Tension simmers at AMU, student march foiled

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Aligarh | Published: May 8, 2018 10:27:52 PM

Faculty members and university employees intervened to stop students from moving in a human chain from the Baab-e-Syed gate to the collectorate, demanding a judicial probe into the "police inaction" on May 2 when right-wing protesters had entered the campus.

Aligarh Muslim University students were stopped from marching to the district collectorate today as the Jinnah portrait row simmered despite a plea by the vice chancellor asking them to get back to their studies. (PTI)

Aligarh Muslim University students were stopped from marching to the district collectorate today as the Jinnah portrait row simmered despite a plea by the vice chancellor asking them to get back to their studies. Faculty members and university employees intervened to stop students from moving in a human chain from the Baab-e-Syed gate to the collectorate, demanding a judicial probe into the “police inaction” on May 2 when right-wing protesters had entered the campus. Tension prevailed on the campus for over two hours with the students announcing their plan to march to the collectorate and the police making it clear that they would not allow it.

The row erupted last week when BJP MP Satish Gautam objected to the portrait of Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, which has been hanging on the walls of the student union office for decades. On May 2, AMU students clashed with the police demanding action against the Hindu Yuva Vahini protesters who were detained at a police station but allegedly allowed to leave after some time. The police said two youths were arrested later. Earlier today, the student union decided to continue with its indefinite dharna despite a plea to restore normalcy by AMU Vice Chancellor Tariq Mansoor.

In an open letter to the students, the VC urged them “not to fall into the trap of certain forces which are bent upon destroying the image of our alma mater and are playing with your bright future”. The university has formed a 16-member coordination committee of senior faculty members to talk with the protesting students. The VC asked the students to not to let their studies suffer when the exams are round the corner. The exams, postponed because of the unrest on the campus, are now set to begin on May 12. The VC “fully endorsed” the students’ demand for a judicial inquiry and also denounced the “excessive use of force” by the police.

But in his letter, he also urged the students to stay calm and focus on their studies and their careers. The VC said he was pained that some sections of the media, including television channels, were using “half truths” to project a negative image of the university. “The AMU is suffering an assault from different quarters and it is even more important to respond with rationality and thoughtful action and not to be swayed by emotions,” he said. But rejecting his appeal, AMU student union leaders insisted that their dharna would continue till their demands are met. Student union president Mashqoor Usmani told reporters that their three main demands are a judicial enquiry into the May 2 violence, booking under the National Security Act those who trespassed into campus and action against police personnel who lathi-charged them. Amid tension on May 2, a function to grant life membership of the student union to former vice president Hamid Ansari was called off and he returned to Delhi. The university said portraits of all life members of the student union are put up on the walls of its office. Jinnah had also been given this honour before Partition.

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