All posts by Biswanath Saha

About Biswanath Saha

Biswanath is a Senior Research Fellow at Institute of Development Studies Kolkata. He loves to engage himself into research in the broad areas of international politics, culture and diplomacy.



Image Courtesy: Google Image

Aligarh Muslim University [AMU], every now and then, hits the headlines in the mainstream media. Not much opposed to its tradition, it is now also in the news-debate regarding a strong allegation put by a section of people that, non-Muslims are not being provided food in the hostels of AMU during the month of Ramzan.” Before going to any kind of explanations and clarifications regarding this nuanced issue, I would like to draw your attention to see what kind of messages being circulated in the internet/media.

AMU should not adopt the policy of disengagement with criticism rather the non-disengagement policy will bring spring blossoms to it.

First of all, an online media platform has reported, Nadeem Ansari, vice-president of the AMU students’ union, confirmed to Scoop Whoop News that this indeed is the tradition for “more than 50 years”. Asked how do non-fasting students manage during this time, Ansari said that they “arrange for their food” and it has never been an issue.” Moreover, AMU’s Dean Students’ Welfare member Prof Jamshed Siddiqui said “the tradition of not serving breakfast and lunch in hostel mess has been in place for years and that there are “standing orders” that no food will be served in any function in the campus.” However, the enthusiastic DNA reported that “Jyoti Bhaskar, a student of Mass Communication and a prominent youth activist at the AMU said, “It is sad that religious angle is being given to this entire issue.” “There is a provision in our hostel to provide us lunch (during Ramzan) if we give it in writing.”

Then you come to this post where different viewpoints have been put forward by the resident students of AMU. One female student from Begum Sultan Jahan Hall is claiming that there is no problem of getting food during Ramzan. Coherently enough, another male student from AMU provided a counter-argument of non-availability of meals during Ramzan in most of the Halls. Please mind the phrase- “in most of the Halls”. I will come back to it later. Yet another website called The Lallantop declared that the “Hindu students are starving there at AMU campus as no breakfast or lunch is being served”. However, the authorities have claimed that those [Muslims and non-Muslims both] want to have lunch during the month of Ramzan can approach the authorities in writing.

In this entire episode, one thing is clear that both the parties are losing a beating fight. One section is portraying the half-chewed fact and the other one is trying to save the image of AMU from being fallen prey to communalised discourses. Even the try is to show that AMU’s policy is largely inclusive and not exclusive in nature whereas the actual controversy is largely meted out on the ground that whether food is being served to Gair-Rozadars [those who do not fast] or not during Ramzan. Now, let’s move towards my points and arguments.

But before making any expert comment at this political outset, let me introduce myself first. I have been a student of AMU from 2008 till 2014. In the six-years of my AMU life, I stayed five years at Mohammad Habib Hall and the remaining one-year of my stay I dwelled at Sherwani Hall. I witnessed the six occasions of Ramzan. Frankly speaking, whatever the issue is, giving it a communal colour will lead you to a fool’s paradise. One more thing I should clarify here is that if someone is looking for an objective truth in this issue, will be a futile exercise. All are subjective interpretations. Even, I can only share some valid arguments regarding the scenario in Habib Hall during my stay. Let me come to all the arguments one by one.

First, whether food is being served to non-Muslims during Ramzan or not. This statement is equally valid and invalid too. Indeed food is being served but the point is when. The usual timing of serving food to all the resident students was sehri, iftar[1] and dinner and Habib Hall was of no exception. Breakfast and lunch are missing from most of the boys Halls, which is synching with Dean Students’ Welfare member’s statement, whereas the same is being served to the girls’ hostels [Abdullah Hall, Indira Gandhi Hall and Begum Sultan Jahan Hall], if I am not wrong. During my stay at AMU, when I shared the story of non-availability of lunch during Ramzan, my female friends would reply me with opposite facts. When I asked them the reason, they told me that the mess in the girls’ hostels are run by private bodies whereas it is not the case with Habib Hall, at least. One probable explanation of not-providing food during Ramzan might be like this; as most of the staffs [even in some cases all] working in the dining halls are Muslims; working in the dining may break their fast [loosely speaking]. But one could still be in apprehension about the validity of this claim.

Secondly, as opposed to my experience I shared in the earlier paragraph, an article reported, Another hostel, Habib Hall, on the other hand, prepares food at regular hours for non-fasting students, but only on demand. Dr Suhail Sabir, provost, Habib Hall explains, “Since the number of students eating lunch in mess is very low, we don’t make it as usual but on demand. If any student wants lunch, he can inform the mess incharge and food will be prepared for him. There are several non-Muslims who’ve demanded food while several others have not. We make food accordingly.” Although the Provost of Habib Hall is claiming of serving food on regular basis now, it was not the case during my tenure. I do not know the actual scene of Habib Hall now but still I have apprehension about this claim. However, as Dr. Suhail Sabir has been a good, hard-working and dedicated Provost as he has proved his credentials by bringing revolutionary changes in the picturesque of Moshinul Mulk Hall during his tenure, he deserves little criticism. Taking the cue of his honesty forward, I hope that his words about Habib Hall were implemented well before AMU hits the headlines.

