About the Book
India wins Freedom has at last won its own freedom. The full text of this autobiographical narrative was confined, under seal, in the National Library, Calcutta, and in the National Archives, New Delhi, for thirty years.
In 1958 the ‘narrator’ Maulana Azad and his ‘writer’ Humayun Kabir had offered for publication a slightly abridged and revised version which left out ‘incidents and reflections mainly of a personal character’. That version underwent three large printings in the first year of underwent three large printings in the first year of publication and had been reprinted many times since then.
What we now have is the complete text, released in September 1988 by a court directive. Not only have all the words and phrases of the original been reproduced; the original tone and temper have been fully restored. The text now reveals that the controversy that has simmered for so long about the hitherto unpublished pages was fully justified. Those who have not read the earlier volume will find the present one as new and alive as it was when completed and put away in 1958.
Many of us may not agree fully with Maulana Azadd’s forthright views on persons and events of the period (1935-48) but we shall be compelled to admire anew the honesty and courage of a great son of India.
MAULANA ABUL KALAM AZAD (1888-1958) was named Firoz Bahht at birth but was known in his youth as Muhiyuddin Ahmad and later adopted the pseudonym of ‘Abul kalam Azad’. He was descended from a family which came from Heart to India in Babar’s time and among his ancestors were well-known scholars and administrators. Two years after his birth in 1888in Mecca where his father Maulana Khairuddin had migrated after the 1857 Revolt, the family moved and settled in Calcutta. Azad was educated at home by his father and by private tutors. His political awakening was stimulated by the partition (later annulled) of Bengal in 1905. He travelled extensively in Iraq, Egypt, Turkey and France and had planned to visit London but his father’s illness obliged him to return home in 1908.
Maulana Azad started the Urdu weekly Al Hilal at Calcutta in July 1912. He opposed the Aligarh line of remaining aloof from the freedom movement. With the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914, the journal was banned under the press Act. He then started another Urdu weekly At Balagh, also from Calcutta, in November 1915, and this continued to be published, until March 1916 when Azad was externed under the Defence of India Regulations. The governments of Bombay, Punjab, Delhi and the united provinces banned his entry, and he went to Bihar. He was interned in Ranchi until 1 January 1920.
After his release Azad was elected President of the All India Khilafat committee (at the Calcutta session, 1920), and of the Unity conference at Delhi in 1924. He presided over the Nationalist Muslims conference at Delhi in 1924. He presided over the Nationalist Muslims conference in 1928. He was elected President of the Indian National Congress in 1923, and again in 1940, and continued to hold this office until 1946. He led the negotiations on behalf of the Congress party with the British Cabinet Mission in 1946. Later he joined free India’s first government as Minister for Education, a post he held until his death on 22February 1958.
Among his other published works are Al-Bayan (1915) and Tarjuman-ul-Quran (1933-1936) which are commentaries, Tazkirah (1916) an autobiographical work and Ghubar-i-khatir (1943), a collection of letters, all in Urdu.
When a little over two years ago I approached Maulana Azad with the request that he should write his autobiography, I never for a moment thought that it would be my melancholy duty to write a preface for the volume. He did not like to talk about his personal life and was at first reluctant to undertake the work. It was with great difficulty that he could be persuaded that, as one of the principal actors in the transfer of power from British to Indian hands, he owed a duty to posterity to record his reading of those memorable times. His reluctance was also partly due to his shattered health. He felt that he needed all his energies to cope with the burden of work imposed on him by inescapable political and administrative tasks. He finally agreed on my assuring him that I would do my best to relieve him of the actual burden of writing. This would of course mean that the India people would be denied the privilege of reading his autobiography in his own words. Indian literature in general and Urdu in particular would be the poorer for this, but even a version in English written under his direction would be better than no record at all.
I think it necessary to describe in some detail how the work has been composed. During these last two years or so, I spent on an average an hour or more every evening with Maulana Azad, except on those occasions when I had to go out of Delhi. He was a wonderful conversationalist and used to describe his experiences in vivid terms. I made fairly copious notes and also asked questions for clarification of a point or elicitation of further information. He consistently refused to speak on personal matters, but on all questions relating to public affairs, he spoke with the utmost frankness and sincerity. When I had collected sufficient material for a chapter I prepared a draft in English which I handed over to him at the earliest opportunity. He read each chapter by himself and then we went over it together. At this stage, he made many amendments by addition and alteration, as well as by omission. We proceeded in this way till I was able to give him the first draft of the completed book in September 1957.
