India’s Composite Culture and Muslim Stalwarts

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Freedom Fighter Moulana Azad

Bureaucrat K Nageshwar Rao has neither read Maulana Abul Kalam Azad nor read about him nor knows his contributions to the making of Modern India. During the Nehru era, it was Azad who, as Education Minister, was shepherding the formations of IITs, Academies of Science, Lalit Kala Akademis

Ram Puniyani | Clarion India

Contrary to the present impression that Muslims are separatists due to whom the partition of India took place, the truth is that Muslims contributed to the freedom movement and upheld India’s composite culture in an equal measure.

The partition process, mainly due to the British policy of ‘divide and rule’, well assisted by Hindu and Muslim communalists, is being hidden from the popular vision in India, and Muslims in general are held responsible for the same. Not only that, the communal historiography introduced by the British to pursue their policies has become the bedrock of communal politics, and worsening of the perceptions about Muslims is in progress in India.

Yet another example of this has been a series of tweets by the bureaucrat, who is close to retirement, K. Nageshwar Rao. Contrary to the service rules, he has made statements through his tweets which are appreciative of RSS-BJP and demonise the stalwart Muslim leaders who not only contributed to the freedom movement but also later gave valuable service in laying the foundation of Independent India.

In his tweets, Rao accuses Maulana Azad and the other Muslim Education Ministers of “deracination of Hindus”. After naming “Maulana Abul Kalam Azad — 11 years (1947-58)”; “Humayun Kabir, M C Chagla & Fakruddin Ali Ahmed — 4 years (1963-67)”; and, “Nurul Hassan — 5 years (1972-77)”, he posts: “Remaining 10 years, other Leftists like VKRV Rao.”

He points out that their policies were meant to “1. Deny Hindus their knowledge, 2. Vilify Hinduism as a collection of superstitions, 3. Abrahamise Education, 4. Abrahamise Media & Entertainment, 5. Shame Hindus about their identity!  and 6. Bereft of the glue of Hinduism, Hindu society dies.”

Then he goes on to praise RSS-BJP for bringing the glory back to Hindus. These statements of his on the one hand promote hate and, on the other, are tantamount to political statements, which civil servants should not be making. CPM politburo member Brinda Karat has written a letter to Home Minister Amit Shah to take suitable action against the erring bureaucrat.

Rao begins with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Surely, Azad was one of the major leaders of the freedom movement, who was also the youngest President of INC, in 1923 and later between 1940 and 1945. He opposed the partition process tooth and nail till the very last. As the Congress President in 1923, he wrote a remarkable comment, symbolizing the urge for Hindu-Muslim unity, “If an angel descends from heaven and offers me Swaraj in 24 hours on condition that I give up Hindu-Muslim Unity, I will refuse. Swaraj we will get sooner or later; its delay will be a loss for India, but loss of Hindu-Muslim unity will be a loss for human kind”.

His biographer Syeda Hamid points out, “He spoke without an iota of doubt about how debacle of Indian Muslims has been the result of the colossal mistakes committed by Muslim League’s misguided leadership. He exhorted Muslims to make common cause with their Hindu, Sikh, Christian fellow countrymen.” He was the one who promoted the translation of Hindu scriptures Ramayan and Mahabharat into Persian.

Surely, the bureaucrat Rao, has neither read Azad nor read about him nor knows his contributions to the making of Modern India. While today, the ideological formation to which Rao seems to be pledging his commitment is critical of all that happened during the Nehru era, it was during this period when, as Education Minister, Azad was shepherding the formations of IITs, Academies of Science, Lalit Kala Akademis. It was during this period that the efforts to promote the Indian composite culture were undertaken through various steps.

The other stalwarts who are under the hammer have been outstanding scholars and giants in their own field of education. Humayun Kabir, Nurul Hasan and Dr. Zakir Hussain gave matchless ideas and practical contributions in different fields of education. One can say that contrary to the accusations, India could match up to the computer era, software and associate things due to the creation of a large manpower in these areas mainly due to these foundations which were laid down, particularly in the field of education during this period.

The charge that these ‘Muslim’ education ministers whitewashed the bloody Islamic rule is a blind repetition of the offshoot of communal historiography introduced by the British. While Kings were ruling for power and wealth, their courts had both Hindus and Muslim officers. The jaundiced vision sees this as a bloody Islamic rule but, as a matter of fact, the syncretic culture and traditions developed precisely during this period. It was during this period that Bhakti Tradition with Kabir, Tukaram, Namdeo and Tulsidas flourished. It was during this period that humane values of Sufi saints reached far and wide. It was during this period that poets like Rahim and Raskhan produced their classic literature and praise of Hindu Gods.

We also need to remind ourselves that a large number of Muslims participated in the freedom movement. Two scholars–Shamsul Islam and Nasir Ahmad–have come out with books on the myriad such freedom fighters like, to recall just a few names, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Zakir Hussain, Syed Mohammad Sharfuddin Kadri, Bakht Khan, Muzzafar Ahmad, Mohammad Abdir Rahman,, Abbas Ali, Asaf Ali, Yusuf Mehrali and Maulana Mazahrul Hague.

These are just a few of the names. The movement, led by Mahatma Gandhi, definitely laid the foundations where the composite Indian culture and respect for all religions were paramount and this is what created the Indian fraternity, one of the values which find its place in the preamble of the Indian Constitution.

This blaming of Education Ministers who were Muslims is an add-on to the process of Islamophobia in India. So, far, there have been many actions of Muslim kings which are selectively presented as being bloody. Now in the post-Independence history, the glorious contributions made by Muslim leaders are being used to further deepen the divisive process. We need to pay respects to builders of Modern India, irrespective of their religion.

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