But, one thing is very much appreciable of my Rozadar friends that they will not leave you alone while they are having their iftar. They used to invite people around to attend them in iftar as they regularly did this to me. I cannot remember a day, during my AMU life, when I was not invited for iftar by any of my Rozadar friends. This issue of food is about the policy of AMU administration and not about Muslims and non-Muslims. Giving this issue a communal direction is absolutely unwarranted. Dining issue has always been a problem in AMU, be it quality, quantity or both. Every now and then the rhetoric of solving the dining issue comes, but eventually it is being tactfully dealt to rest it in peace. The dining issue needs immediate consideration from the administration.

If I conclude my arguments, I could only say one thing that the issue is not about Muslims versus non-Muslims rather the issue is dining versus the AMU administration. Closing the dining during Ramzan will bring [and has already brought] negative images to AMU. Even the surrounding dhabas are closed in this month and the only way out is to cook. When a student is regular member of a dining hall, why should s/he be subject to cooking during this month? Why this double-standard? Despite of some communally directed and misleading headlines in the news, AMU still did not prove itself to claim its position beyond criticism. When AMU faces criticism, a sub-intellect kind of argument-“as BJP is in power, it is trying to communalise the environment”- is ready to come out from some sections of AMU. This pre-conceived notion needs to be deconstructed. It is always not profitable to perceive every action of any particular political organisation with suspicion although RSS-backed-BJP has its politics thieved on hatred. The issue of dining in AMU should have been given serious attention and it is good that a political organisation has taken up the issue. AMU should not adopt the policy of disengagement with criticism rather the non-disengagement policy will bring spring blossoms to it.

The writer is a Senior Research Fellow at Institute of Development Studies Kolkata and has been a student of AMU from 2008 to 2014. He can be reached at @modontanti

[1] Please bear with me if I write the Urdu/Arabic words improperly.


Why did I use a Rainbow Filter Display on Facebook?

Ever since the judgement of the US Supreme Court came out legalizing the same-sex marriage, there is an outnumbered reaction on social media sites regarding Facebook display pictures and it exactly went viral when people like me started using the celebrate pride link created by Facebook which can transform the display picture into rainbow filter. Initially, the change of DP on FB might be to show some solidarity to the victory of love over partner preference. So, I also chose to use the celebrate pride link to change the colour of my DP only to show support and solidarity. First thing came in my mind while changing the DP was that, may be it can pressurize the society and the government to change their perceptions towards the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) people and it is the right time to hit the iron hard.

                                                                            Celebration of Pride

But soon after the things went wrong. People started using the celebrate pride link as a fun-sharing tool. Some people even do not know the actual meaning of the colour. They just used the link out of bound and by just following the trend on FB. No one knows as to when the trend becomes a troll. Continue reading Why did I use a Rainbow Filter Display on Facebook?

Review of Tanu Weds Manu Returns

Kangna Ranaut, R. Madhavan, Jimmy Shergill, Swara Bhaskar and Zeeshan Ayyub starrer movie Tanu Weds Manu Returns went all good in its opening week. It has been the first movie of 2015 to cross the 100 crores marks in the box-office. Though some of the reviews I came across did appeal me to witness the movie, few among my friend circle did the opposite to me. Usually, I am a fan of Kangna’s acting. So I chose to watch this one despite my friends’ discouragement.

Kangna Ranaut as Tanu. Courtesy: Google Image

Actually, this movie started with showing the quarrel of a four years-old couple. Kangna has successfully finished her double role as Tanu (Manu’s wife) and Datta (later, Manu’s girlfriend). Madhavan played the role of Manu, Dr. Manoj Sharma. After getting married, they started to live in London. Good sense of humour will give extra impetus to your entertainment.

The bone of contention between the couple started after a year of their marriage and the issue is that they do not accept their faults and instead they are busy in noticing their partner’s fault. So, they do not want to compromise and their relationship starts decaying. Continue reading Review of Tanu Weds Manu Returns

Hindutva Communalism, Alteration of Facts and the Propagation of Love Jihad

According to the Article 50 of the Indian Constitution, Judiciary is a part of the State. So, it has certain responsibilities to run the government. But, sometimes it put forward such judgments that these can fulfill the communal agenda of the ruling party.

To address the issue, we shall first focus on the terminology of ‘Communalism’ and ‘Love Jihad’ and to address ‘Love Jihad’, we should also clarify the term ‘Jihad’. In the book India’s Struggle for Independence, Bipan Chandra et al. have quoted that Communalism has three parts. First, it is the belief that people who follow same religion have common secular interests, that is, common political, social and cultural interests. Second component of communal ideology rests on the notion that in a multi-religious society like India, the secular interests that are the social, cultural, economic and political interests of the followers of one religion are dissimilar and divergent from the interests of the followers of another religion. These are the liberal communalists. The third stage of communalism is reached when the interests of the followers of divergent religion or the different ‘communities’ are seen to be mutually incompatible, antagonistic and hostile. Thus, the communalist asserts this stage that Hindus and Muslims cannot have common secular interests, that their secular interests are bound to be opposed to each other. Continue reading Hindutva Communalism, Alteration of Facts and the Propagation of Love Jihad