Aligarh/Gorakhpur (UP), May 4: A Samajwadi Party MP on Friday likened Muhammad Ali Jinnah to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru as tension simmered at Aligarh Muslim University, which is at the centre of a row over a portrait of the Pakistan founder.
The administration suspended internet services in communally sensitive Aligarh district from 2 pm today to midnight tomorrow to prevent “rumour mongering”. AMU students continued their sit-in at the university's Baab-e-Syed gate, where they had clashed with the police on Wednesday. They are boycotting classes for the next two days. Wednesday's clash took place when the students were demanding action against right-wing protesters who had entered the campus and wanted Jinnah's portrait removed from the student union office, where it has been hanging for decades.
The students offered Friday prayers at the scene of the dharna in which a large number of teachers and other members of the AMU fraternity participated.
In Gorakhpur, newly elected Samajwadi Party MP Praveen Nishad sparked a controversy by comparing the contribution of Gandhi and Nehru to that of Jinnah during the freedom struggle. Nishad had scored a surprise victory in the recent bypolls from Gorakhpur, represented by Yogi Adityanath before he became the Uttar Pradesh chief minister. During his Karnataka election tour, Adityanath said he was against honouring Pakistan’s founder.
Nishad today accused the BJP of “playing dirty politics’ in Jinnah’s name.
“Nehru and Gandhi contributed for the freedom of the country but it cannot be denied that Jinnah equally contributed for it," he told reporters.
He said the BJP was trying to "divide the people in the name of religion and caste”. In Delhi, the Congress today said Jinnah was never an icon for the country and accused BJP of raking an "artificial" issue. Party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the BJP was playing "dirty politics of sensationalism, divisiveness, polarisation".
The Jinnah row started after BJP’s Aligarh MP Satish Gautam wrote to AMU raising objections to the portrait. The University said portraits of all life members of the student union hang there. Jinnah, a founder member of the University Court, had also been given this honour before Partition. AMU vice chancellor Tariq Mansoor today visited the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College Hospital where three of the students injured in the police lathi-charge are being treated.
AMU Teachers’ Association (AMUTA) has sent a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind asking him to "urgently institute" a high-level judicial probe into the incident. They said members of certain outfits entered the campus and disrupted the peaceful academic environment there. AMUTA secretary Najmul Islam told PTI that they have urged the President to treat the matter seriously as it involved a breach in the security of former Vice President Hamid Ansari.
Ansari was supposed to be felicitated at the University the day the violence broke out. Islam said protesters who had entered the campus were reportedly carrying firearms. He said the police, instead of preventing the hooligans from entering the campus, "remained mute spectators".