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8

AMBER ABBAS

Aligarh’s culture, for these narrators, made it a unique institution, bound by the edges of the campus. Though they remain loyal to their experience in Aligarh, their memories are localized. They can remain true to Aligarh without betraying their loyalty to Pakistan as a state or as an idea. Scholarly work on Aligarh, including that of David Lelyveld and Gail Minault, reveals a more contested political environment. 4 In fact Nasim Ansari, an Indian Muslim graduate, describes a university where amongst the students there were “representatives of every province in India and followers of every party…whether the differences between them were based upon class or upon theories, they were not concealed in any way” (Ansari 1999, 41-42). Although tolerance was an ideal of the student body, the Pakistani narrators have chosen to collapse the differences, both religious and sectarian. By advancing a unified Muslim identity at Aligarh that unequivocally supported the Muslim League, these narrators align themselves with the movement that fulfilled the demand for statehood that they accept as inevitable without complicating their own relationships to an institution firmly grounded on Indian soil. This triumphal narrative that denies Aligarh’s relationship to Indian space and any heterogeneity within the Muslim community, is an essential component of their sense of citizenship. In this conception Muslims were oppressed, Muslims unified and resisted injustice by mobilizing the progressive values of the elite, and they established a state in which those values would be safe and where their status would not be threatened. That the Pakistani state has not fulfilled its role in this image causes some anxiety for the narrators. The problem with the state, they say, is that it has rejected the values on which Muslim identity in Aligarh was based and has hence descended into factionalism. Interviews with non-Aligarhian narrators reveal a recognition of a more complex Muslim (now Pakistani) identity connected to regional and linguistic ties. Aligarians, however, do not recognize the legitimacy of more localized identity markers that link Muslims to regional geography. They insist on setting themselves up as the standard of Muslim identity that developed in a straightforward and uncomplicated way at Aligarh and led to the establishment of the Pakistani state. At the same time, their own identity is localized by their association with the Aligarh Muslim University. Divorced from that spatial identification in Pakistan, their identity has failed to be the one that defines Pakistani citizenship as a whole. In other words, the image of Muslim identity that survives in their collective memory—one that

4 See: Gail Minault and David Lelyveld, “The Campaign for a Muslim University, 1898-1920,” Modern Asian Studies 8(2) (1974): 145-189, and David Lelyveld, Aligarh’s First Generation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978).

Sagar XVII — 2007  
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