Row over BJP plans to observe freedom fighter Raja's birth anniversary in AMU

A letter by AMU vice chancellor to HRD Minister Smriti Irani warning of "massive unrest" and probability of "communal conflagration" if the birth anniversary of freedom figherr Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh is celebrated on the varsity's campus on December 1, has snowballed into a major political controversy

Aligarh: A row erupted on Friday over plans by BJP to observe the birth anniversary of freedom fighter Raja Mahendra Pratap at the AMU campus with its Vice Chancellor warning of a potential "communal conflagration" and the saffron party defending the move.

Non-BJP parties like BSP, SP and NCP also expressed "serious concern" over the likely repercussions of the commemorative event next Monday that will be marked by a rally and demonstration at Aligarh Muslim University(AMU) campus.

As the local and Uttar Pradesh state BJP leaders stuck to their plans, the AMU Teachers' Association (AMUTA) too voiced concern over "politicisation" of the campus.

AMU Vice Chancellor Zameer Uddin Shah dashed off a letter to HRD Minister Smriti Irani, saying that if "certain elements" go ahead with their plans "it could lead to massive student unrest at the campus". He, however, did not take the name of any party or outfit.

Shah has pointed out the possibility of "communal conflagration if political machinations are not controlled".

"Some elements are threatening to hold a demonstration on the grounds that Raja Mahendra Pratap donated large tracts of land for establishment of AMU and should be honoured accordingly," he said.

Some local and state BJP leaders have decided to hold a rally on the campus on the birth anniversary of the Raja, an alumnus of AMU, whose family was closely associated with Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of the premier institution.

They had recently claimed that AMU was built on land donated by Raja Mahendra Pratap but the varsity authorities "failed to acknowledge his contribution".

The Vice Chancellor said that in order to defuse the situation, they had agreed to hold a joint celebration on Raja's birth anniversary but there was no forward movement. He urged the HRD Minister to use her good offices to put pressure on those political leaders "who are issuing statements and advise them to exercise a sobering influence".

"AMU does not want to involve in politics and we need your urgent and earnest support in tackling this threat to the law and order," he said.

Satish Gautam, the BJP MP from Aligarh, said the party will go ahead with the celebrations. "On December one, we will celebrate Pratap Singh's birthday. If the VC wants to celebrate in AMU I welcome it. If that doesn't happen, the BJP has decided to celebrate inside AMU campus. The BJP will do it and there is no doubt about it," he said.

Ram Shankar Katheria, junior HRD minister, said if BJP workers want to celebrate the birthday they are free to do so. BSP Chief Mayawati accused the BJP of trying to spread communal tension while a local SP MLA Zafar Alam voiced "serious concern" over likely repercussions of the rally.

NCP leader Tariq Anwar accused the BJP of trying to worsen the communal atmosphere in UP.

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