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AMU/ Aligarh: Paradise Lost?

About Faridoon Shahryar

Faridoon Shahryar is a journalist who is heading the broadband division of popular entertainment portal Bollywood Hungama. Faridoon 's celebrity chat show 'Talking Films' is widely appreciated for imparting credible infotainment. Faridoon is an Indian English Poet who has been published in magazines in India as well as abroad.

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Nashra Ahmed looked scared like a cat drenched in cold water. Her video message apologizing for her ‘actions’ may not have placated the Mullahs who are the thekedaars of Islam, but it surely filled me with an immense feeling of being violated. Only a couple of months back, I was filled with rage at the manner in which AMU students were beaten up by Police while the RSS goons basked in self righteous nationalistic glory.

Nashra had posted a video of the girl students of Abdullah Girls hostel at AMU breaking the lock of the gate to participate in the protest against excesses of a dictatorial regime. She stood in solidarity with the collective outrage of Aligs the world over. Little did she know that within a matter of few days, she along with two boys of AMU, will be accused of blasphemy by the theological thugs of the campus. Nasty posts were pasted on Facebook maligning her character, death threats were issued and even police complaints were lodged. She deleted her Facebook account.

My blood boiled when I saw the comments justifying the character assassination and how she along with two of her friends ought to be brought to task. The Talibani mindset was completely in accordance with the Sanghi extremism that was hell bent on painting AMU with the paint brush of traitors/fundamentalists only a few days back. The campus had attracted widespread support from many liberal and progressive forces. The same University was being tainted by backward radicalism. How can three atheist students, who are rationalists and had spelt out hypocrisy in all religions, be a threat to Islam?

The two events that have happened in a very short succession make me ponder on what Aligarh and AMU means to me. One is that I am now prepared that Aligarh (like Mughal Sarai) may not remain Aligarh for too long. Some unheard-of-leader will get lucky and the name of my city will be changed. Forever.

It worries me when I see the mushrooming of Abaya and burqa shops in the Amir Nishan market. When I was growing up, the burqa culture was almost non existent. Why is it that so many girls in AMU are resorting to wearing Abaya or Burqa? Why this increasing tilt torwards conservativism? It’s a matter of choice and everyone has the right to wear what they want but I don’t subscribe to the idea of standing-out-in-the-crowd. I find it awkward when I see bearded people wearing skull caps and kurta pyjama at public places. The saffron robed folks with big teeka on their forehead isn’t a pleasant site either. Both are trying to make a statement. I’d prefer that their actions ought to be in consonance with the betterment of the society as a whole so that they become worthy ambassadors of their country. And the religion that they belong to, gets a good name in the bargain.

The Aligarh and AMU of my growing-up years will always be special for me. My Hindu friends came on Eid. Yes, they yearned for Sevai but they relished Kababs more. We lived in Medical Colony in the University campus. Holi, Diwali and Eid was celebrated with equal fervour. Goel and Awasthi uncle along with their families were part of all the celebrations in the colony. There was mutual respect. Now, there’s a clear demarcation. Different communities must live in areas where they are in a majority. There are political forces that are hell bent on dividing my land. They want you to turn more radical based on the distorted excesses that happened centuries ago. And you’re falling prey to their nefarious designs. There are many balanced and rational voices in AMU in particular and Aligarh in general. These voices need to make their presence felt. Till the time a semblance of sanity prevails, I continue to live in Aligarh of the past. And I am someone who hates to dwell in the past.

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