Kerala governor turned History Congress into political arena, ‘insulted’ Prof Irfan Habib
December 31, 2019
In a signed statement, office bearers of the Aligarh Society of History and Archaeology (ASHA), Prof Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi (president), Prof Jabir Raza (vice-president), Prof Manvendra Kumar Pundhir (secretary) and Prof Farhat Hasan (joint secretary), have said that Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan had sought to insult veteran historian Prof Irfan Habib, 88, at the 80th session of the Indian History Congress, even as turning it into his “political arena”.
The 80th Session of the Indian History Congress (IHC) was inaugurated on December 28, 2019. Being attended by most of the prominent historians of India, the session was to be inaugurated by His Excellency, the Governor of Kerala, Arif Muhammad Khan.
The inaugural session started on the right note. But soon after the Presidential Address delivered by Professor Amiya Kumar Bagchi (Kolkata), Arif Muhammad Khan was called to deliver his speech. Instead of delivering an address the Honourable Governor started not only defending the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) but also accusing all those who did not agree with CAA as “Pakistani” agents who never had the courage to criticise the wrong policies of the Gandhi family, specially Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.
Along with all those who opposed CAA as anti-nationals, he went along to suggest that this could not be understood by the people of Kerala who never experienced the partition of India and creation of Pakistan.
On hearing such comments being spoken by the Governor, two young women who are doing research from JNU stood up silently holding placards created from the papers available to them: “No to CAA” was the message written on them. Along with them a few senior professors from Centre of Advanced Studies (CAS), Department of History, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), and Delhi University (DU) stood up asking the Governor to refrain from what he was doing.
The protestors were surrounded by the police who tried to enter into a physical scuffle and tried to take the two girls into custody, but for the timely intervention by a Rajya Sabha MP attending the Inaugural and present on the dias. Soon a host of researchers from Jawararlal Nehru University (JNU), AMU,DU and Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) were detained. Fortunately, they were all released within an hour. Attempt was also made to detain a senior professor from Aligarh.
As soon as Prof Habib, 88, protested, the ADC and the security officer of the Governor pushed him and tried to stop him
As the protests commenced, Prof Irfan Habib who was on the dias in the capacity of being the outgoing president of the IHC, got up from his seat and proceeded to the vice-chancellor, Kannur University, Prof Gopinath Ravindran to request him to stop what was happening and request the governor to refrain from turning IHC into his political arena and making remarks of the nature he was indulging in.
As soon as Prof Habib went there, the ADC and the security officer of the Governor pushed him and tried to stop him. The Governor too started accusing Habib of trying to stop him from speaking.
It is surprising that the incidence of protest against stifling of democratic dissent is being tweeted by the Honourable Governor as an attack on him.
Instead of apologising to one of the seniormost historian (who is 88 years old) of the country who had been pushed around by his ADC and security officers, the Governor through his tweet is spreading falsehood and claiming instead that the professor pushed the ADC and Security Officer! We condemn these attempts at spreading falsehood unequivocally.
The members of the Aligarh Society of History and Archaeology (ASHA) also condemn the stifling the democratic voices and our right to protest. We further condemn the way the Constitution of India is being effectively dismantled through Acts like CAA.
We also condemn the force used on the members of the Indian History Congress which is the largest body of professional historians of India and attempts to detain some of its members who were protesting peacefully. We laud Prof Irfan Habib, Padma Bhushan and professor emeritus (AMU), for raising his voice against the rising intolerance to democratic norms.
First published in Counterview.
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