Mujahid Mughal | February 22, 2017
Aligarh Muslim University Students Union (AMUSU) 2016-17, had planned to and campaigned to organize an ‘All India Student Leaders Meet (AISLM)’ which was scheduled to be held on February 18, 2017 at the AMU Student Union hall, Aligarh. The event is organised every year by AMUSU, wherein student leaders from different universities are invited to debate and discuss various issues concerning the student community in particular and society at large in general. AISLM is a cherished tradition of AMU which has always strived for ‘inclusiveness’ in which students’ leaders from different backgrounds and ideologies studying in various universities across India share the stage.
This year in total seven student leaders, as evident from very first notification of AMUSU, were invited to speak on the occasion, out of which five students belonged to the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. Three students among them were the former office bearers of JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) namely Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid, and Akbar Choudhary. Fourth speaker from the JNU was the current President of JNUSU, Mohit Pandey. Fifth speaker from the JNU was Umar Khalid, who is not a member of JNUSU.
Prelude to Controversy
After the pamphlets for the event were put on social media, some students of AMU protested against the exclusion of other universities and “elected student leaders” from them. The meet was seen as an only ‘JNU Students meet’ by many. Student leaders invited to speak on the occasion, they expressed, belonged to one university, whose ideological inclinations stemmed from a single root—the Left.
Soon the protest was joined by many other students of AMU both on social media and on the ground thereby pressurizing AMUSU to include other student leaders from other universities of India as well. Eventually the number of guest speakers was raised to fifteen. This move of AMUSU apparently satisfied its critiques who condemned “exclusion” of other universities.
However, two days before the event, a facebook post of Shehla Rashid [AISA activist] surfaced on social media wherein she attempted to differentiate between “What is hate speech and what is not”. In that post, in order to prove her point, she used offensive words for Lord Ram and Prophet Muhammad [Peace be upon him].
The obnoxious language was condemned unequivocally and was observed as “blasphemous”, “inciting” and “hate speech” by the students at AMU. They condemned the phraseology used for both Lord Ram and Prophet Muhammad [Peace be upon him] by the AISA activist at both individual level and organizational level. AMU’s Student Front, which is an umbrella organisation of various student groups, carried out the campaign from door to door, to aware the students about the insensitivity of the words used by the invited speaker and potential mischief that may accompany the event, if the said speaker is invited in the campus. Hence, the campaign “No entry for those who insult our Prophet in AMU” was raised. Within just one day, a good number of students in AMU joined the campaign against the “blasphemous”, “hateful” and “inciting” comments of the said AISA activist.
Student delegations from AMU met with AMUSU to discuss about the “insulting words” used by the activist and the consequences of inviting her in the meet.
AMUSU henceforth invited a meeting of its executive members to deliberate further, wherein it was unanimously decided to postpone the programme to maintain peace at the campus. President AMUSU, Faizul Hasan expressed that his priority is AMU campus and his Faith [Islam]. Similar opinions were expressed by other members of AMUSU regarding the event.
Immediately after the cancellation of the event, Shehla Rashid too “cancelled” her visit to AMU. Nonetheless, she stood by her argument, that she has not insulted the Prophet, by using those words. In the meanwhile, a cabinet member of AMUSU filed a complaint against Shehla Rashid in police station for the detestable language used by the later.
After the programme was deferred by AMUSU, other speakers from JNU took to social media to show their solidarity with Shehla Rashid and her questionable remarks. Members of almost all organisations of JNU [AISA, BAPSA, SFI, BASO etc] disapproved of the act of AMU students and condemned AMUSU for the same. The move which was alleged by students of JNU as anti-left was thought-out as a matter of “religious concern” and “campus peace” by the AMUSU and student community of AMU. AMU students expressed that the allegations of being anti-JNU or anti-Left raised by Left organisations of JNU are baseless. Nonetheless inclusiveness of the meet was important. They said that “problematic language” of the AISA activist, for religious figures was the sole reason behind the suspension of the event. They further said that had it been anti-left or anti-JNU they would not have been inviting the student leaders from JNU in the recent past as well.
Distasteful language of the AISA activist for Lord Ram and Prophet Muhammad was obvious to receive condemnation from different quarters of religious communities. This could have serious repercussions on the campus peace at AMU. AMUSU therefore made an intelligent choice by postponing the event which has been welcomed by the majority of students in AMU. AISLM should be continued with the same vigor and zeal wherein student leaders from different universities should be invited to exchange and share ideas to make the world more inclusive and better place. Inclusion of student Leaders from across the Indian universities with different ideologies must be a priority for such meets. The remarks of AISA activist must be left to judiciary and religious scholars to decide whether they constitute blasphemy or mere hate speech or both.