New Delhi: Aligarh Muslim University has hit national headlines once again. A female engineering student has made a police complaint over being threatened in the comments section of an Instagram post, where another student said that she would be “forced to wear a brass hijab” once the university reopens. His comment came after she alleged that female Hindu students are forced to don the hijab in the university hostel.
The series of events kickstarted when an Instagram page called @political_blasphemy, which is administered by one Ashu Sharma, made a post on June 28 in an apparent effort to call out “cultural hypocrisy”.
In the post, one image was of a woman with a pallu over her head and the other of a woman wearing a hijab. This was followed by a second slide which included a meme.
The account, which has 320 followers at the time of publishing, saw many comment on the post. It was there that the woman engineering student, who lived at the hostel in the university for a year, claimed that Hindu girls are forced to wear hijabs in the AMU hostel.
Many responded to her comment, calling her claim that women students are forced to cover up in hostels false. Among them was a B.Architecture student of the varsity, who commented, “Lockdown k bad INSHA’ALLAH apko bhi hijab phnaya jayga wo bhi peetal ka (After lockdown, you also will be made to wear a hijab, that too of brass)”.
According to the architecture student, he did not intend to type ‘peetal ka‘, but ‘peet k‘ – essentially that he would make her wear a hijab “by beating her up” – and that the threat of “a brass hijab” happened because of autocorrect. He also claimed that he had made the comment sarcastically but that it was taken seriously “as there was no emoji attached”.
The 23-year-old student said that a screenshot of his comment became viral and was shared on various pages like ‘Hindus of AMU’. Since then, he has been getting threats – some of them directed at his mother and sister.
The story was also picked up by right-wing portals OpIndia and Swarajya magazine – the latter wrote that it to spoke to a “friend of the complainant” who claimed that the “brass hijab could be a reference to bullets”.
In a letter to the vice chancellor of AMU penned on July 17, the mother of the woman student has said that architecture student’s justification of the comment “is a customised story for his own safeguard which is not true”.
“The focus was on my daughter, and the comment was in the same context,” said the 43-year-old, who is a teacher, when we spoke to her after her daughter did not agree to. According to her, this could have all been resolved with a written apology, but she said the architecture student has chosen to drag out the issue by not apologising.
According to the accused student, he said he is apologetic over his first comment that was addressed to her, where he said: “Konse hostel me apko nanga ghumne se mna kr rhe hn? (In which hostel are you being stopped from roaming around naked)?”
He said that his choice of words was wrong, but has not given a written apology for the second hijab comment – as according to him, it was not addressed to the woman student.
Despite the fact that the case has nothing to do with the woman student’s pro-Citizenship (Amendment) Act stand, many mainstream channels like ABP News made the link. The ABP anchor said, “Aligarh Muslim University mein nagarikta kaanoon ka samarthan karne wali ek Hindu chhaatra ko peetal ka hijab pehnaane ki dhamki (A Hindu pro-CAA student was threatened to wear a brass hijab at Aligarh Muslim University).”
Rahul Shivshankar, the editor-in-chief at Times Now, dedicated a whole primetime episode on July 16, linking her opposition to the Shaheen Bagh protest to current controversy.
“The issue has been politicised and the media should not have linked it to the CAA,” the mother of the student said. The accused echoed this, saying that the present matter has “nothing to do with CAA”.
Pavika Maheshwari, who is currently a resident of Aziz Un Nisa hostel, and has been following the issue, believes that the whole episode is being dragged unnecessarily for political gains.
“We have never been forced to wear hijab,” said Maheshwari, a final-year student of B.Sc Physics at the varsity.
After the girl made a complaint to the proctor, a showcause notice has been served to the architecture student. In the notice, the administration cited the student’s email to it on July 17, where he had stated, “When I saw that (what she had written), I burst out in anger and replied to her comment and asked her about that, but you might find it foul language for which I am ready to apologise”.
The administration has said that his email “implicates” him “in the misconducts as alleged by the complainant”. The student has been asked to submit a reply, “failing which it would be presumed as if you have nothing to say in your defence”.
The girl student also filed a complaint with the Aligarh senior superintendent of police (SSP) on July 13 and an FIR has been registered against the architecture student under Section 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code.
Salman Saleem is pursuing an M.A. in Development Communication from Jamia Millia Islamia. Maryam Tariq completed her P.G. Diploma in still photography from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Featured image credit: PTI