A controversy erupted on Tuesday after the Urdu department of Banaras Hindu University shared a poster with a photograph of Allama Iqbal, the literary figure and Urdu poet who is credited with having inspired the movement that eventually led to the creation of Pakistan.
Iqbal, who is known as one of the greatest Urdu poets, was one of the most vocal proponents of the two-nation theory. He died in 1938 and Pakistan was formed in 1947.
Professor Aftab Ahmad, the head of the Urdu department, had to publicly apologise after a group of students belonging to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad raised concerns about the poster and questioned why photos of Madan Mohan Malviya, the founder of the university, were missing, The Indian Express reported.
The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad is the students’ wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
On Monday evening, students of the body also held protests against the poster and submitted a memorandum to Banaras Hindu University officials.
The poster, made for a webinar, was removed from Facebook. A new poster shared by the dean in a tweet replaced Iqbal’s photo with that of Malviya. “Sincerest apologies for the inadvertent mistake in the earlier poster that went viral on social meda,” the tweet said.
In its memorandum, the students’ wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh said that the glorification of a Pakistani leader in the university was unfortunate, the Hindustan Times reported.
After an uproar, the university also issued a “warning letter” to Ahmad and sought clarification on how he shared the poster without asking senior officials. The university also formed a committee to look into the matter and submit a report within three days. The chief of English department, MK Pandey, will head the inquiry panel.
The professor said his intention was not to hurt anyone’s sentiments. “We teach Iqbal as a poet and writer, who wrote ‘Saare Jahaan se achha Hindustan hamara’,” Ahmad told The Indian Express. “His writing is taught in Hindi in universities. One does not become British if one reads William Shakespeare.”
He said the aim of the webinar was to discuss the opportunities of Urdu education. “In the Urdu department, every event is started after paying tribute to Malaviya ji,” he added. “We have always paid respect to him.”