Former vice president Hamid Ansari has questioned those who are raising objections to the portrait of Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah inside the hall of the students’ union in the premises of the Aligarh Muslim University. In an interview with TOI, Ansari, who had served as the Vice-Chancellor of the varsity between 2002 and 2004, strongly defended the move saying it is a tradition at the university to honour public personalities and install their portraits.
He asked when the Victoria Memorial (in Kolkata) can be a tourist attraction, why so much buzz over Jinnah’s portrait. He mentioned that the first person to be honoured by the students’ union was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi whom the nation refers as the ‘Father of the Nation’.
“Whoever is hounoured, their portrait is put up. Prime Ministers, Morarji Desai, Mother Teresa, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan all have been honoured and (their) portraits were put up in a portrait gallery,” he told TOI.
“Jinnah was honoured and that’s why his portrait is there,” Jinnah added.
Defending the students union, he remarked, “Jinnah went there long before and became a propounder of any ideology.” “If Victoria Memorial is there, what’s wrong with Jinnah’s portrait?”
According to the AMU, the students’ union had honoured Jinnah in 1938 much before the partition in 1947 that led to the creation of Pakistan. Jinnah was the first premier of Pakistan. The portrait that’s in question is installed in the hall of the students’ union. The row erupted when local MP Satish Gautam wrote a letter to the AMU administration seeking an explanation as to why his photo is being displayed.
Ansari went on to add that Muslims are concerned today and said that there is a sense of unease among religious minorities that needs to be addressed.
Ansari had served as the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha for 10 years between 2007 and 2017. After vacating his office in August last year, Ansari had on many occasions spoken against the BJP-led government’s style of governance under which he says Muslims and others feel unsafe.