THE BJP Friday climbed down and dropped plans of celebrating Raja Mahendra Pratap Day on the Aligarh Muslim University campus without permission of University authorities.
To appease jat voters, the BJP has announced to celebrate Raja’s 128th birth anniversary on December
1, in SSHall of AMU. The Raja,
alumni of MAO College was ruler of a small state in District Aligarh. He had
leased out some land to the University. Party now has decided to organise the
event a few meters away from the main entrance of the varsity.
The party’s decision comes a day after AMU Vice-Chancellor Lt Gen (retd) Zameer Uddin Shah wrote a letter to Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani apprehending a “massive student unrest” if certain “elements” celebrate the event on the campus.
RSS students’ wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, which had earlier backed the BJP on the issue, has also distanced itself from the celebrations. “The ABVP believes that the AMU should respect Raja Mahendra Pratap for his contribution in making of the university. But our organisation holds agitation on academic issues only. The ABVP is not associated with the BJP on the matter of birth anniversary celebrations,” said Deepak Rishi, the ABVP’s state organisation secretary.
The softened stand of the BJP, according to party sources, was a result of the Sangh’s refusal to support it on the issue.
Aligarh BJP MP Satish Gautam said the party activists would observe the anniversary at Mahendra Singh’s statue, which is nearly 300-metre away from the university main entrance. “Today we have decided to celebrate the birth anniversary of Raja Mahendra outside the campus after the AMU vice-chancellor assured that he would organise a seminar on the Jat king on the campus,” Gautam told The Indian Express.
Communicating the new arrangement, AMU spokesperson Rahat Abrar said the seminar on Mahendra Pratap would be organised on the campus, but not on December 1. “Date of the seminar would be decided later because we would have to first search notable speakers, who could deliver speech on Mahendra Pratap,” Abrar said.
In his letter to Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, Lt Gen (retd) Zameer Uddin Shah has said that the "political gamesmanship" being planned in India's largest minority institution "has potential for serious trouble". The V-C did not name the RSS or BJP, which have backed the event, or the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, which has said it will oppose it.
"In view of the threat of disturbance from these people, claiming to be affiliated to various political parties/outfits, another political outfit opposing them joined the fray and announced that they would not allow the rally to be held. This political gamesmanship, if allowed to proceed, has potential for serious trouble," the letter says.
AMU has decided not to hold the event now. Varsity spokesperson Rahat Abrar said: "Now, AMU will not organise the programme on the campus at all." The spokesman added that the AMU was established with the help of a large number of public donations and the authorities never hesitated to acknowledge these contributions.
The AMU Students' Union, which had earlier supported the decision to organise the programme at Tikonia Ground, has also said that it will not allow "the BJP or the RSS" to hold any programme inside the campus on December 1.
Raja Mahendra Pratap is a freedom fighter and an alumnus of the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College, founded in 1875 and later turned into a university in 1920. He was said to be closely associated with the Silk Handkerchief Movement (Reshmi Roomal Tehreek) with leading Muslim clerics of that era, including Maulana Mahmoodul Hasan, Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi and Maulana Barkatullah.
Reacting to V-C's letter to Irani, Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, "There should not be politicisation of event to honour the Jat leader who gave land for the AMU."
The BJP, however, seems determined to go ahead with the event. Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Laxmikant Bajpai said the party will celebrate the anniversary of 'Jat King' - as Mahendra Pratap is known in the area - on AMU campus itself. "The University leadership agrees with Raja Mahendra Pratap's contribution, then why do they have to worry about communal flare up?" party spokesperson G V L Narasimha said.
Slamming the Akhilesh Yadav government on the issue, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said, "BJP wants to spread communalism in Uttar Pradesh through this. The SP government should take this issue seriously." "It is the BJP's policy to do polarization in order to create tension," NCP leader Tariq Anwar said.
Meanwhile, a row has erupted on the Aligarh Muslim University campus over Shah holding a late-night meeting with BJP and ABVP leaders at his residence on Tuesday. The talks reportedly centred around the alleged inadequate acknowledgement by the varsity authorities to the contributions made by Raja Mahendra Pratap's family to AMU.
In a statement, the Aligarh Muslim University Teachers' Association said its members were hurt by the V-C's decision to give his consent to the Sangh Parivar to celebrate the 126th birth anniversary of Raja Mahendra Pratap on the campus. "The varsity community cannot forgive conspirators of the demolition of Babri Masjid and perpetrators of crimes against Muslims in Gujarat and Muzaffarnagar," said Aftab Alam of the AMUTA.
Alam said though the AMU teachers were of the firm view that the Jat King was secular, they still didn't want any such celebrations on the campus. "He was a social reformist. Jan Sangh had opposed him when he had contested the 1952 Lok Sabha polls as an independent candidate. The BJP, the new avatar of Jan Sangh, is falsely claiming legacy of the freedom fighter, who always opposed communalism."