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19159Vice Chancellor of the AMU is Devil’s new a dvocate

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  • Ather Farouqui
    May 11, 2014
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      Vice Chancellor of the AMU is Devil’s new advocate
      Ather Farouqui
      (This text appeared in a Urdu daily Rashtriya Sahara as my Sunday column on 11 May, 2014 with the editing for reasons of space.)
      As the electoral process draws to a close, all the seasoned political observers and opinion-makers seem to agree that despite its best efforts, the BJP will not emerge with a clear majority to form the government on its own. Yet, supposing the motley political groupings do join hands and get together under the leadership of Mr Modi, a number of people from various fields (who are not willing to sell themselves) will have to learn innovative ways and tricks of transacting with the new government, particularlythose enthusiasts whose opportunism will touch new and greater heights. These are the best and the worst of times where even a fascist cannot afford to ignore the many-pronged forces of morality wherein anyone who wished to enter the discourse had to present himself in the market-square with the price-tag around his head, begging for the master’s attention. However, the opposite seems to be the case now—where the interest has shifted from the camp to the individual wherein personal growth is the ultimate motive of every participant in this great Indian tamasha. In fact, one should be prepared to witness a host of such examples in the event that Mr Modi does reach the high seat of the Prime Minister. One can dare say with a measure of certainty that of such prodigal sons and daughters, a majority would comprise of intellectuals and university Professors, a preview of which was witnessed recently.
       In the course of an interview with Arnab Goswami on Times Now on April 8, Modi went on record to disclose that during the past month some 150 books were published on him, without a single author taking the pains to seek his permission. An inveterate politician that he is, Mr Modi knows very well that it is the common man and not the reader of such books who would decide his political future. The talk of the BJP having purchased the media wholesale makes a lot of sense because of its wide reach. Yet, let alone Mr Modi, even a politician of the level of an MLA can see through the absurdity of pinning hope on the goodwill of the so-called intellectuals in order to achieve success in the battle of ballots in an assembly segments.
      Moral debasement has surfaced in a virulent form at various levels of our national life. Even as poverty and corruption have become the lot of the economically weaker sections, malaise and moral depravity has further complicated the matters. The wave of mindless liberalization and its resultant crony capitalism sweeping the country indeed produced a cultural and social monstrosity that can be termed as the ‘new class’ or more appropriately a phenomenon who mistake the pre-civilization behavioral pattern for the cultural and social ethos of the old. The impact of the so-called liberalization and crony capitalism touched its saturation point in a pronounced manner during the tenure of the NDA government making it clear to one and all that no place for morality and ideology is left in public life. What is left to be witnessed by one and all is the display of unabashed servility by the intellectual and the elite alike, the latter being the rankers rather than the  intellectuals, whose conscience can be easily bought or sold. However, this phenomenon comes handy to help us understand the sociological factors underlying the psychological tilt.
      Evidently, greed and caprice lay behind this social malaise but in some cases it assumes abnormal forms almost without rhyme or reason. As it is things had not gone so awry in the pre-liberalization era and the polity had not touched such a new low. Notwithstanding the shortcomings, Indira Gandhi represented many such high values of life which she of course inherited from her illustrious father. The ethos of 17 years of the Nehruvian era continued for many years after him.  He was particularly averse to interacting with anybody not standing up to his own ideals and ideology or radically different from his thought process. This happened when Nehru was returning home from Europe after the death of his wife, Kamala Nehru, and while still in transit he received a condolence message from Mussolini betraying a desire to meet him personally on his arrival at the Rome airport. Nehru went on record to confess that Mussolini’s offer did put him in a fix yet he remained steadfast by his principles and declined the offer. It was this intellectual ethos that enabled Nehru to strength the foundations of secularism in India. Also, we must remember the instance of the Italian Marxist theoretician and politician Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) who on being approached by Mussolini to be congratulated on delivering a fine speech, refused to oblige him and went away in his usual suave and courageous style.
      Despite political expediency and social compulsions one has to avoid and keep away from certain types of people. Most of us are likely to face such an eventuality in day-to-day life after the formation of a Modi-led government. We need not entertain any high hopes from the intellectuals in our fold on this count and we should not expect any change of behavior in their stance.