When he had the competed text in his hands, Maulana Azad decided that some thirty pages of the text dealing with incidents and reflections mainly of a personal character should not be published for the present. He directed that a copy each of the complete text should be deposited under sealed cover in the National Library, Calcutta, and the National Archives, New Delhi. He was, however, anxious that the exclusion of these passages should not in any way alter either the outline of his picture or his general findings. I carried out the changes according to his instructions and was able to present to Maulana Azad the revised and abridged draft towards the end of November 1957.
He went through it once again during the period when I was away in Australia. After my return we went through the manuscript chapter by chapter and indeed sentence by sentence. He made some minor alterations, but there was no major change. In some cases a chapter was thus revised three or four times. On Republic Day this year, Maulana Azad said that he was satisfied with the manuscript and it could now be sent to the printers. The book as now released represents the text as finally appro9ved by him.
It was Maulana Azad's with that the book should appear in November 1958 to synchronise with his seventieth birthday. Fate however willed otherwise and he will not be with us to see the book when it appears.
As I have already stated, Maulana Azad was not in the beginning very willing to undertake the preparation of this book. As the book progressed his interest grew. In the last six months or so, he rarely missed an evening for the preparation of the manuscript. He was extremely reticent about his personal life, but in the end he volunteered to write a first volume which would have covered the earlier phases of his life and brought the story up to 1937. He did in fact approve a synopsis which, according to his own wishes, is included in this volume as its first chapter. He had also intended to write a third volume to deal with events since 1948. Unfortunately for us, these volumes will now never be written.
The work in connection with this book has been for me a labour of love and I shall feel happy if it helps in forwarding an object that was very dear to Maulana Azads heart. This is the promotion of greater understanding among the different Indian communities as a first step towards greater understating among peoples of the world. He also wished that the people of India and Pakistan should look upon one another as friends and neighbours. He regarded the Indian Council for Cultural Relations as an instrument for the achievement of this object and in his Presidential Address to the Council his last prepared and printed speech he made a fervent appeal for the strengthening of the bonds of understanding and sympathy between the people of these two States which till only a decade ago had been one undivided county. I feel that there can be no better use of any income derived from this book than to make it available to the Council for promoting better understanding among the different communities which live in India and Pakistan. Apart from a share to be paid to his nearest surviving relatives, royalties from this book will therefore go to the Council for the annual award of two prizes for the best essay on Islam by a no Muslim and on Hinduism by a Muslim citizen of India or Pakistan. In view of Maulana Azad's great love and consideration for the young, the competition will be restricted to persons of thirty or below on 22 February in any year.
Before I conclude, I with to make one other thing perfectly clear. There are opinions and judgments in this book with which I do not agree, but since my function was only to record maulana Azad's findings, it would have been highly improper to let my views colour the narrative. When he was alive, I often expressed my differences to him, and with the open mindedness which was so strong an element in his nature, he has at times modified his views to meet my criticisms. At other times he smiled in his characteristic way and said, 'These are my views and surely I have the right to express them as I will.' Now that he is no more, his views must stand in the form in which he left them.
It is difficult for any man to reflect with complete accuracy the views and opinion of another. Even when both use the same language, the change of one word may alter the emphasis and bring about a subtle difference in the shade of meaning. The difference in the genius of Urdu and English make3s the task of interpreting Maulana Azad's thoughts is rich, colourful and vigorous. English, on the other hand, is essentially a language of understatement. And when the speaker is a master of Urdu like Maulana Azad, the plight of the writer who seeks to express his thoughts in English can easily be imagined. In spite of these difficulties, I have tried to reflect as faithfully as I could the views of Maulana Azad, and I regard myself as richly rewarded by the fact that the text had met with his approval.
Preface to the 1959 edition prospectus
Congress in Office
War in Europe
I Become Congress President
A Chinese Interlude
The Cripps Mission
Ahmednagar Fort Jail
The Simla Conference
The British Cabinet Mission
The Prelude to Partition
The Interim Government
The Mountbatten Mission
The End of a Dream
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