Amid the controversy over Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s portrait in the students’ union hall of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Savitri Bai Phoole, the BJP MP from Bahraich, on Friday called Pakistan’s founding father a “mahapurush” — a great man — for his contribution to India’s freedom struggle, and said Jinnah must be respected in a secular India.
Calling the issue a “conspiracy”, Phoole alleged that an uproar has been created over the portrait only to divert people’s attention from the problems facing the “bahujan samaj”.
Phoole told The Indian Express that each person who took part in India’s freedom struggle was a great personality, and all of them must be respected. “He (Jinnah) had taken part in the freedom struggle, he had made contribution in (freedom of) the country and so should be respected. His portrait is there since freedom, and that portrait should not be disturbed,” she said.
The controversy over Jinnah’s portrait started recently after BJP MP from Aligarh, Satish Gautam, wrote to the AMU administration and asked why a portrait of Jinnah was in the students’ union hall on the university’s campus. Last week, some activists of Hindu Jagran Manch allegedly barged into AMU campus and demanded that the portrait be taken down. AMU students subsequently sat on a dharna demanding action against those activists. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had told a news channel last week that Jinnah cannot be respected in India, and that the country cannot accept his glorification.
Phoole Friday said, “The issue of Jinnah’s portrait is being raised unnecessarily to divert attention from other issues of Bahujan Samaj (Dalit community). Bahujan Samaj is being exploited — a Scheduled Caste person was killed in Saharanpur (on Wednesday) but the assailants are not being arrested; idols of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar are being damaged but action is not being taken against culprits. Why not debate these issues?”
She said, “Desh ke swatantrata andolan mein Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isayi ek saath shaamil huay. Desh ka batwara baad mein hua. Bharat ka samvidhan dharma-nirpeksha hai aur sabhi dharmon ki suraksha ki baat karta hai, to phir yeh Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isayi ki batein kahan se aa rahi hain? (All communities participated in the freedom struggle, irrespective of caste or religion. The Partition took place later. Our Constitution talks of security to all religion, so why talk about different religions?)”
Phoole also said that people from both Dalit and Muslim communities have no employment, and that many are on the verge of starvation, and called for a special session of Parliament to discuss the situation prevailing in the country. “Pooray desh mein hahakaar macha hua hai. Buri tareeke se shoshan ho raha hai, iss par vishesh satra bulakar charcha karani chahiye (there is outcry across the country. There is massive exploitation; a special session should be called to discuss these issues),” the BJP leader said.