In his death the community and Karnataka has lost a dauntless fighter for social change among the subaltern segments of the society
M A Siraj | Clarion India
DR MUMTAZ Ahmed Khan, founder of Al-Ameen Educational Society, who passed away in Bengaluru on May 27, has left a string of educational institutions that played a stellar role in educating a minority mired in illiteracy and backwardness. A man who struggled and sacrificed all his ancestral wealth in setting up certain basic institutions from 1965 onwards, Dr. Mumtaz presided over nearly 175 colleges, schools, and institutes, in his terminal years.
Some of these institutions have earned wide acclaim across the country. A few of their alumnae have occupied key positions in Iran* and some other Gulf nations. He was 86. He leaves behind his wife, two daughters and a son. The vast network of educational institutions that he founded would remain the best legacy he leaves behind.
In an action-packed life, Dr. Mumtaz, a medical doctor never practiced medicine. Having shifted from his native Tiruchirapalli and settled in Bengaluru in 1965 following his marriage in a mercantile family, he opted for a career that sought to treat the ailments of a community rather than individuals. Having closely interacted with Muslims in southern states, he had zeroed in on education as the life’s mission to lift the community from the morass of illiteracy and penury. Al-Ameen Group of Institutions facing the Lalbagh Botanical Garden in Bengaluru is the premier institution that bore the stamp of his persona in its entirety and full gravity. Having come up on a waqf land, the Al-Ameen campus is emblematic of his youthful energy, personal resources, sweat and toil and the team spirit he could espouse among the co-activists he could groom.
The Campus today hosts institutes imparting courses in law, pharmacy, teachers’ training, information sciences and management in Bengaluru, an engineering college in Ramanagram (45 kms west of the city), a medical college in Bijapur** together with dental, nursing and pharmacy colleges, a girls polytechnic and ITI on Hosur Road in the City, a residential school in Hosakote (30 kms east of Bengaluru). The activists he trained run several schools and a degree college named after Dr. Mumtaz in Kolar and a string of schools in Ramanagram, Channapatna, and in towns of Bidar and Humnabad in northern parts of the State.
Altogether the Al-Ameen Educational Society runs and manages 32 high schools, five PU Colleges, four degree colleges and scores of primary and nursery school in various parts of the State. He groomed several young men as educational leaders and social workers. One such lieutenant of him was Mr. Atheeq Ahmed who created an educational campus at Banikoppa, 35 kms off Bengaluru. He also set up a girls’ high school and a women’s degree college in the basement of City’s Jama Masjid, the centrally located mosque.
However, it was the setting up of the Al-Ameen campus that tested his mettle and proved to be a nerve-wrecking experience. The College which first came up in a bungalow in Kalasipalyam in 1967 shifted to a plot of waqf land opposite the Lalbagh where stood mausoleums of two saints of the Tipu Sultan era. The land had been cleared of encroachments by slum dwellers. Although all legal formalities had been duly completed, he was surprised to find some anti-social elements having put up shanties one morning inside the courtyard in the middle of the temporary buildings. This greatly upset him. This had been done in collusion with some influential people. He risked his life in throwing away the ramshackle structure put up with the sole objective of defeating his mission.
In his Urdu biography he says, he risked his life and was aided by slum women in fighting away the hoodlums thereby salvaging the land. The aforesaid women were those who had been earlier allotted alternative homes after clearing the shanties and encroachments on the plot of waqf land. He fought off the ensuing legal cases till late 1980s when the Karnataka Government withdrew all the police cases.
By 1968 he had sold away all his ancestral property in Tiruchy to divert the resources to nurse the budding Al-Ameen College in Bengaluru. This included an 18th century British Army bungalow and the surrounding four-acre orchard on the banks of river as well as half an acre plot of land belonging to his wife in Bengaluru.
Meanwhile, in 1968, the Bangalore University rejected the Al-Ameen College’s application for affiliation as the Rs.2,000 cheque enclosed towards the fee had bounced. He has related several such instances of hardships he encountered during the birth pangs of the college. He had told this scribe in a chat in 2016 that the College staff was not cooperative and used to conspire against the management. The college often would have no funds to meet the monthly salary expenses. At one time, Bollywood actor Mahmood provided him money to pay off the staff wages. He would often say that till 1970 the city’s elite knew him more as a donation collector rather than the founder of an institution.
Things eased up with the dawn of 1970s as several leading businessmen*** from the city joined his effort to nurture the institution and fund other ventures in the surrounding districts. The University granted affiliation to the college in 1970. The Department of Collegiate Education even sanctioned the grant-in aid thereby meeting 75% of the staff salaries. Thus began the Al-Ameen’s journey outward of Bengaluru. Today nearly 2.5 lakh students, most of them belonging to lower strata of the society, are receiving education and attaining skills in the Al-Ameen institutions. Inspired by his indefatigable struggle, a variety of institutions have come up bearing the name ‘Al-Ameen’ tag in Bengal, Assam, Maharashtra, and Kerala.
An inveterate believer in single-mindedness, he declined the offer of a Legislative Council seat during the tenure of Chief Minister Bommai. He was instrumental in setting up Karnataka Baitul Hujjaj in Mumbai in early 1980s, during the era when most Haj pilgrims would have to inevitably stay there before embarking on sea voyages. His ventures in the field of finance and banking however did not achieve similar measure of success. Amanath Coop. Bank suffered setback due to mounting NPAs and moratorium from the RBI. It ran well for the first 25 years. Laxity in pursuit of debtors rendered it sick. It is now a pale shadow of its former self. The Al-Ameen Islamic Financial Investment Corporation had to be liquidated after it failed to ensure the return of the money to investors. A lot many people lost their investments. He attributed these failures to Group’s inexperience in handling banking and financial institutions and betrayal by some former close confidants.
He had told this scribe, trust in God, extreme patience, firm determination, consistent struggle, company of the courageous and distance from the cowards, and ignoring the unhealthy criticism were the guiding principles behind his mission and enabled him to achieve success in bringing about change. In his death the community and the State has lost a dauntless fighter for social change among the subaltern segments of the society.
Notes & references
* A student from the college rose to become Minister of External Affairs in Iran.
** Al-Ameen Medical College at Bijapur was sanctioned in 1984 during the tenure of Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde. Dental, Pharmacy and Nursing Colleges bear the same prefix “Al-Ameen”. Though these colleges and the Al-Ameen Hospital in Bengaluru still bear the Al-Ameen name, they have been taken over by a Muslim tycoon who has inducted his family members as controlling trustees. Al-Ameen Society had to take this step mainly due to financial stringency in the wake of Amanath Coop Bank becoming a sick institution.
*** Prominent among them was Haji Abdulghaffar Lateef Tayub (HALT), a vanaspati manufacturer; timber merchant C. M. Alimullah khan; Md. Hassan Sait, proprietor Auto Associates; Azam Jan of Janson Carpets; and, Raheem Khalili and Rahmatullah Khan, an Karnataka Govt officer who had retired from the Dept of Finance.