Remembering the ‘Secular Legacy’ of the Builders of Jamia on the occasion of Centenary celebrations

jamia seminar

  It is a historic moment for all of us to note that Jamia Millia Islamia is one of the first nationalist universities in our country which is going to complete one hundred years in 2020. To celebrate its (Jamia) centenary, several seminars, conferences, exhibitions and public meetings are scheduled to be held in the upcoming months which will be continued until 2020.

To commemorate hundred years, Department of Urdu, JMI has organized three days seminar in collaboration with Urdu academy, New Delhi. The inaugural session was held on 14th October 2019 at 3 pm. In this three days, more than 30 research papers have been be presented by the scholars and renounced academicians mostly belonged to Jamia fraternity. The seminar entitled as ‘Jamia Millia Islimia Ki Urdu Khidmaat’ (the role of JMI in the contributions of Urdu).

In his introductory remarks, Head of Urdu department, Prof. Shahzad Anjum underlined the contributions of Jamia’s stalwarts with respect to Urdu and said that now time has come to write a bright history of the university especially in the field of Urdu literary contributions. The Jamia is the well-known for Urdu and without which there can be no existence of a university, said by Anjum saheb.

Presenting the welcome speech, vice-chairman of Urdu academy, Delhi Prof. Shahpur Rasool said that Urdu academy has had a long association with the Jamia. In this respect, Prof. Gopi Chand Narang, Prof. Khalid Mahmood and Prof. Akhtarul Wase, who affiliated with the Jamia, have done extraordinary service as Vice Chairman of Urdu academy and other official capacities.

To note that Department of Urdu in collaboration with D. Zakir Husain Library- under the aegis of Urdu Academy, Delhi, – has also organized an exhibition (Numaish, from 14th October to 18th October 2019) to draw attention to the contributions and the secular legacy of Jamia’s founders in areas of culture, education, music, poverty, communal harmony, promotion of Urdu and finally the Hindu -Muslim Unity.

On the said occasion, several books authored by the builders of Jamia which highlighted the role and contributions of the Jamia’s builders and nationalist Muslims (like M.A Ansari, Zakir Hussian, Abid Hussain, Mohhmad Mujeeb, and Muhammad Ali Jauhar) on the above mentioned themes were also opened for the public. To note that it was  Jamia’s teachers and students who fought against the colonial rule under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi led by the Indian national Congress. Besides, several academic contributions were made by founders of Jamia mainly in Urdu, were also displayed on mentioned themes which have been written and translated in Urdu. The writings of Rabindernath Tagore (in Urdu), and poetry of Ghalib, Akbar Allahabadi, and Dr. Alama Iqbal have been also put down on the tables for the public. Moreover, the writings of Jamia’s stalwarts like Mohammad Mujeeb on Indian Muslims, Sayed Abid Husain on national culture, and Dr. Zakir Husain on the educational philosophy (on Nai Talim, unlike pattern of colonial educations, it refers to education based on craft centered which help to earn livelihood and must be rooted in its own local environments) were also put-up in the exhibition room for larger audiences.

Having said that let me comeback to the pertinent themes and topics which have been covered and presented by the experts who mostly belonged to Jamia fraternity. Broadly speaking, in the first session topics like, mission, history, vision of the past and present of Jamia and its role of founders in the making of Jamia Millia Islamia have been discussed by the senior faculty members. In second and third session, several speakers spoke about the contributions of Jamia’s stalwarts in the field of literature, criticism and research areas.  In the fourth, and the last two final sessions, the themes like contributions of Jamia in critical traditions of prose and poetry, including in the field of journalism have also been deliberated and discussed in details by the paper presenters.

Before these sessions, on 14th 2019 the inaugural session took place which was presided by the current vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, Prof. Najma Akhtar. While speaking on said occasion, Jamia’s VC Prof. Akhtar  has expressed her good wishes and congratulated both the Department of Urdu and Delhi Urdu academy for having organized such a wonderful seminar because this will provide us details about the contributions of Jamia during the last one hundred years, pointed out by Jamia’s VC.

It is a historic occasion for Jamia biradary mainly because of this programme is attended by two former vice-chancellor of Jamia, namely Janab Najeeb Jung and Janab Sayed Shahid Mehdi. And both have also addressed the audiences (well attended by the senior faculty members and research scholars and general students of JMI on said date) at the Centre for Information Technology Auditorium, JMI. While expressing their opinions, both shared with audiences that Jamia had in the past played a vital role in the promotion and publications along with the preservations of Urdu during the critical phase and the height of the colonial rule when several times Jamia had faced financial hardships because of its anti-colonial stand.  Hence, it would be the great injustices to the builders of this august institution, if we as Jamia fraternity should easily forget their unflinching contributions and dedications, bemoan by the speakers. However, it is now huge challenge before us to continue the works with similar didications and enthusiasm which had been done by the Jamia’s founders (Baniyane Jamia, like Dr. Zakir Husain, Mohhamad Mujeeb, M.A. Ansari and others). Now keeping the needs of modern times, we have to changed the traditional approach and take responsibilities on our shoulders to promote and inculcate this language to the future generations, added by speakers.

