Campus with credo

Published : Nov 17, 2006 00:00 IST

A well researched history of the Jamia Millia Islamia draws on the archives and is illustrated with photographs that evoke a great past.

THE Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi is an authentic offshoot of India's freedom movement. In September 1920, as part of its programme of non-cooperation with the British rulers, the Indian National Congress resolved at the historic Calcutta session under Gandhi's leadership on a boycott of educational institutions "owned, aided or controlled by Government" and for "the establishment of national schools and colleges". Maulana Mohammed Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali supported this resolution.

In less than four months were born the Kashi Vidyapith, the Gujarat Vidyapith, the Bengal National University and the National Muslim University of Aligarh as a revolt against its parent, the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). It became the Jamia Millia Islamia and was established on October 29, 1920, on the campus of the AMU. Hakim Ajmal Khan was its first Chancellor (Amir-e-Jamia), Maulana Mohammed Ali, the first Vice-Chancellor (Shaikh-ul-Jamia).

Among the first to be enrolled was a promising student at the AMU, Zakir Hussain, who became its Vice-Chancellor and put on the Jamia the impress of his personality. He returned to the AMU in 1957 as its Vice-Chancellor and became President of India in 1967.

The Jamia's present Vice-Chancellor, the distinguished historian Professor Mushirul Hasan, and his able colleague Rakshanda Jalil, Media Coordinator at the Jamia, collaborated to produce a history of this fine institution in a well researched book that draws on the archives and is illustrated profusely with photographs that evoke a great past.

Precisely because Dr. Zakir Hussain was close to Gandhi and Nehru, Jinnah vetoed his membership of the Interim Government at the centre in 1946, using unbecoming language.

It is a measure of Zakir Hussain's reputation and tact that he was able to secure Jinnah's presence at the Jamia's Silver Jubilee Celebrations on November 17, 1946, just as the country was being torn apart. Jinnah came with his sister Fatima and his right hand man Liaquat Ali Khan. Also present on the dais were Nehru, Maulana Azad and Rajaji.

Zakir Hussain delivered one of the best speeches of his career. He traced the history of the Jamia, the travails it had to undergo and said in a moving oration:

"You, gentlemen, are the stars of the political firmament. You have a secure place in the hearts of millions of people. Taking advantage of your presence here, I wish to submit in great sorrow a few words for your consideration on behalf of the educational workers. The fire of hatred is fast spreading which makes it seem mad to tend to the garden of education. This fire is burning in a noble and humane land. How will the flowers of nobility and sensibility grow in its midst? How will we be able to improve human standards which lie today at a level far lower than that of the beasts? How shall we produce new servants devoted to the cause of education? How can you protect humanity in a world of animals? ... . An Indian poet has remarked that every child who comes to this world brings along the message that God has not yet lost faith in man. But have our countrymen so completely lost faith in themselves that they wish to crush these innocent buds before they blossom?

"For God's sake sit together and extinguish this fire of hatred. This is not the time to ask who is responsible for it and what is its cause. The fire is raging. Please extinguish it. For God's sake do not allow the very foundations of civilised life in this country to be destroyed."

There were moist eyes when he concluded. Among those who were seen wiping their tears was his friend, Nehru. This is a superb record of a great national institution whose credo is very relevant to our times.

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