The relevance of Gandhi and Jamia’s Stalwarts: ‘Inclusive Vision’ in the Current Political Scenario

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 It is happy moment for all of us that Jamia Millia Islamic, a ‘lusty child’ of the non-cooperation and the Khilafat movement, is going to soon complete its 100 years in 2020. To celebrate birth contrary, several programmes, seminars and conferences are scheduled to be held in the next one year. Currently, Jamia fraternity is celebrating, 99th ‘Foundations Day’ on 30th October 2019, and invited the Honorable President of India, Shri. Ram Nath Kovind on the occasion of annual convocation, 2019. On this important occasion, he has delivered very thoughtful speech on the contributions of Jamia’s stalwarts (Dr. Zakir Husain, Mohammad Ali Jauhar, and Dr. M. A. Ansari) in the promotion of nationalist sprits and inclusive educations on lines of Gandhian philosophy.

While celebrating said foundation Day, an educational festival like Talemi Mela is being organized in Jamia’s campus. To note that every year, 29th October is celebrated as a ‘Foundation Day’ because; Jamia was established on 29th October 1920 at Aligarh on issues of call given by Gandhiji to join the Non-Cooperation movement. To note that Janab Hakim Ajmal Khan and Janab Mohammad Jauhar Ali were appointed as the first chancellor and vice-chancellor of Jamia.  Since its inception, every year on the said date, Jamia biradari along with the local  Jamis’s community used to celebrate the ‘Foundation Day’ and remembered the contributions made by the makers of Jamia, during its formative period with much compassions, enthusiasm and commitments. In this respect, seminars, conferences, along with Musharia (recitation of Ghazal by the eminent poets) are also used to organize by Jamia biradari. Besides, the several shops related to books, handicrafts, and other creative indigenous products are often displayed for the larger people. It (Talemi Mela) is open for not only Jamia fraternity but to the large numbers of the local community who used to come for shopping, attending Mushaira, musical progammes including watching theaters based on relevant social themes.

To be very precise, let me mentioned that Jamia along with other nationalist institutions like Kashi Vidyapith (located in Banaras), Gujarat Vidyaphit (Gujarat), Maharashtra Vidyapith, Bihar Vidyapith and Bengal national university etc. were the product of   the ‘ lusty child of the Non- Cooperation movement’  and the freedom struggle as also mentioned by the late historian  Prof. Mushirul Hasan and literary figure like Rakshanda Jalil( to note that Mushir Saheb was the former vice-chancellor, JMI and considered by many is a modern builder of Jamia) in  their book, titled as, ‘Partners in freedom: Jamia Millia Islami’, Niyogi Books, 2006. These Indian nationalist universities were run by public fund and supported by Mahatma Gandhi, Tagore and others nationalist leaders during the anti-colonial struggle.  Besides, these nationalist universities including Jamia, since its inception had been remain secular and liberal in its outlook, including the academic orientations and the pedagogical structure.

During the colonial period, other prominent universities mainly the BHU (Banaras Hindu University, (which was established by the Mr. Madan Mohan Malviya who was also associated with the Hindu Mahasabha) and the Aligarh Muslim university, AMU (which was established by the great educationist and reformer, Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan who was committed to spread the modern, English and scientific education among the Muslim masses which were opposed by the orthodox section of Ulama, a religious scholars) were established on the communitarian lines. Unlike nationalist institutions, both the AMU and the BHU are the largest residential universities in India in terms of students and teachers strength. Historically speaking, both universities had not played any significant role in the anti-colonial struggle. However, arguments often were made by certain section of progressive scholars that the AMU, since its inception was inclusive in nature, because it had provided the space for different communities. Hence, it is wrong to say that the AMU is fundamentally against the secular and liberal values. Indeed, it is historical fact that both universities had not sided and supported to the nationalist project and the Non-Cooperation movement which had initiated under the leadership of Gandhiji and other nationalist leaders. Unlike the nationalist universities, it is to be noted that both the AMU and the BHU had used to get financial assistance from the British colonial regime and princely states too. To be precise, unlike nationalist universities, both universities had only concentrated the communitarian concern of their respective communities rather than supporting and siding with the nationalist project.

