Aligarh, Feb 26: Criticism of political parties or government policies should not be equated with anti-national activities, according to Aligarh Muslim University Vice Chancellor. Lt Gen (Retd) Zameer Uddin Shah was replying to an allegation made in a letter by Aligarh BJP MP Satish Gautam that in recent weeks the institution had witnessed several events which were “anti-government and anti-BJP” in their content.Gautam had cautioned AMU students against indulging in activities similar to those carried out recently by some JNU students and asked the VC to ensure that in the future no permission is given to any function which can be construed as “anti-national” and “anti-government”.

In a detailed reply to Gautam’s letter, Shah today noted that freedom of expression and the right to debate were essential elements in any institution of higher learning and it would be imprudent to encroach upon this basic right of the students.”Your concerns have been taken note of but it has to be understood that AMU is an autonomous institution where there is no bar on holding discussions within the framework of India’s Constitution,” Shah said.On the allegation that AMU was inviting only speakers holding “anti-BJP” views at different conferences and seminars, Shah said, “We have several fora and platforms in the university which organise such functions and there is complete freedom for them to criticise different political parties and governments.”(Also Read: JNU row: Protests in Aligarh Muslim University)

He stressed that this freedom of expression should not be viewed as “anti-national” activity.”AMU has always espoused the cause of nationalism and pluralism and would always continue to do so in the future,” the VC said.”Shortly after the present crisis at JNU campus, a number of protests were organised by AMU students in support of the JNU student leaders. All these protests were completely peaceful and within the framework of modern democratic societies.”I would like to ask Gautam whether there is any evidence whatsoever of any objectionable speech, slogan or placard during these protests. Then what is the justification of raising such contentious issues at this juncture,” Shah said.

He said raising issues like beef politics and questioning the patriotism of any section would only lead to polarisation of the society.In his letter, Shah conceded that there were differences between the Centre and the AMU community over the issue of minority status, but these differences, he stressed, “should be bridged”.He said the AMU was in the process of bridging this gap and was trying his best to explain its viewpoint to the central government.