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Education

BHU: ABVP Protest Led to Withdrawal of Urdu Dept Poster Bearing Iqbal Photo, HoD Apologises

The official handle of the Dean of Arts Faculty, BHU tweeted a revised poster on Monday replacing Iqbal's photo with that of BHU founder Madan Mohan Malviya while apologising for their "mistake".

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New Delhi: The Department of Urdu in Banaras Hindu University (BHU) was forced to officially withdraw an online poster for a webinar on Monday, November 8, after right-wing student organisations such as the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), RSS’s students’ wing, protested over the usage of Urdu poet Allama Iqbal photograph in the posters, Indian Express has reported.

The official handle of the Dean of Arts Faculty, BHU tweeted a revised poster on Monday replacing Iqbal’s photo with that of BHU founder Madan Mohan Malviya while apologising for their “mistake”, says the report.

According to the report, the university has issued a “warning letter” to the Head of Department (HoD), Aftab Ahmad, and formed a committee led by English HoD M.K. Pandey to investigate the matter and submit its report within three working days. Ahmad had publicly apologised and stated that his intention was not to offend anyone’s feelings.

BHU public relations officer Rajesh Singh said that resistance to the poster began on Monday evening with ABVP students staging a protest and submitting a memorandum to BHU officials, says the report.

“We formed a committee to probe the matter and issued a warning letter seeking clarification from Ahmad about how he shared a poster without consulting the Arts Faculty dean and other senior officials,” Singh said. The Urdu department is part of BHU’s Arts Faculty.

Meanwhile, Ahmad in his defence said, “The moment I was informed about objections by some people, I apologised and said Iqbal’s photograph should be removed and replaced with Malviya-ji’s photo…. The poster was shared on Facebook by some students. I had not seen it before…(but) it is my responsibility even if it was shared by students.”

International Urdu Day and the birthday of Iqbal coincide on November 9, says the report. He further added, “Many say Iqbal had migrated to Pakistan after Partition. I would like to say Iqbal died in 1938, seven years before the Partition.”

Ahmad also said, “We teach Iqbal as a poet and writer, who wrote ‘Saare Jahaan se achha Hindustan hamara’. His writing is taught in Hindi in universities…. One does not become British if one reads William Shakespeare…. Iqbal had called Lord Ram ‘Imam-e-Hind’.”

As per the report, the webinar was held on Tuesday with students from across the country participating to raise awareness about opportunities in Urdu learning education after paying tribute to Madan Mohan Malviya.

“In the Urdu department, every event is started after paying tribute to Malaviya-ji. We have always paid respect to him,” Ahmad said.

In 2019, a large group of students in BHU, mostly affiliated with BJP’s youth wing ABVP, staged a sit-in protest outside the vice chancellor’s house to demand the removal of a Muslim professor in the Sanskrit department of the university, says a report.

As The Wire has reported, the government looks at Urdu with suspicion despite it being one of the 22 Indian languages enlisted in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian constitution.