However in this reviewed essay, I am not going to inter into claims and counter-claims with regards to which universities were and are having more ‘national’ and ‘anti-national’ outlook as currently foregrounded by the Sangh Priviar. In this review essay, my concern will be confine to discuss the role of Jamia’s stalwarts and their relation with Gandhiji in the light of recently published and just released a book titled, ‘Jamia Aur Gandhi’ (originally published in Hindi, by INSAAN, New Delhi, 2019). Besides, I will also discuss and highlight the points made by the Honorable President of India in his thoughtful speech delivered by him on the special occasion of annual convocation day, organized by Jamia on 30th October 2019.

Sahil’s book is released on the 29th October at Jamia, Dr. M.A. Ansari Auditorium in the presence of vice-chancellor, Prof. Najma Akhtar and former vice-chancellor Janab Syed Shahid Mehdi and others. Before introducing the basic themes of the book, let me say few words about author. To be very brief, Sahil has played an important role to make the people aware about the relevance of RTI act (Right to Information Act, which was passed by the UPA-I, however, it is ironical to note that this Act has now been diluted by the present regime). Sahil has done his B. A. in Mass Media and M.A. in Mass communication from JMI. And since then, he is continuously writing in Urdu and Hindi, and English on the socially and politically relevant themes. He has authored two others books, on the themes of RTI, in Hindi (Suchna Ka Adhikar, 2010) and secondly (titled as, “Right to Muslim women in Muslim Personal Law”). Besides, Sahil is a currently an Editor of the Beyondhealines, (launched in 2011) which covers stories of the marginalized groups. It was Sahil, who through the effective use of the RTI brought out startling facts about the infamous Batla House encounter episode, took place in 2009.

Sahil in his book, ‘Gandhi Aur Jamia’ mentioned that he was born in Champaran(Bihar) in the middle class family, where Gandhiji had started his first statyagraha (search for truth through non-violent means) movement in 1917 on the increasing problems of peasantry, due to the exploitative social policies of colonial masters.  Earlier, he has also published and wrote several articles regarding the role of Gandhi and others freedom fighters in the context of Champaran and elsewhere. While sharing his seven year of experiences, Sahil said that during the course of study at Jamia, he was deeply inspired by the Gandhian values like non-violence, truth, communal harmony, nationalist sprit and democratic values. That has now compelled me to write a book on this pertinent theme, which is still untouched by scholars, bemoan by Sahil.

At the outset, he has strongly made the point that when he came to Jamia and found that Gandhiji had played crucial role and have deep sympathy and love for Jamia and its stalwarts. However, it is ironical to note that this point has not been discussed in the academic circles. That is why the Indian masses are still not aware about the unflinching dedications of Gandhiji towards Jamia and vice-versa. The book may be a little effort to introduce the Gandhi’s contributions with respect to Jamia. For Gandhiji, Jamia and their stalwarts had played crucial role in the anti-colonial struggle and nationalist project.  Gandhji had accepted the contributions of Jamia and their founding members (like Hakim Ajmal Khan, Muhammad Ali Jauhar, Dr. Zakir Husain, Mohammad Mujeeb, and M.A. Ansari,) at several places and exhorted the people, both the Hindu and the Muslims to draw the inspirations for nationalist cause. However, these stories have not been discussed in the wider public spheres, underlined by author. Having discussed the basic theme of book now let me comeback again to speech delivered by our President of India on the said occasion.

While delivering his speech on the occasion of annual convocation ceremony held at Jamia (as a part of three day celebration of university’s 99th Foundation Day, on 30th October, 2019), the current Honorable President of India, Mr. Ram Nath Kovind has broadly echo similar views as discussed by Sahil in his book. At the outset he said that it is a great pleasure for me that currently Jamia’s both top post namely the Chancellor (Najma Hapetull, currently the Governor of Manipur) and vice-chancellor (Prof. Najma Akhtar) are happened to be Muslim women. During his speech, the President of India said that inclusive legacy and dreams of Mahatma Gandhi, Mauluna Mohammad Ali Jauhar, M.A. Ansari and Dr. Zakir Husain etc, the great ideas with regards to national educations and nation-building must be remembered by the young generations of Jamia and elsewhere also. He has also expressed his pleasure on this occasion because; similar to my political journey, Dr. Zakir Husain was also happened to be an ex-Governor of Bihar, former President of India and served 22 years as the vice-chancellor of JMI. Dr. Zakir Saheb had been appointed as a chairman at Wardha in 1937 on the advised of Mahatma Gandhi and had played a great role in formulating vision of the  basic education (usually known as Nai Talim, the basic aim of education should be to develop the good citizen within the environment of Indian culture). While appreciating the works of Dr, Zakir Husain and his commitments towards the Gandhian philosophy, particularly when Dr. Zakir Saheb was in Germany for pursuing higher education, he wrote a book in German language on theme of “Message of Gandhi” said President of India.

