AMU-Jinnah row: Did media play into hands of right-wingers?

The violence that Aligarh Muslim University witnessed on May 2 was never about Jinnah’s picture.

BySharjeel Usmani
AMU-Jinnah row: Did media play into hands of right-wingers?
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Three days after BJP leader and Aligarh MP Satish Gautam wrote a letter to the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) Vice-Chancellor seeking an explanation about Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s decades-old picture in the students’ union hall building, the matter sparked a violent clash between AMU students and the police – or so has been reported by several media outlets.

Members of right-wing group Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) and BJP’s student wing ABVP allegedly thrashed students inside the campus, which led to a protest, followed by a lathi-charge on students.

Soon after pictures of the lathi-charge emerged, a number of theories have been doing the rounds on social media, many of which were even reported by mainstream media outlets.

Some say that students and right-wing activists “clashed” while others claim that right-wing groups came to remove Jinnah’s picture and AMU students “protested violently”.

None of these theories are completely true.

What actually happened in AMU on Wednesday?

On May 2, the AMU students’ union had invited former Vice-President Hamid Ansari, who served as the varsity’s V-C from 2000 to 2002, to confer upon him a Lifetime Membership Award.

Ansari reached the campus shortly before his felicitation was scheduled and was taken to the university guesthouse close to the main entrance. Moments later, a group of ABVP and HYV members, reportedly accompanied by a policeman, marched towards the guesthouse with arms in their hands. They were allegedly chanting slogans such as “AMU ke gaddaro ko, goli maaro saalo ko” (Shoot the AMU traitors!) and “AMU Murdabad-Jinnah Murdabad’ (Death to AMU, Death to Jinnah!)

Most of the slogans were directed at the former Vice-President and it is alleged that the right-wing activists came to attack him. While only they can reveal their intentions, the complaint registered by AMU students’ union states they were there to attack Ansari.

Six people from ABVP and HYV were caught by the varsity administration and handed over to the police. The students’ union wanted them arrested and an FIR to be filed. However, the police released the six men minutes after they were handed over. This led to a sit-in protest by the students at the university’s main entrance called Bab-e-Syed. The students demanded an FIR be lodged against the right-wingers, which the police refused to do.

The students then marched towards the police station to get the FIR filed, and it was then that the police lathi-charged at them, even using teargas to stop them. A few stones were also pelted at the students by unidentified men during the lathi-charge.

How has the incident been reported?

Here are some facts:

Right-wingers did not thrash AMU students: Several media outlets like Scroll and News18 claimed the Hindutva groups allegedly thrashed AMU students. The Hindutva groups did not thrash any AMU student; in fact there was no direct faceoff of the students and right-wing activists.

Right-wingers did not burn Jinnah’s effigy: The Tribune has reported that HYV members reportedly burnt Jinnah’s effigy. This claim is false as no effigy was burnt but it is true that along with other slogans, the men did chant “Jinnah Murdabad”.

There was no lathi-charge on BJP activists: Leading Hindi news channel AajTak ran a story claiming BJP activists faced the police lathi-charge instead of AMU students. The news was presented in a way that gave the impression that BJP activists tried to remove Jinnah’s picture from AMU and were lathi-charged. Later, the website had to take down the report after students complained.

Students did not protest because right-wingers demanded removal of Jinnah’s picture: A number of news websites including NDTV reported that AMU students protested after right-wing activists were demanding the removal of Jinnah’s picture. This is false. The students protested after the police released the HYV members who entered the campus with weapons without filing an FIR. NDTV also misquoted AMU professor Shafe Kidwai. The professor said “Jinnah was the founding member of AMU court” while NDTV quoted him as saying “Jinnah was founder of AMU”.

No clash between students and right-wing activists: Many websites including that of leading Hindi daily Amar Ujala reported that students clashed with right-wing activists when they were burning Jinnah’s effigy, which further led to violence. This is false as there was no faceoff of the students with these men, let alone a clash. Amar Ujala also said there was no lathi-charge by the police!

There was no police firing: Prominent Hindi daily Hindustan Live had an exclusive version of the incident. According to them, the right-wing activists burnt the AMU Vice-Chancellor’s effigy, and the varsity administration manhandled them. Further, AMU students were said to have misbehaved with the SP City and the SSP, which led to a lathi-charge and use of teargas. Hindustan Live also reported that two students were injured in police firing. Except that there was no police firing.

From where did Jinnah come into the scene?

While AMU students’ union and AMU teachers’ association complained that right-wing activists had allegedly planned to attack former Vice-President Ansari, the complaint was cleverly overlooked by almost all media outlets. All focus was set on the picture of Mohammad Ali Jinnah placed inside the students’ union hall.

It was portrayed as if the AMU students were fighting for Jinnah’s picture and right-wing activists were fighting against it. The media hailed the right-wingers as patriots who wanted to defeat the villainous Jinnah by removing his picture from a building in the university. The incident was not essentially part of the Jinnah-AMU row, as was reported. It was a breach of security inside a university campus; it was perhaps a failed attempt by right-wing activists to attack Ansari with the help of police or it might have been a routine right-wing vigilante on Muslims.


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