Another keynote Speaker, Prof. Shamim Hanfi, formerly associated with Urdu Department of Jamia, a noted literary figure who had done noteworthy works in promotion of Urdu by writing several books, and due to his efforts Jamia Reasals (Magazines) has been documented in four volumes. While presenting the keynote address, Prof. Shamim Hanfi said that the role of the Jamia in the translation of Urdu, prose, theater, Children and Women’s literature along with educational literature and the new traditions of intellectualism are unforgettable. The founders and architects of the  Jamia had not only took personal interest in Urdu journalism, poetry and various sciences and arts but also worked to the great extent in promoting said issues,  added by him.

In short, since its inceptions, Jamia’s builders had produced huge volume of literature on various themes mentioned earlier. In doing so, Jamia had played a fundamental role in terms of producing literary works, translations, which is unforgettable added by several speakers.

While sharing his thoughts, former VC of Jamia, Janab Najeeb saheb had noted that the foundation of Jamia is fundamentally based on the promotion of Urdu as a language of India and without which the existence of Jamia as an institution is unimaginable. While adding further, Jung Saheb said that Urdu has given a lot to Jamia. But now the question needs to be seriously considered what currently Jamia is doing for Urdu. The Department of Urdu should be the ‘crown’ of the Jamia, emphasized by Najeeb saheb.  He raised the question before audiences; will Urdu survive by following the traditional kind of approach in the changing world and circumstances? The Urdu fratenity will have to take new steps to counter this momentum and the storm of this age, lamented by Najeeb Jung.

Next speaker, while recalling the story how he came to know about Jamia’s Maktaba in Gorakhpur long back, Shahid Mehdi Saheb( former VC of Jamia) said that in those time we used to buy the books of Ghalib, Meer and other poets work even less than one or two anna (an old Indian currency). It was the sincere efforts of Urdu fraternity who translated and published the several autobiographies including Gandhi’s autobiography “My Experiment with Truth” (Tlashe Haque in Urdu), said Mehdi saheb. While recognizing the works done by Prof. Hanfi Saheb, from his efforts Jamia’s Resalas, (magazine published since1921) has been documented in four volumes. But additional work needs to be done by Jamia fraternity, so that new generations should know and be aware of contributions made by the founders of Jamia, further added Mehdi Saheb. It is crucial to note that the traditions of writing prose in Urdu mainly by Jamia literary figures have been immense and powerful but further needs to be done in according with the requirements of modern times. It is noteworthy to remind us that most of Jamia’s vice-chancellors were also happened to be the noted literary figures, underlined by Mehdi Saheb. Besides, for the promotion and publications of Urdu, like Rasmul khat( traditions of writing Urdu  scripts) were prevalent earlier and part of Urdu literary genre now also seems to be  shirking in the present  times. While underlining the crucial role played by the Jamia’s Maktaba in terms of publishing several Resalas (Magazines in Urdu), Mehdi saheb expressed satisfaction, and said that Jamia as an institution has maintained and even deepened the genre of literary traditions.

While expressing his concern for Urdu, Najeeb Jung saheb pointed out that Department of Urdu should play a leading role (must take responsibility to become ‘crown’ as far as promotion of Urdu is concern) in Jamia. Further he asked the questions- Is it possible for Urdu to stay alive in a modern and changing world by adopting a traditional approach towards Urdu? There is a need to think on this point also particularly when the country is passing through a critical phase pointed out by Jung Saheb. While recognizing the efforts made by Urdu literary platforms like Rekhta groups, he said that Urdu has still not developed rich vocabularies for its own in today’s context. However, citing the example of the University of Oxford and its positive attitudes towards Urdu, (when he was there for a short period of time), he reminded us that we in India lack the confidence to promote Urdu in comparison to other social science subjects.

It is a historically wrong to say that Urdu was and is now the language of, and associated with the Muslim community alone. More importantly, Urdu was and is still the language of north Indian common people because of its secular orientations and based on composite culture. In this respect, sever literary figures have pointed out that in the context of India, Urdu is having a rich secular legacy. While sharing his thought, Najeeb Saheb said that during the 1960-70s, the Indian cinema had played a vital role to popularize Urdu. However, current situations are not favorable in the film industry and even our country to promote Urdu as noticed earlier. Today this responsibility lies on the shoulders of Jamia’s fraternity which will decide the fate of Urdu language in our country, added by him

While appreciating the works done by Jamia fraternity, Prof. Asaduddin, currently Dean Faculty of Humanities and Languages, JMI said that since its inception, Jamia was remained an important centre for the promotion of Urdu language. The builders of Jamia had contributed a lot in terms of producing literary works and translations, pointed by Prof. Asaduddin.

