man’ and finally ends up with Bhojpuri frenzy of ‘jeela top laage lu’.
Now, the very pertinent question that arises is, ‘Are the halls of residence really in resource crunch and need those sponsorships?’ After joining the university four years ago, V-C Lt. Gen. Shah hiked fee in academic programs by almost three hundred percent. With this increment in fee, per student shares for cultural pursuits, health, sports etc. automatically rise and are transferred to halls on annual basis. For instance, a reply to RTI query to this person reveals that before fee hike every student contributed Rs. 50 to the hall magazine which is now Rs. 100 per student. So, with fee hike, funds have also been raised in various account heads. Halls seem to have plenty of funds with them. Though I have grievances with Lt. Gen Shah on this ‘abrupt’ fee hike, but what I should affirm is his innocence that he is not taking even a penny with him. What he did was surely for betterment of students.
Now one may ask more about this sponsorship malady as, ‘What is harm in grabbing the sponsorships?’. Surely, there is a harm. And what harm is there, to know this I would prefer to write in Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqui’s way, ‘why are you not acquainted with the Aligarh?’ Involvement of capital in social pursuits certainly changes the spirit and purpose of such efforts. In ideological domain, there already exists a huge debate on involvement of private capital in state affairs and we have capitalism-socialism binary.
Not going deep in to those intricacies, it should be noted in first place that sponsorships diminish the zeal and spirit of literary and cultural festivals. They turn these meaningful festivals devoid of truest Aligarian spirit by instigating within organizers a feeling of money-mindedness, lust and trivialities. Secondly, sponsors may cause the results of events to be announced in favor of their own candidates. By this, all concept of ‘justice’ evaporates about which Plato once said, ‘justice is about giving each person what he or she is due’. And Sir Syed was not surely for this moral treachery.
Thirdly, question may arise on the type of money being sponsored and the purpose it serves. An institution build on high moral grounds as of Sir Syed cannot harp upon ‘any stuff’. If this continues, repercussion will be detrimental to the very mission of Sir Syed. For instance, if AMUSU would be interested in private sponsorship, in no time AMU would be turned in to political battle ground.
Fourthly, when more money than necessity is available to organizers, it provides them a free hand in expenditure. One of the recent serious developments is extravaganza on DJ sound system and uncivilized and hooligan dancing thereon. I must not be labelled as conservative when I am taking on DJ dancing. I hold opinion that such arts should be pursued in formal and standard way in AMU via some schools of music and dance where there would be lessons on Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi and on raagas like Bhairvi, Yaman, Kalyan, Shankra, Husain, Bahaar and others. There are problems with current system where a hostel function starts with Quranic verse of Ar-Rahman saying ‘the Lord is most compassionate who taught Quran to the man’ and finally ends up with Bhojpuri frenzy of ‘jeela top laage lu’.
What I found most disturbing is the design pattern of various posters. Frequently it was found that posters were studded more with sponsors’ advertisements and less with essential information of events, schedule etc.
There must be a total ban on commercial sponsorship in AMU. Teams of provosts, wardens, and senior students should educate the Aligarh youth on what indispensably constitutes ‘aligarh tehzeeb’ and what not ! This exigency must be taken care of. They must strive hard to avoid any embarrassment when any person like Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqui has to tell his own people—the Aligarians—that, ‘why they themselves are not acquainted with the Aligarh’ ! Provosts and wardens should spare much time with their students and should not always be ready in tendering resignations to the V-C. AMU no more need their resignations, but their cooperation.