Bid to Vilify Former President of AMU Student Union Contesting Election in Bihar

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Former president of Aligarh Muslim University Students Union Mashkoor Usmani.

Giriraj Singh falsely links Mashkoor Usmani with Jinnah portrait controversy while ignoring Malegaon terror accused joining JD (U) in UP

Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India

UNION Minister Giriraj Singh has criticised the Congress Party for fielding Mashkoor Usmani from the Jale Assembly constituency in Bihar’s Darbhanga district. Usmani is former president of Aligarh Muslim University Students Union. He is alleged, though falsely, to have put up a portrait of Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the union’s office during his tenure in 2018.

Singh, a foul-mouthed politician known for raising the Pakistan bogey every now and then, has asked the RJD-led Grand Alliance, of which the Congress is a part, if it supports the ideology of the founder of Pakistan. The Congress has rejected Singh’s claim as an attempt by the Bharatiya Janata Party “to digress from the core issue of development”.

The Union minister is silent about another significant news involving a terror accused who has joined Janata Dal (United), a constituent of his BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. Ramesh Upadhyay, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case, has been inducted into the JD (U) in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. He has also been appointed ‘state convener’ of the party’s ex-servicemen cell.

The party has made this inclusion so formal that, according to The Indian Express, the state unit president of JD (U) Anoop Singh Patel issued an ‘appointment letter’ to the terror accused.

Upadhyay, a retired major of Indian Army, had been arrested along with Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit by the Maharashtra ATS for his alleged role in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. He was, however, released on bail in 2017. Trial in the case is still continuing before a special NIA court in Mumbai. He had unsuccessfully contested 2019 parliamentary elections and 2012 UP Assembly polls.

Upadhyay is the founder of Abhinav Bharat, a far-right Hindu organisation alleged to be behind several terrorist attacks, including the 2008 Malegaon blast. While it is to be seen how the Congress and its alliance partners raise this issue in the poll-bound Bihar, the BJP is unlikely to take this issue with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who is also the national president of JD (U).

Apparently, Giriraj singh, who is so concerned about the nation’s security, is not bothered by a terror accused joining BJP’s alliance partner. However, he–as well as others in his party–has chosen to make a false case against a youth leader.

Usmani, who hails from Darbhanga, had been booked under sedition charges in 2019 by the Civil Lines Police Station, Aligarh, for allegedly raising anti-national slogans. The charges were dropped after the police found that Usmani was in Delhi at the time of the incident.

In 2018, the issue of the Jinnah portrait was raked up when armed activists from UP Chief Minister Adityanath Yogi’s Hindu Yuva Vahini descended on the AMU campus with alleged police support to demand that the portrait be taken down. When this happened, former Vice President Hamid Ansari was visiting the campus. Scores of students were injured in the violence.

It was then disclosed that the portrait was there since 1938 when Jinnah, as founder member of the AMU Court, was granted life membership of its students’ union. The union office adorns portraits of several leaders of freedom movement days such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. The AMU administration had then defended the portrait and reminded the detractors that Jinnah portraits were also hanging in the Bombay High Court and the Sabarmati Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi.

Mashkoor Usmani, student union president in 2018, had no role to play in displaying the portrait. Still the BJP and various outfits of the Sangh Parivar have been repeating this lie and giving the impression that the Jinnah portrait at AMU is something new and Usmani is responsible for this.

As usual, the media once again is playing its role in demonising a Muslim leader. Aaj Tak, which last fortnight was fined by regulatory body NBSA for misreporting in actor Sushant Singh Rajput case, ran a prime-time show on this lie. The channel’s anchor Rohit Sardana in his daily show ‘Dangal’ invited several panelists to discuss ‘Jinnah sympathiser’ Usmani. The panelists, including BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, put all the blame of the Jinnah portrait on Usmani and claimed that, by fielding him, the Congress was trying to gain votes by ‘selling Jinnah’.

Fact-checking website Alt News dug into the media reports of the 2018 controversy and historical fact to debunk the claims made on Aaj TakAlt News also talked to Usmani who said the narrative being peddled in the media, that he installed Jinnah’s portrait, was false propaganda.

“I’d like to clearly and boldly state that I do not hold any views that support Jinnah in any aspect. The movement that had followed in AMU in 2018 had been on different issues and the corrupt ways of the media focused to highlight a portrait hanging in the Union Hall to disrupt the movement and damage the name of the institution and mine as the leader of the students’ union at the time.”

Besides Giriraj Singh and the state leadership of the BJP, there is also a case of heart-burn at the local level. Former Railway Minister Lalit Narayan Mishra’s grandson Rishi Mishra was also an aspirant for the Congress ticket from the Jale constituency. But the party leadership decided in favour of Usmani. Mishra gave vent to his anger through a tweet branding Usmani “anti-national and Jinnah worshipper”. He even claimed that Usmani had the Pakistan founder’s photo in his office.

Usmani has rejected charges against him through a video message uploaded on his Facebook post. In the video, he has warned media outlets against indulging in falsehoods lest they faced a court notice. Usmani has also sent a letter to the Election Commission drawing its attention to the lies being spread by his opponents. He has urged the poll panel to ensure security for him as he finds himself vulnerable to the hateful campaign being led against him.

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