Prof. Shahpar Rasool Saheb (faculty member at Urdu the department, JMI and currently vice-chairman of Urdu Academy, Delhi) while expressing his welcome speech, said that the relation between Jamia and Urdu academic in the past remain deeply intertwined because of eminent academics like Prof. Akhatural Wase, Gopi Chand Narang, Khalid Mahmood had associated and served to the Urdu academy in their various capacities. In short, the contributions which were made by Jamia builders like, Dr. Zakir Husain, Hakim Ajmal Khan, M. A. Ansari, Abid Hussian, Mohammad Mujeeb, Mohammad Ali Zauhar etc., in various field as mentioned above must be remembered in years to come by the young generations and research scholars of Jamia as underlined by the respective speakers.

Three technical sessions were held on the second day of the seminar in Tagore Hall, JMI. The feature of these seessions was that each session presented articles under one central topic. The theme of the first session was “Jamia Millia Islamia: History, Vision and Missions’’. The second session is chaired by Prof. Elias Husain, who said that Jamia was the first nationalist Institution in our country which had adopted Mahatma Gandhi’s proposal of educational curriculum, based on philosophy of basic educations (Nai Talim). In this session, Prof. Rizwan Qaiser, a noted historian, JMI spoke on “Vision and Mission of Jamia Millia Islamia”, Mr. Shameem Tariq, on Jamia Millia Islamia: Past, Present and Future, Prof. Sabiha Anjum Zaidi, on Initiation of Jamia Millia Islamia”, Prof. Farhat Nasrin on “founders of Jamia Millia Islamia”. The second session was held under the theme of “Literary services of stalwarts of Jamia.” In his chair remarks, Prof. Siddiqur Rahman Qadwai said that the largest protest in the history of India was the establishment of Jamia Millia Islamia at the Mohammadan Anglo and Oriental College at Aligarh. The students of MAO College at Aligarh, under the leadership of freedom fighters, revolted against the slavery of the colonial education and laid the foundation of Jamia Millia Islamia in 1920.  Prof. Ejaz Masih, in his chair remarks, said that Aligarh and the Jamia had played an unforgettable role in stabilizing, constructing, and sustaining literature. In a similar way, Prof. Ibne Kanole said that if we exclude AMU and Jamia from the history of Urdu literature, we will confine to the very limited space. In other words, both universities played vital role in the promotion of Urdu literatures. In this respect, Prof. Ahrar Hussan, who also chaired the last session, underlined that Jamia had played a vital role in construction and development of nation-building along with the translations and educational areas.

In the concluding session, Prof. Muhammad Zakir said that the Jamia Millia Islamia as a new laboratory for the development of intellectual activities and said that the founders of this place had explored new paths and also new destinations.

The second day of the seminal was presided by Prof. Atiqullah, who said that the u  jamia as a University  should be considered and imagined as an enlightenment place. The founders and architects of this intellectual not only understood, but also welcomed the new intellectual waves and the new world requirements against the elites and feudal culture, added by him.

While presenting the crux of seminar in the concluding session, Prof. Shahzad Anjum, Head of Urdu Department said that nearly thirty articles were presented. The distinguishing feature of this seminar was that in each of its sessions articles were organized under one central theme. The documentary film produced by Abdul Rehman and Afsar Bhat in connection with Jamia’s Centenary was also shown which was made under the leadership of Prof. Shahzad Anjum and the supervision of Dr. Khalid Mubashir, faculty member at Urdu deparment, JMI.

While giving his remarks, Prof. Wahjuddin Alavi said that in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s the British recognized their cultural, linguistic and national superiority over Indian people but for the first time the Jamia Millia Islamia believed that our Eastern civilization and culture were better than western one.

While presiding the last session, Prof. Akhtar Siddiqui said that the continuation of the journal like “Jamia and education” with continuity for a hundred years is nothing short of a miracle. In this respect, Prof. Khalid Mahmood also said that the articles presented in this seminar will be cited for centuries. The Jamia is not only the seen as educational centre but also imagined as a symbols of sacrifices and home of dreams visualised by the Jamia’s builders noted by Prof. Siddiqui.

Besides, Dr. Shamim Tariq said that under current circumstances, the responsibility of preserving Urdu language and literature should be solely assigned to Jamia.

However, one thing is completely missed out by speakers and also by paper presenters to reflect on the contributions made by the late Mushirul Hasan (former vice-chancellor) with respect to Jamia. To note that, the late Prfo. Hasan had written a lot to highlight the contributions of Jamia’s builders in several fields. Hence, it would be unfair if we as Jamia’s fraternity while celebrating hundred years of Jamia’s centenary forget and undermine the academic contributions made by former vice chancellor of Jamia, who has been active in various capacities and played central role hence can be considered as a modern builder of Jamia.   While celebrating the hundred years of Jamia, we as Jamia biradary must chalk out concrete plans in the light of progressive legacies of Jamia and their stalwarts as mentioned above. Merely conducting seminars and public meetings on said occasions are not adequate as said by Janab Shhid Mehdi sahib also; particularly when Muslim community is lagging behind in terms of educations and Jobs as pointed by Sachar report (2006).  It is a high time to chalk out concrete plans on the said occasion to educate Muslim masses in particular and the Indian society in general.

 The writer is a Research Scholar, University of Delhi.




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