Adding fuel to the AMU-Jinnah row, a senior BJP leader has stated that the university has no image of Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh who donated land to build the university, even as a portrait of Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah hangs in the campus. Haryana Finance Minister Captain Abhimanyu said this as he put forth the demand that the Aligarh Muslim University be renamed after the Jat king.
While the minister’s demand has raked up yet another controversy, it turns out that his claim – that AMU has no photograph of the Raja — is false. Not only is the Raja’s portrait present at AMU’s main library, Maulana Azad Library, his father’s name, Raja Ghanshyam of Muraan, is inscribed in a plaque outside a room at Sir Syed Hall (South).
Moreover, the claim that Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh, a university alumnus, donated huge stretches of land to AMU has been refuted by university authorities, who term it an “exaggeration”.
AMU spokesperson Shafey Kidwai informed that 3.9 acres of land, where the playground of the city public school inside AMU exists, was donated by the Raja and the room outside which the plaque with his father’s name is placed was built by the latter.
On Sunday, Minister Abhimanyu, at a ground-breaking ceremony of a Jat dharamshala at Rewari in Haryana, said: “What can be more sad than the fact that no image of Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh has been displayed in the university. He donated land for the university without any hesitation and with an objective of education to all, irrespective of religion, but there is a portrait of Jinnah who divided this country”.
He went on to add: “This is the need of the hour: that the university be renamed after him. And this is possible only if a united demand is made.”
This is, however, not the first time that the BJP has tried to appropriate the Jat king to gain political mileage. A few years ago, in 2014, then UP state BJP chief Laxmikant Bajpai had threatened to celebrate the Raja’s birth anniversary at the university gate. He had also said that the“day is not far off when we will celebrate Raja Mahendra’s birthday inside the AMU campus”.
Fearing trouble, then AMU Vice-Chancellor Zamiruddin Shah wrote a letter to the Human Resources Development Ministry saying that “the Raja did lease 3.04 acres of land to AMU in 1929 at a rate of Rs. 2/- per annum and that the university was proud of his contribution.” Details of the letter are posted on the university website.
Shah, in the letter, had also clarified that a good part of the land for the university was procured by MAO founder Sir Syed Ahmad Khan from the British Government that was shutting down its cantonment in Aligarh.