by Najmul Hoda
इस्लाम के इस बुत-ख़ाने में अस्नाम भी हैं और आज़र भी।
اسلام کے اس بت خانے میں اصنا م بھی ہیں اور آذر بھی
(This temple of Islam is full of idols and idol makers.)
[A line from Majaz’s poem Nazr-e Aligarh which is AMU’s tarana.]
But, first thing first. What happened in Aligarh Muslim University was a criminal trespass and an hooligan attack. It is alleged that the presence of the former Vice President of India, Mr. Hamid Ansari, an alumnus and a former Vice Chancellor, on the campus was a “provocation”, and that he was the covert target of the attack.
All this has been done in the name of Jinnah – that his portrait hangs from the wall of the Students’ Union Hall. The explanation (or the defence) proffered is that it has hanged there since 1938, much before Jinnah even came to entertain the idea which would be Pakistan.
Fair enough. But an academic interposition of nuance, broaden as it may the perspective, creates room for quibbling too. Jinnah is a divisive figure in that his role has been the foremost in dividing India. It’s hard to have a dispassionate and neutral perspective on him.
He will always be seen through tinted glasses. But whatever his blunders, he was a man of great propriety and decorum. Jinnah’s personal standard of propriety, decorum and political correctness would make no allowance for his portrait to hang from the said wall.
I base my surmise on the testimony of Mukhtar Masood, an alumnus of AMU who migrated to Pakistan in 1948, selected in the first batch of civil service there, and one of the finest practitioners of the elegant genre of Insha-Pardazi (belles-lettres) in Urdu.
Like most people who left India for Pakistan, he, too, remained obsessed with the former. Another matter that for him, like many from A. M.U. the world began and ended with the university campus. When the Pakistan Movement started, Mukhtar Masood climbed its bandwagon. He had an idolatrous devotion to Jinnah.
His first (and the best) book, Awaz-e Dost, bears ample proof to that. In his last book, again of reminiscences about Aligarh, Harf-e Shauq, published posthumously in 2017, he gives some interesting facts about the AMU Students’ Union, and Jinnah’s visits to Aligarh.
The Union was established in 1884, and was originally known as Siddons Union Club. It was a debating society. The purpose was to train the students in the art of parliamentary debate and public speaking. Back then it wasn’t a collective body of democratic resistance to the administration. The present Union Hall was constructed 27 years later in 1911. The building is named Rampur Hamid Hall.
According to Mukhtar Masood’s research, Jinnah came to Aligarh seven times between February 1938 and March 1944. Never after that. The author wonders, why?
After weighing many conjectures in the scale of probabilities, he finally settles for what seems most plausible. By 1945, the idea of Pakistan was no more a chimera of communal delirium. It had become a tangible reality much within reach. And, no matter how ambiguous and amorphous the idea of Pakistan was, those with the slightest of foresight knew what and where it was going to be, and what might befall AMU as a consequence for playing the politics which had brought things to this pass.
Therefore, some sane minds decided to dissociate the institution from the movement for Pakistan. A ‘secret’ meeting was held in the Strachey Hall to deliberate on this. Jinnah came to know of this. Intelligent man that he was, he understood the dangers inherent in the situation for the institution when the movement for Pakistan came to fruition. Jinnah wanted to spare the university the embarrassment and the danger for having sided with him.
There is a moral in the story in how the man of the portrait conducted himself.
Najmul Hoda is senior IPS officer. He is an alumnus of AMU