Aligarh: Former Union Minister and senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyer and renowned historian Irfan Habib, while addressing the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) students Thursday recalled Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's visits to the varsity to emphasise the importance of justice and equality.
In the context of the prevailing situation and rising intolerance in the country, especially against the Muslims, both the speakers reassured the students that they are equal citizens of the country.
“Nehru had then told the AMU students that he believes that they are equal Indians like others and he wants the whole country to believe the same about AMU and its students,” Aiyar said while reminding the students of a speech, which Nehru had delivered in the AMU soon after the partition.
While delivering the keynote address, Aiyar pointed out that with a rise in communalism today, it is necessary to revisit the Nehru-era which showed compassion and unity among the diverse Indian population.
“We need to tell the common people today that the first Indian Prime Minister did not incited communal clashes but instead said that he was ready to fight anyone who will raise his hands in the name of religion,” Aiyar said adding that Nehru had always said that he will fight against the communal forces whether he is in the government or opposition.
Aiyar also said that when the country celebrates the 125th birth anniversary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on November 14, it is important to re-explore Nehru’s unflinching efforts to establish and practice secularism within the country’s democratic framework in the best possible manner.
“The credit goes to him that he succeeded in defeating the communal forces in an effective way though his successors many a time failed on this count,” said Aiyar.
In his address to the students, Prof Irfan Habib said that Nehru ensured the safety of AMU campus soon after the partition of India, when the university was under a threat from communal organizations.
“Nehru sent a regiment to safe guard AMU campus and kept convincing the AMU students to get into the main stream of Indian intelligentsia,” he said.
“Nehru visited AMU thrice as the Prime Minister and during these trips, he emphasized on the university extension and also what was taught here,” said Prof Habib adding that Nehru was interested in expansion of science, technology and important research areas in AMU.
Prof Habib also reminded that Nehru realized that AMU has a Persian speaking strength of academics and students, who can contribute in the field of medieval Indian history.
“AMU was given grants to study and research in medieval Indian history on the recommendations of Nehru,” said Prof Habib.
Noted academic, Prof Aditya Mukherjee said that Nehru was a firm believer in state control over the economic sectors and his socialist ideals revealed themselves in the way he introduced laws for land redistribution, in order to curtail the economic disparity in India among the landed and the land-less classes.
“One of Nehru's key economic reforms was the introduction of the Five Years Plan in 1951, which were introduced to determine the mode of government expenditure and grants in important development sectors like agriculture, industries and education,” said Prof Aditya.
Eminent historian, Prof Mridula Mukherjee said that Nehru was an extraordinary giant of Indian freedom struggle, a prominent maker of modern India, a great believer of pluralism, the chief architect of our democracy, socialism and secular ethos.
She added that Nehru’s artistry of crafting and building a new nation from the older version marred by orthodoxy, hierarchy and the wreckage of a decaying empire was remarkable.
However, she also pointed out that today there are efforts to make him an outcast and people who believed in Nehru’s ideals are often hated.
“In today’s situation, it is important to tell people that the open, civilized and reformist political system we have today is premised on principles of democracy, secularism and pluralism institutionalized by Nehru,” said Prof Mridula.