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Published On:05 May 2013
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

From molestation to Sherwani -- AMU ki Ankahi khani

By Ehtasham Khan

Religion, they say, is the opium of the masses. Tradition, it seems, is the opium of Aligs. Aligarh Muslim University Vice Chancellor Lt. Gen. (Retired) Zameeruddin Shah recently announced he was willing to meet students who want to apprise him with their grievances; but with a rider. All male students must come in Sherwani – a 19th century dress mostly used by Nawabs. Sherwani is considered as a symbol of Aligarh Tehzeeb, tradition. In other words a decent way of carrying oneself with soft and sophisticated language dipped in the sweetness of Urdu.

A vice chancellor is supposed to meet students and address their problems 24/7. However, the dress code imposed by the VC has been lauded by many vocal alumni and well-wishers of AMU. It is said that wearing of Sherwani will revive the vanishing tradition and culture. It will make the students behave decently.

The recent diktat takes me back to the days when I joined AMU as a dhurra – as the newcomers are called in the campus and are supposed to be ignorant of “tahzeeb and tamaddun”. It is duty of all the Aligarians to refine the dhurras.

In those days, it was difficult for ordinary newcomers to get hostel accommodation as many of the rooms were captured by outsiders patronised by student leaders. Every halls of residence had a student leader who controlled the allotment in hostel rooms. Living as a PIG (permanent illegal guest) with a friend for about a month, I started hunting for a hostel accommodation for myself.

A friend advised me to meet the president of the Students Union. The president hailed from western UP and Sulaiman Hall was his den. I ventured into the hall trying my luck. The leader lived in the plush warden room situated near the dining hall. I saw a Sherwani clad man sporting a thick black beard. He had organised a darbar of sorts outside the warden room. Wearing a cream colour neatly stitched Sherwani, he was sitting on a chair surrounded by his supporters who laughed loudly at the jokes cracked by him. His supporters hardly looked like students.

It was a cultural shock for me. I come from a background where those sporting beard are considered pious. Those who wear Sherwanis are mostly Imams of mosque or other respected people in the society. I never imagined a person in Sherwani will speak in such a language.
I was then advised to meet the Vice President of the Students Union in Sir Syed Hall. He, alongwith his supporters, had captured Mushtaq Manzil – a tall beautiful building of red sandstone attached with the University mosque. As I opened the door, I heard a deafening sound of a raunchy Bollywood number although the building was separated by the mosque by just a thin wall. I introduced myself to the leader who spoke in Hindustani with a Bhojpuri accent. While I was talking to him, we heard gunshots outside the room. All his supporters, some of whom where in Sherwani, came out. I rushed out to see a cavalcade of some 20 bikes with slogan shouting students coming towards the mosque. Almost all of them were in mood of battle with different group. The students shouted ….Mamu Zindabad. As they approached near the mosque, I saw a Sherwani clad middle aged man on the bike. Like a typical neta, he was wearing garland made of marigold flowers. …… Mamu was a student leader. He has just been released from jail. He was going to offer prayers at the mazar of Sir Syed as per the tradition of AMU.

This reminded me of a couplet once my uncle told me in school. “Libas-e-parsai se sharafat aa nahi sakti, sharafat nafs mein ho to insaan parsa hoga.”

I could not get hostel accommodation for one academic session. However, I got a tryst with the tradition of AMU which was fake and covered with false pride. As a mark of protest, I alongwith some of my friends, decided to reject Aligarh tradition which was nothing but a burden of lost smugness from the days of British Raj.

My contemporaries in AMU know we were infamous for wearing slippers in our respective departments, Maulana Azad Library and university canteen.

Without getting into the debate of tradition good or bad, let me come to the focal point.
AMU these days is going through exam season. Most of the students have either finished their exams, writing their exams or preparing for entrance exams. During this period there is hardly any interaction between ordinary students and administration. So what made the vice chancellor announce two controversial decisions now -- Sherwani and banning use of motorbikes? Generally such policy changes are made in the beginning of the session when students have time for healthy interaction on wide ranging subjects.

There are two things that come to my mind.

Firstly, the brutal case of molestation of a female student at the University guest house.

The university maintained a studied silence over the tragic incident and did nothing to catch the culprits. The previous regime spent millions of rupees on installing CCTV cameras. I don’t know if anyone tried to look at the video tapes. Or is there any camera there at all? If not, then who is responsible for this? It is almost mandatory these days to have cameras at places like guest house where outsiders frequently come. So is AMU using cameras to spy only on students living in hostels?

Vice Chancellor Zameeruddin Shah’s role comes under scanner for his role after the incident. Why he did not follow the law of the land and lodge an FIR so that police can do proper investigation? It was not just his responsibility but he is duty bound to do that as head of the institution. His silence means that he is trying to protect the offenders of gruesome sexual crime.

Helping or protecting a criminal is no less than committing the crime. There seems to be no difference between the silence maintained by AMU authorities and the officers of the Delhi Police who tried to bribe the parents of the poor five-year-old rape victim. Vice Chancellor Shah must answer this question.

Secondly, the aspersions are also being cast on the genuineness of the qualification of the registrar. It will be premature to judge the authenticity of his qualification but it requires a probe by an independent agency like CVC.

Mr Shah -- who seems to be a great nationalist -- is well aware of these facts.

The “missile” called tradition fired by the former army man has diverted the debate from the two crucial issues concerning the university. The entire energy is now focused on tradition and Sherwani. There is no dearth of those who are always ready to read Qasida for the Vice Chancellor as soon as he does or speaks anything.

However, there is a brighter side of these two episodes as well. We could not find a VC for the AMU as we expected after the departure of previous VC. AMU ka Khuda Hi Hafiz Hai.

[Ehtasham Khan is an AMU alumnus and journalist based in New Delhi, Opinion of the writer is personal.]

(Courtesy: The Indian Awaaz)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on May 05, 2013. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on May 05, 2013. Filed under , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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