Heroes of the no man’s land

तूफ़ान से लाए हैं हम यह कष्ती निकाल के 
इस देश को रखना मेरे बच्चों संभाल के

They built up Jamia Millia Islamia, stone by stone, sacrifice by sacrifice.

— Sarojini Naidu

I am a bit of a history buff and a loud-mouth about the fact that I could never pass by a building in Jamia without reminiscing an anecdote in the university’s context. Late Historian and Ex-Vice Chancellor Prof. Mushirul Hasan has been extremely vocal about the fact, that the university has painstakingly dedicated each of it’s building after a person, who was either a member of the freedom struggle or has offered service to the nation by serving in Jamia.

The walls of Jamia talk of freedom fighters, educationists and cultural icons, which makes taking a stroll in the campus equivalent to turning pages of History. Jamia, is quite the microcosm of the city where it is based and shifted to its modest quarters in Karol Bagh in 1925. Delhi apart from being quadrilingual, is a city that houses within itself numerous stories that await recognition and perusal. It is a city that names its lanes after the people it wants us to remember. History is recorded on Delhi’s walls, much like Jamia itself.

P.C – Ferozmir

As the last of those who have been eye-witnesses of partition fade away, it has become a fad to distort history to project it as what propaganda wants it to be— because until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter, which is why this is the time to, reclaim our past.

Seventy-two years ago, a minute apart from one another, two nations came into existence who were else united under a common oppressor, who shared the same struggles, the same names as their pioneers of freedom and equal zeal for Independence, until Independence actually came in 1947 with a collateral damage, and with it many such pioneers of freedom that the two nations shared disappeared from the pages of history.

Indians remember the freedom struggle every year on the 15th of August which came to us, as a contribution of our celebrated leaders and our unsung heroes, the ones that are less talked about, the names our history books haven’t been generous enough in highlighting, Whether they be Ashraf Ali Thanawi, Abdul Qayyum Ansari or Fazle Haq Khairabadi who recorded an entire mathnavi on the walls of cellular jail, while serving his sentence for protesting against the British Raj.

The names that were lost within the pages of history books during the long struggle for freedom, those who have not found their due respect in India or across the border are – The Heroes of the No Man’s Land. Jamia is that no man’s land, and these pioneers of freedom still walk here.

The institution has tried to preserve the memory of female revolutionaries like Begum Hazrat Mahal, Aruna Asaf Ali and Bi-Amma, who was the first Muslim woman to address a political gathering while wearing a Burqa andso was the mother of Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, after whom the road in front of the University Campus is named.

It is no secret that Jamia is the lusty child of the non-cooperation days and the entire Khilafat movement manifested this university— few revolutionary teachers found that they had significant differences with the administration of the MAO College that was predominantly British by that time, and would not lift the ban on their students participating in the Khilafat movement.

Mahatama Gandhi’s genius lay in the fact, that he could take the freedom struggle from door to door and connect the larger freedom movement to everyone’s day to day problems. He had a gift that allowed him to connect every subaltern revolt to the freedom movement. The caliphate became the link between the Indian Islamic community and the movement of Independence.
Before Jamia’s foundation, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, led a Medical Mission to Turkey to help the ottoman soldiers wounded in the Balkan wars, detailed accounts of which are found in his correspondence with another Jamia founder, Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar.

However, the sympathies Indian Muslims had with the caliphate were not without a basis. After the 1857 sepoy mutiny was quelled, the British administration came after its perpetrators, which included several Muslim names, many times these Indian Muslims were forced to flee from the British administration, and at the conjunction of the two great empires— the ottoman caliphate and the British Empire, as Seema Alavi writes in her book Muslim Cosmopolitanism in the Age of the Empire, “a new Muslim network was born in the aftermath of 1857—buttressed by European empires, yet resolutely opposed to them”.

