Jinnah portrait row: BJP MP criticises ex-VP Hamid Ansari

Jinnah portrait row: BJP MP criticises ex-VP Hamid Ansari

Aligarh Muslim University students stage a protest over Jinnah portrait issue in Aligarh on Sunday. PTI Photo

BJP MP Satish Kumar Gautam, who triggered a row when he demanded that a portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah be removed from Aligarh Muslim University, has criticised former vice president Hamid Ansari for supporting students over the issue.

Ansari had backed the students' demand for action against intruders who created a ruckus on the varsity campus over the portrait on May 2, when he was to have been conferred with life membership of the AMU Students' Union.

The event was cancelled because of violent protests allegedly led by right-wing Hindu activists over the removal of the portrait of the Muslim League leader and founder of Pakistan.

"Ansari, who had held the senior post of the country's vice president, should have refrained from supporting the students and issuing such a statement," Gautam told PTI on the phone today.

The former vice president and diplomat, who had also studied at AMU, said the disruption, its precise timing and the "excuse manufactured for justifying it" raised questions.

He said the students' peaceful stir was commendable.

Certain groups have been demanding the removal of the portrait hanging in AMU and their protests led to clashes on the campus on May 2.

Gautam, the Lok Sabha member from Aligarh who was here to attend a private event, said he had written a letter to AMU Vice Chancellor Tariq Mansoor, asking him to explain why Jinnah's portrait was displayed in the students' union office.

"As an elected MP from the area, it is my duty to write the letter and demand the removal of the portrait," he asserted, adding that there was no politics behind his action.

Gautam wondered why portraits of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel were not displayed in Pakistan.

The BJP leader said the question of allowing Jinnah's portrait in AMU does not arise as he was "responsible for dividing India".

"I wanted to know under what circumstances Jinnah's portrait was still placed in the university," he said.

In a letter to the AMU Students' Union, Ansari had said, "The peaceful protest by the (AMU) students against this transgression is commendable. They must ensure that it does not in any way interfere with their academic pursuits."

"Their request that action be taken against the intruders and disruptors, after a judicial enquiry, is justified. The authorities of the AMU have made a similar request," he said in the letter.

Gautam said the university has of late been in news for all the wrong reasons.

Earlier this year, an AMU research scholar joined terror outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, forcing the police to conduct searches on the university premises, he said.