      The recent statements and utterances of General Zamiruddin Shah, Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, are regrettable in this connection, particularly the dexterity bordering on ambivalence shown by him in the course of his interview on the editorial page of the Times of India (May 7). He apparently fell in line with the Namo Namah logic in order to send a message to Modi supporters that the Vice Chancellor of AMU is with them wholeheartedly, while declaring that the high office would impart a greater sense of responsibility on the part of the new incumbent and bring about a radical change of outlook. Could someone ask Gen Shah whether the Chief Minister of a State should be called to account for his responsibilities towards the minorities? But in order to reinforce his argument, Gen Shah further resorted to verbal trickery and referred to the classical case of Thomas Becket (111—1170). Even though a close friend of King Henry II, Becket, after taking over as the Archbishop of Canterbury, felt that his first duty lay in serving the people of the land instead of paying obeisance to the King.  This of course resulted in his cold-blooded murder. Gen. Shah’s purpose to quote this episode of history during the interview to a leading English newspaper was plainly three-fold:
      (i). Drawing parallels between Modi and Becket, who, as the Archbishop of Canterbury, is one of the worst examples of sycophancy, by a Vice Chancellor of AMU is extremely shameful to say the least.  Becket as the Archbishop of Canterbury was the head of the Church of England which was equivalent to the position of the Pope in the Catholic world.  If the Vice-Chancellor of AMU holds Narendra Modi in such high esteem and as venerable, then there would hardly be a word in the lexicon to indict him sufficiently in civil society.
      (ii) Moreover, it conveys a subtle message to the fringe Hindus that the Vice-Chancellor of AMU considers Modi as a friend, which may not work out very well as any claim on behalf of the AMU fraternity will be fatal to him.
      (iii) The historical reference was made deliberately since the general reader of the Times of India does not read the Editorial page and given the fact that the Hindu middle class is least interested in Indian Muslims for various reasons, this interview will generally be read only for those meant to be the readers of the interview: people in the close circle of Mr Modi. Very shrewdly the question related to Mr Modi is the last one and that too in a convoluted phraseology. The purpose of the interview was to convey the message to a particular class of Modi supporters within BJP, and it is, in its entirety, trash. What else one can expect from an Army General, as the Vice Chancellor of a University which is most complicated in its nature for various reasons! No reaction from Muslims in general and the AMU fraternity in particular is ample proof of the fact that the interview was not read sincerely, which evidently, is a great success for the Vice Chancellor. As emphasized, Muslims in particular could not understand its real import and implications except of course those who have an intimate knowledge of the Christian history which in AMU would be less than a handful. It was probably because of this that neither the leading Urdu newspapers nor the sensitive fraternity of the AMU campus reacted to the provocative observations of the Vice-Chancellor.
      I would like to ask the respected Vice-Chancellor if he has ever had the occasion of coming in close contact with Muslims before moving to Aligarh. I am afraid he had none since his childhood which he spentat St Joseph’s college, Nainital. Notwithstanding the fact that the Muslims have remained out of power after having ruled for a full span of eight centuries, their sensitivities and psychological faculties are very complex and anybody who makes such tall claims while knowing so little about Muslims and particularly the AMU fraternity, would not be let off so easily for his support of Modi, the lesson for which he is bound to learn the hard way after his tenure in AMU comes to an end—or perhaps more substantially so after the end of Modi rule, assuming he does become the Prime Minister of India. One should not forget that despite the then Vice Chancellor Mehmood-ur-Rehman’s canvassing for the NDA in 2004 through the Vajpayee Himayat Committee, he could not succeed in playing host to the then Minister of Human Resource Development Mr Murli Manohar Joshi, who returned from Aligarh without entering the AMU despite state power.
      Shah’s optimism that “when people are entrusted with the responsibility of serving the nation, they change” is at best fraudulent that undercuts and subverts every structure of morality that was ever constructed, where one would be willing to discard all notions of right and wrong, all past experiences, all that is true and honourable, in the hope that absolute power would cleanse someone absolutely. What the price and root of this optimism is, is only for Gen Shah to tell. This sycophancy towards Mr Modi would certainly be the end of the road for Gen Shah at the not-so-prime years of his life. Meanwhile, we must acknowledge the Vice-Chancellor’s intended application for the post of Governor after his tryst with Aligarh is over!
      (Disclaimer: Author is not an alumnus of the AMU. He is in no way related to the institution or its politics.)