There are two categories of people depending on how they perceive a news.
One who blindly trusts any word uttered by the news anchor/web portal/newspaper and the other who tries to find out the truth behind it. Although people might consider the latter as the sceptical ones, but considering the times of unconstrained flow of unauthentic news that we are living in, it will be preferable to consider them the sane ones.
This article is for those who strive to verify their facts. There was a recent hullabaloo over “AMU not providing food to non-Muslim students,” which was run by many national mainstream news channels and dailies.
Many even considered it worth the Prime Time slot. A glance at this headline, innately incites a feeling of despise for AMU. A “Muslim” university not offering food (a basic right) to “non-Muslim” students. What happened to secularism in India?
These were the first reactions of many who listened or looked at this headline. Some even went as far as terming this as“forced starvation”. Those media houses ought to have at least googled the term “forced starvation” and what its implications were.
The media houses, who created this controversy did not bother to follow up or go deeper on the issue. Their purpose to defame an educational institution with a word “Muslim” in it, gained momentum for obvious reasons.
On looking at the response the controversy evoked, the other TRP hungry media houses sent their teams to AMU. But like as it has happened before, the truth was ultimately unveiled and these hate mongers were left dismayed.
The faith and zeal of the students (irrespective of his or her religion) to not let the name of our beloved university be defamed, disappointed the miscalculated move of the ABVP and other right wing organisations to provoke the non-Muslim student fraternity by giving this issue a communal colour.
When and how the dining hall of any residence hall of AMU functions?
The dining hall (where food is served) functions only when there is a minimum strength of 100 to 150 students (irrespective of a student’s religion). The reason behind is that AMU dining halls run on subsidised ration and lesser number of students incur a deficit to the dining fund, which all resident members have to pay (other than the monthly charge of Rs 1000) regardless of whether they choose to eat in the mess or not.
Many students prefer not to pay this additional charge, which results to the dining hall remaining closed till the minimum number of students approach the mess authorities. This happens every year at the beginning of a session or after a vacation.The same clause is applied during Ramadan. The minimum number of students is not reached and hence the Lunch is not prepared in many halls.
Some dining halls of residences even asked the non-fasting students (Muslims as well as non-Muslims) whether they would like to pay the additional charge and get their lunch served at their respective rooms.
To which they declined, citing that they would prefer eating outside as that would cost the same.
Now, how do you call this “forced starvation”? Were any of the students denied to order food from outside or go outside to have their lunch? No. Were Hindu students specifically targeted by not providing the lunch? No.
There are more number of non-fasting Muslim students than non-Muslim students in any hall of residence. So the lunch was not prepared for all non-fasting students, whose numbers have yet not reached the minimum criteria to keep the dining hall running.
Moreover, when the dining hall doesn’t function for so many other days (beginning of session and after vacations), what was the motive of creating a hype of this non-issue during Ramadan and giving it a communal colour?
The other meals in Ramzan and the reaction of non-Muslim students with the lunch not being prepared for anyone, the sehri and the dinner are the other meals served by the dining hall to “all the students”.
The Sehri is served in the dining hall to the fasting students between 2:00 am and the end of sehri time (many non-Muslim students join them and have sehri to show mutual love for each other). The not fasting students or those unwilling to come to the dining hall at such early hours of the day, have to just notify the dining hall in-charge and get their food served at their respective rooms before 6:00 am.
The Iftar is not provided by the dining hall and fasting students have to make arrangements by themselves. The reason behind is that there is a very short period of time between Iftar and dinner and it is impossible to equip the dining hall employees to prepare two meals at the same time.
The dinner starts at around 8 PM and is served till 11 PM. The non-Muslim students, who were aimed for provocation against the university by making it look like a communal issue, refused to fall prey to dirty designs of the bigots and came strongly in support of the university administration.
Reactions from non-Muslim students
Bhavesh Panth, student of MA (sociology) said, “The news that Hindu students don’t get food during Ramadan is completely baseless. By the end of the day, I have to tell my friends that I cannot eat any more.”
Rashmi Singh, student of BA-LLB said, “I have not faced any biases based on my religion ever since I’ve been here at this university. I am grateful to all those people who are preparing the food for me even while they are fasting.”
Rahul Singh, student and resident of Nadeem Tarin Hall, uploaded a video of his breakfast being served at his room during the day time.
Many students came out on social media with posts and videos rubbishing the reports of any biases. The effectively busted yet another attempt to tarnish the image of this university.
These students have shown to people outside the campus just how staunchly we believe in the words of the founder of this university, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, who said, “Hindus and Muslims are like the two eyes of a beautiful bride, India. If you take out one of them, it will leave the country ugly.”
The hidden agenda
Since the time there has been a change in the central government, there has been many attempts by local and national right wing organisations to attack this university. Seldom do they miss any opportunity to give communal colours to any issue coming their way.
Recently, the university canteen was barged in by the city mayor, Shakuntala Bharti, who has been very vocal against the university administration for a long time. Her accusation was that beef (cow meat) was being served at the canteen.
Evidently ignorant of the fact that buffalo meat is also called “beef”, she had to return filled with disappointment. There have been many such incidents, with one common motive: To create disturbance in the harmonious environment and functioning of the university.
These right wing organisations and the political party giving shelter to them, obviously have some bones to pick with Muslims, but to target an educational institution with the word “Muslim” in it is a sheer ignorance and sign of narrow mindedness of these people.
It will be better if such bodies cease their attempts and let the students of this university concentrate on their studies. Ramadan is a month of piety and empathy for less privileged people. And we at Aligarh Muslim University have our sympathy for these people who are intellectually less privileged. Ramadan Mubarak.
(Ghazala Ahmad is AMU student and former cabinet member of the university’s students’ union. Views expressed here the author’s own. Janta Ka Reporter doesn’t endorse them)