After the Congress party fielded former Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) student leader Maskoor Usmani as a candidate from the Jale constituency in the upcoming Bihar assembly elections, Hindi news channel AajTak, accused Usmani of being a “Jinnah supporter” and claimed that in 2018, he had installed a portrait of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah at the AMU.
However, several accounts by journalists, historians and the AMU administration have revealed that the portrait has been on the wall in the university since the pre-independence era.
In a bulletin helmed by anchor Rohit Sardana, the channel claimed that “Maskoor Usmani hung a portrait of Mohammad Ali Jinnah at AMU when he was the Chief of the varsity’s student union”.
Twenty-one seconds into the video, Sardana claims that “Maskoor Usmani stirred controversy in 2018 by hanging a portrait of Jinnah at AMU”. Similar claims appear in the bulletin at 1.29 minutes and then again at 6.25 minutes.
WHAT WE FOUND
While the claim that a portrait of Jinnah has been hanging in the AMU since 1938, AajTak’s claim that Usmani installed the portrait is completely false.
The issue first came to light in 2018 when BJP MP from Aligarh Satish Gautam wrote a letter to AMU Vice Chancellor Tariq Mansoor, asking him about the compulsion behind installing a photo of Jinnah. Usmani was then the chief of AMU’s student union.
Explaining why Jinnah’s portrait is installed in the university, AMU spokesperson Shafey Kidwai told NDTV that Jinnah was a founder of the university and was granted life membership of the student union.
“Traditionally, photographs of all life members are placed on the walls of the student union. Jinnah was accorded life membership of the AMU students' union in 1938. He was the founder member of the University Court in 1920 and also a donor,” he said.
In an opinion piece written for The Quint, author Rana Safvi mentioned a list of noted personalities who have been accorded with a lifetime membership of the university apart from Jinnah, which includes Dr BR Ambedkar, Dr Rajendra Prasad, KM Munshi, Maulana Azad, Sir CV Raman, Jayaprakash Narayan and Mother Teresa.
According to a report by The New Indian Express, in 2018 the AMU vice-chancellor Tariq Mansoor clarified to the Centre that “the portrait has been in the students’ hall since 1938 while Usmani had called it 'just a historical preservation of the university’s legacy'.” However, there is no report to corroborate AajTak’s claim of Usmani having installed the portrait at the university.
Reacting to the resurfacing of these claims, Usmani has written to the Election Commission (EC), claiming that “airing of such blatant lies by the media can jeopardise his safety and security.”
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