One such personality from Alavi’s book is Haji Imdadullah Makki, whose disciples have been constructive in the creation of Jamia and the freedom struggle in general, directly or indirectly. These networks had made the dissipation of knowledge in the Muslim world easier— as printed books began to be available and widely read by the Muslim community everywhere in the world which led to the prevalence of a pan-Islamic culture. The fall of the caliphate would mean severing of these lines and connectivity. Hence in 1920, Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar led his Khilafat delegation to England, to represent the interests of Indian Muslims, who did benefit from these networks rightfully.

The greatest contribution of the Khilafat movement was that, it brought the Western educated Muslims and the Ulemas together reconciling their differences and it was on this confluence Jamia Millia Islamia was born. The foundation stone was laid by Sheikh-ul-Hind Maulana Mehmud-ul-Hasan, the silk conspiracy revolutionary, on October 29,1920 at Aligarh whose memory is commemorated in the form of a Gate, which is now the entrance to the Jamia School, the oldest standing building of the present campus that underwent restoration works under Professor S.M. Akhtar.

Since its inception, Jamia has always stood for the co-existence of Islamic values along with secularism and the institution echoes its founding committee member Hussain Ahmad Madani’s thought process, who believed that it was possible to be a nationalist and patriotic towards one’s nation, while being a good Muslim, in fact he identified it to be rather necessary.

However, the struggle for freedom of the elders associated with Jamia did not end with the Khilafat movement. Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar’s zest for freedom was commendable considering times when he was in British custody and two of his daughters, aged 20 and 21 fell ill. It was said that the British urged Muhammad Ali to apologise for his views, so that he could be allowed to visit his dying daughters, but surprisingly he refused to apologize to the Britishers.
He spoke at the First Round Table Conference held in London in 1930 and these were his exact words-

“today the one purpose for which I came is this–that I want to go back to my country if I can go back with the substance of freedom in my hand. Otherwise I will not go back to a slave country. I would even prefer to die in a foreign country, so long as it is a free country; and if you do not give us freedom in India you will have to give me a grave here.”

On 4th January 1931, he passed away in London, remaining true to his words, and owning up to his vow in which he said, “We must have in us the will to die for the birth of India as a free and united nation.” His word was honoured and he was given a resting place in Jerusalem, Palestine near Masjid-e-Aqsa after a pompous procession.

While Zakir Hussain’s mausoleum within the university premises, designed by Habib Rehman, is a constant reminder of his contributions to the institution, and rightly so because Zakir Hussain Sahib has remained to Jamia what Nehru was to the nation— the architect of a modern institution, he built the institution from the ground, brick by brick and tear by tear. Founders of Jamia Millia Islamia, who had served the cause of the freedom struggle and our nation by serving the institution, like Hakim Ajmal Khan, lie forgotten in obsolete graves. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, on the other hand who has a road dedicated in his honour in Delhi, lies in his desolate grave in Jamia and so does Aapa Jaan Gerda Philipsborn, the German Educationist who wished to be buried within the premises of the university. Unfortunately, these graves although situated in the university premises have been abandoned by students and teachers alike.

Jamia has had a long history, and by being a part of this aberration in the time space continuum, that is Jamia you are contributing to the pages of history. Being a part of Jamia, is like being a part of its heritage, of its ganga-jamuni tehzeeb, which must be sought to preserve, else it would loose it’s ethnicity. And, if we don’t, who else will? It is our responsibility, to remember the revolutionaries who laid their entire lives down struggling for the freedom of India— who lived and died as Indians. Here, walls have eyes and ears. Here, stones speak.

We are the upstarts of interfaith marriages and we are the revolution. We are Jamia Millia Islamia of Independent India.

Maria Uzma Ansari
Jamia Millia Islamia

1 thought on “Heroes of the no man’s land”

  1. बहुत बहुत धन्यवाद ऊम्दाह तहरीर लिखने के लिए
    अल्लाह आप लोगों को सेहत व आफियत से रखें पूरी टीम को


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.