Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the chief guest at the centenary celebrations of the Aligarh Muslim University on December 22, The Times of India reported on Wednesday. Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal will also participate in the event, which will be held online.

Modi is the first prime minister to attend an event at the university, one of the oldest in the country, since 1964, when Lal Bahadur Shastri delivered the keynote speech at the convocation ceremony.

“A centenary is a landmark in the history of any university, the entire AMU community and I are grateful to the prime minister for accepting our invitation,” Vice Chancellor Tariq Mansoor told The Times of India. “The prime minister’s presence at this historic event will be immensely helpful to the growth and development of the university and placement of our students.”

At the ceremony, Modi is expected to inaugurate the newly constructed campus gate of the university, and release a postal stamp and a commemorative coffee table book. The vice chancellor, however, did not confirm this.

An unidentified official of the Aligarh Muslim University told the newspaper that Modi’s presence is expected to “send a strong message” to the Bharatiya Janata Party functionaries who “keep attacking the institution”.

Meanwhile, Mansoor appealed to the university students and staff to keep the centenary programme “above politics” just as they keep Republic Day, Independence Day, Milad un Nabi, Gandhi Jayanti “above differences”, reported PTI.

Last year, Aligarh Muslim University had become the centre of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act after it was passed by the Parliament. Hundreds of students protesting against the law bore the brunt of police brutality when protests had turned violent on December 15, 2019.

A fact-finding report on the violence had found that law-enforcement officials fired stun grenades, “usually used in war-like situations or terror operations”, at students and raised “chilling slogans like Jai Shri Ram while attacking the students and setting ablaze their scooters and vehicles...”. The report had said that the university administration not only failed in their duty to protect the campus and its residents against “brutality by the Uttar Pradesh Police, but also that they in fact invited the police forces and their weapons into the campus”.