As I said in my earlier piece while celebrating the Gandhi’s 150 birth anniversary, several articles have been written by the Left, liberals and including by the RSS- BJP ideologue, however, the role of  Gandhi towards Jamia, Indian Muslims and Islam have not been  properly discussed by them. This book is also reminder   to readers that the purpose of writing the book as author said, to make the Indian people familiar with Jamia and its deep affections with Gandhiji.

At the beginning, the book underlined that due to the uncompromising stand of the Jamia’s stalwarts towards the nationalist project, Jamia had passed through extreme conditions of financial hardships. And as a result, those who were serving to Jamia as various officials capacities, even hardly used to get their already due tiny salary. However, in-spite of that they had sided with nationalist cause under the leadership of Gandhiji. When a situation got worse because of sustain financial setback, some section of Jamia’s founding members had decided to shut down Jamia. After hearing this sad news, Gandhiji said that anyhow Jamia must remain to exist, even for this cause he was ready to take a bowl and beg money on the streets; the point is also underlined by Sahil. But it is sad commentary to note that in the post-independent democratic India, the successive governments had have not paid enough attentions towards Jamia and forgotten the contributions made by Jamia’s stalwarts in the process of the nation-building and sacrifices were made by them during the anti-colonial struggle. The point is reiterated by author at the several places in his book.

While discussing Gandhiji’s deep affections and love towards Jamia, author mentioned that it was Gandhiji who persuaded his son, Mr. Dev Das Gandhi to join at Jamia as a teacher. He accepted the responsibility and taught at Hindi department, JMI. Besides, Gandhiji’s grandson, Mr. Rasik who also enrolled in Jamia as a student, however, due to his ill-health, he was not alive beyond the age of 17 years, as pointed out by auther  Gandhi’s wife, Kasturba Gandhi (She was also deeply involved in the anti-colonial struggle) had also devoted her precious time in Jamia. In short, relationship between Jamia and Gandhiji was deeply intertwined to each other.  It was Gandhiji who took stand and advised not to delete the word, ‘Islamia’ mainly when Jamia was passing through financial crisis, because of its firm anti-colonial stand, the point is also mentioned by author.

At the time when the secular institutions like JNU  and other universities have been targeted by the current regime, ever since the present regime came into power at Centre, it is not wrong to say that most of the public institutions have been greatly communalized. Even the Jamia in the past has been often targeted by the communal forces and became victim of ‘dirty politics’.  It is crucial to bring out the ‘glorious history’ of Jamia in the light of historical facts and evidences, added by author. The central purpose of writing this book is to highlight the truth and dismantle the stereotypical images of Jamia which has been created by the communal forces, pointed out by author. However, the author admits that this is not final book on the deep affections between Gandhiji and Jamia, more research needs to be done in times to come.

Therefore, those who are interested to know the contributions of Jamia’s stalwarts and their relation with Gandhiji and other nationalist leaders, must read this book and pay attention to the speech delivered by the Honorable President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind on said occasion. The fact must be accepted that this is the first book meticulously brought out by author to dismantle the stereotypical images created by certain communal forces. Hence, I strongly recommend that scholars, journalists and general readers must go through this book to enrich their understanding about Jamia’s stalwarts and their contributions towards the nationalist project. In the light of above discussed points, one cannot deny the fact that nationalist and inclusive vision championed by the makers of Jamia during the anti-colonial struggle, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi  are still relevant and needs to be seriously studied in times to come.

The author is a Research Scholar, University of Delhi.




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