Kannur, December 28 (India Today/The Hindu): Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan’s speech, in which he supported the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at the Indian History Congress at Kannur on Saturday, kicked up a massive row at the event, with several delegates launching a spontaneous protest.
The delegates claimed Mr Khan was quoting iconic leaders out of context in what they called a political speech. “You have come with an agenda…you cannot shout me down,” he shot back, accusing the protesters of intolerance. In response, a delegate is heard shouting in a video that Mr Khan had an agenda and, “India is not Pakistan”.
Undeterred with the protest, the Governor went on with his speech. “…Maulana Azad had said that partition has swept away dirt. But some potholes (ghadde) are left back, and it’s stinking due to water accumulating in it,” he said.
“Stink is coming from you”, a visibly upset delegate retorted.
“Maulana Azad sahab had said this for you all,” Mr Khan said.
Mr Khan later tweeted and said noted historian Irfan Habib, who was on the stage at time, “disrupted” his speech and shouted that “he should quote Godse” instead of Maulana Azad, a pre-Indpendence Congress leader.
“Inaugural meet of Indian History Congress does not raise controversies. But at 80th session at Kannur University, Shri Irfan Habib raised some points on CAA. But, when Hon’ble Governor addressed these points, Sh.Habib rose from seat to physically stop him, as clear from video,” a tweet from his official account read.
“Irfan Habib tried on stage to disrupt inaugural address questioning the Governor’s right to quote Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, shouting that he should quote Godse. He pushed Governor’s ADC and Security Officer, who prevented his unseemly gesture.
“Hon’ble Governor said that he had responded to points raised by previous speakers, as a person duty bound to defend and protect the Constitution. But trying to disrupt speech from stage and audience due to intolerance towards different opinion is undemocratic,” he added.
A source close to Mr Habib told NDTV that the event was Indian History Congress not a seminar on CAA.
“The Governor was quoting Maulana Azad and Gandhi and others totally out of context and was going on about Citizenship Amendment Act. What does one say to him? If he misquotes them, then let him quote Godse only.
“This was Indian History Congress, not a seminar on Citizenship Amendment Act…We all know the kind of remarks Kerala Governor has been making about Citizenship Amendment Act in various platforms,” the source said.
The police were also seen taking away a woman delegate who was protesting against the Governor’s speech. Other delegates surrounded her, not allowing the police to take her away.
“Irfan Habib was pushed, as he was speaking to the secretary, asking for the Governor to finish his speech, since it was already a long one,” the source said.
CPM MP KK Ragesh was also present at the event when the incident took place. “Governor was speaking on partisan politics, not as someone who holds a constitutional post. He in fact started his speech addressing it to me, saying ‘Mr MP this is for you’… Irfan Habib was perhaps loud but did not push anyone,” he said.
Four student delegates from Jamia Millia Islamia University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Aligarh Muslim University were picked up by the police when they raised placards and shouted slogans against the Governor, alleging that his speech was provocative.
The protesters alleged that the Governor raised the Kashmir issue and Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) to provoke the delegates. The protesters, however, were later let off following the intervention of Kannur University.
Mr. Khan, who began by stating that he had prepared the speech, pointed out that despite calling the protesters, who were against the CAA, on three occasions, they refused to speak.
“When you shut the door for debate and discussion, you are creating a culture of violence,” he said, adding that they were not coming forward to discuss as they were afraid.
The Governor later said no distinction could be made based on the faith of the person, but the partition of the country had created an extraordinary situation.
Mr. Khan said people in Kerala had not been affected by Partition. The people here had a sense of empathy and even without knowing the issue they came and joined when the neighbour agitated. However, Partition had affected the thinking of people in northern India, he said.
Just when he pointed out that for Pakistan Kashmir was still an unfinished story, the student delegates raised placards condemning the CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
When the police tried to stop the protesters, the delegates at the venue too were provoked and started shouting slogans against the Governor and the police.
A furious Mr. Khan told the protesters that they could not shout him down and that they would be moved out if they continued to protest. He reiterated that they had come with an agenda and a thought. He pointed that they had no right to create disturbance and violence at the venue.
He said they were trying to threaten him. Even when Professor Irfan Habib, past president of IHC, tried to speak to the Governor, he became furious. Mr. Khan was heard telling him that he had no right to stop him from taking up the Kashmir issue and warned him for trying to be an arbitrator.
(The featured image at the top shows Prof. Irfan Habib scolding Governor Arif Khan for politicizing History Congress)