A resident of Akrabad town in UP’s Aligarh district, Ali now lives in the AMU hostel. He was raised by his grandfather after his father passed away when he was three years old. He studied at a government school in Akrabad, and is now doing a critical study of the Sanskrit translation of Mirza Ghalib’s Diwan-e-Ghalib. Last month, Dr Firoze Khan’s appointment as assistant professor in the Sanskrit Vidya Dharam Vigyan faculty of Banaras Hindu University triggered protests by students.
What does India mean to you?
When I hear a group of people singing the national anthem, or when India wins in a sport, or we achieve something in space missions… That feeling is unparalleled, it makes me feel Indian the most.
Being Indian means that we treat people of all religions equally. For me, it also means that we work towards improving the country in whatever way we can.
Have you ever been to Delhi?
I have been to Delhi several times, my relatives live there. I really like Connaught Place.
What is the farthest place you have travelled to from your hometown?
Five years ago, I had gone to Shimla with my family for a vacation.
Do you have a friend from another part of the country?
Yes. My best friend, Ali Akbar, is from Kolkata. We pursued our Master’s together at AMU. I speak to him at least once a week.
What are the three most important rights enjoyed by an Indian citizen?
It’s the freedom to say what I want, the freedom of expression. It’s the most important right. The Indian Constitution guarantees us that. I feel speaking up is really important — we must speak up on what is right and wrong. In private, the most important right is the freedom to eat what I want.
For you, the government is…
The government is essentially a set of chosen people who work for the country’s improvement and growth. We all hope that elected people work for our country, for the people.
For you, a good citizen is…
One who speaks out about any wrong in society. He/she is a person who does not sabotage the country and its people’s progress and works towards improving it. A good citizen will not stay quiet when the country is in any kind of danger.
For you, the most important historical event has been…
It is when the Constitution of India, drafted by Dr B R Ambedkar, became effective on January, 1950. It is still the most important document of the country.
In the New Year, what is the one change you hope for in the country?
I wish in the new year we start looking at people as humans and not as Hindu, Muslim, Sikh…
Do you know of the Citizenship Amendment Act protests? Do you fear being asked to prove citizenship and not having the documents for the same? What papers do you have, and where do you keep them?
I am not scared. I don’t know if the Act is right or wrong, but the Prime Minister has said that it will not have any negative effect. I believe him… I feel that when the apex court – when it hears the matter on January 22 — will take a decision which is best for all people of the country. I have full faith in the top court. I have not collected any papers yet. Dekha jayega (We will see).