By Mahtab Alam
While acclaimed director of Shahid and City Lights, Hansal Mehta’s latest film Aligarh is scheduled to release today (26 Feb ‘16 ) for public viewing, the heading of a news item in Times of India (24 Feb ‘16) reads, “Muslim outfit protests title of movie on AMU gay professor” . The headline of another news item on the same issue reads: “Aligarh intellectuals unhappy over film ‘Aligarh’. This news item has been reported by the news agency IANS and carried out by several newspapers.
I was least surprised by these news items as there is no dearth of such outfits and ‘intellectuals’ who can indulge in such campaigns. However, in this case, the devil lies in the details. According to The Times of India (TOI), Aligarh based “Millat Bedari Muhim Committee has written to Union Minister of Communications and Information Technology and the Censor Board Chief over the title of the movie, claiming that the film will paint the whole city as a place where “gay practice is common, thus lowering its prestige in the eyes of the world.”
I was only left with two obvious questions on reading these news pieces. Firstly, who comprises the “Millat Bedari Muhim Committee” and, secondly what are the credentials of these ‘intellectuals’?
The last time that I remember reading something about this self-appointed committee of the Millat (community), which only exists on paper, was when it was busy in mobilising people in Aligarh in favor of Mr. Narendra Modi and his party. Interestingly, prior to the elections of May 2014, the same outfit used to work with and for the Congress party. However, with change of guard at the centre, they decided to work for and with Mr. Narendra Modi and his party. A news report published on 17 January 2016 in The Sunday Guardian weekly confirms this.
“To be honest, until 2014, we used to work for the Congress . . . (t)hen in 2014, we happened to meet Zafar Sareshwala, who is considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He convinced us that PM Modi is genuinely serious about the all-inclusive development of India, including that of Muslims and that Muslims should communicate with the Central government for that. We agreed, despite the sharp backlash we faced in Aligarh,” the weekly quoted its leading light, Jasim Mohammed.
Notably, Mr. Jasim, better known as jarasim (germ) amongst Aligarians, heads or runs at least a dozen paper outfits such as Millat Bedari Muhim Committee. To name a ‘prominent’ few, apart from being secretary of the Millat Bedari Muhim Committee, Mr. Jasim is Director, Jamia Urdu, Secretary, Forum for Muslim Studies and Analysis (FMSA), Director, Muslim Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MCCI), and Editor, The Aligarh Movement monthly magazine. A simple Google with key words such as “Mohammed Jasim+ Aligarh+AMU+Urdu+Modi” can fetch you various reports regarding the activities of Mr. Jasim and his gang.
However, when journalist M Reyaz of TwoCircles.net exposed Mr. Jasim and his gang through his incisive report titled, “New spring at Jamia Urdu: Changing colours as per political season”, Mr. Jasim tried to intimidate the reporter through his Facebook posts hinting legal action against the reporter and the publication. On this issue, TwoCircles published a rejoinder by Mr. Jasim, which can be read here.
To cut a long story short, the point that I am trying to make here is that people like Mr. Jasim have no locus standi in the Muslim community and its affairs. Hence, they should not be taken seriously. If anything, they are power brokers masquerading in the garb of ‘intellectuals’ and ‘community leaders’. We should be aware of them and not take them at their face value.