Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, commonly remembered as Maulana Azad, rose to prominence through his work as a journalist, publishing works critical of the British Raj in the early 1920s. A powerful writer and an equally stimulating orator, his sway over the Muslim communities was considered a threat by the government which looked for every opportunity to clip his wings and restrain his activities. But Azad took these tribulations gracefully and came to play a very decisive role as a senior leader of the Independence movement. Like his pen-name Azad, which meant free, here was a man who relentlessly strove to remove the shackles of incapacious thinking challenging its rigidity, wisely integrating the munificence of Islam and Pluralism into the folds into the folds of nationhood.
In an unconventional form of storytelling this book seeks to provide the thrill and opportunity of being a historian and an explorer, to each reader. A compilation of confidential facsimiles of notes, memos and letters, rich and varied, they unfold Azad's story like never before. The detailed 'History sheets' compiled by the Intelligence Bureau, are as informative as entertaining, conveying the tentativeness at the heart of an anxious and apprehensive government. The other documents reflect government policies in relation to the popular upsurge that had taken place in some parts of the country, an agitation that also drew Azad into the nationalist fold. Post-Independence communications on policies that were gradually shaping the young independent India also shed ample light on Azad's robust conviction of combining the essence of Islam and pluralism in building a new nation.
Internationally known historian and another and a Padmashree awardee, Mushirul Hasan has among other notable contributions, explored the lives of the margins of the dominate discourse on India nationalism. He is a biographer of Mohamed Ali, M.A Anasari and has published their correspondence and speeches. He has edited a collection of essays on Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad and Co-authored a major biography of Jamia Millia Islamia. He has introduced the proceedings of the Indian National Congress, of which the first volume is already out. His much awaited new book Political Prisoners, with Niyogi Books is due to published soon.
Mushirul Hasan has served as Vice-Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia, and as Director General of the National Archives of India. Professor Hasan has recently been awarded the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship for his project Roads to Freedom: Prison, Prisoners and Colonialism.
During a recent visit to the Vice Chancellor's office at the Jamia Millian Islamia, after more than three years, I was surprised to discover a bust of Mohamed Ali Jauhar next to the Ddward Said Hall.
Why Mohamed Ali, of all people? I asked myself.
Indeed, he was one of Jamia's founders and its first Vice – Chancellor, but was he not better known for his role in the Khilafat movement of the early 1920S? He foresaw the closure of Jamia Millia in 1925 and turned his attention to restoring the glory of the Aligarh Muslim University. It was Ansari, Congress president in 1927 who, besides representing Jamia's liberal and secular ethos, was the one to save it from extinction. (Mushirul Hasan and Rakhshanda Jalil, Parteners in Freedom: Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, 2010).
Why then, in the communitarian narratives, the myths around men like Mohamed Ali are so assiduously created and sustained while individuals like Ansari, who were committed patriots, get mercilessly relegated to the background? After all he served as Mahatma Gandhi's 'Infallible Guide' on Hindu Muslim unity.
Another versatile scholar and a reliable guide to his community, another serious minded patriot who has not been able to claim his rightful place in history, is Maulana Azad. In the turmoil raging around the Muslim communities at the time of Partition, he secured them the comfort of peace and security. We can see in his exchanges with the Muslim League leaders the contrast between a social and democratic ideal – which pride of place of place gives way to the interest of all sections of society, and an alternative ideal – in which the state, apart from being a theocracy, excludes its non-Muslim citizens in the nation building project.
To Francis robinson, a distinguished British historian of Islam in the subcontinent, the relative neglect of the tombs of Abul Kalam Azad and Ansari suggests that of us many have lost interest in keeping the memories of these stalwarts alive. It also suggests that we may no longer value as before, and perhaps may not even know the principles which they stood for.
Elsewhere, i have referred to the wilful scholarly neglect (Mushirul hasan, ed,. Islam and Nationalism: Reflections on Abul Kalam Azad, Delhi, 1992). With the exception of the works of I.H. Douglas and V.N. Datta, all that has appeared, especially in Urdu, gives but a blurred, and at times a seriously distorted picture of Azad's career. Writings in Pakistan, in particular, have resulted in a deplorable one – sidedness. With the notable exception of Abu Salaman Shahjahanpuri, most authors betray their own conservative prejudice. Fortunately, Syed Sayidain Hameed, D.R. Goyal and Rizwan Qaiser have given us a consistent and penetrating account.
I must come to the more general reflections to which this work as a whole gives rise. Some extremely confidential documents from the bulwark of this compendium, the nature of which has been revealed in the 'Introduction". This collection also contains excerpts from speeches and verses, sometimes handwritten by Azad in Urdu, which seek to locate him in the history of nationalism, illuminating his role as a reformer and interpreter of his times and underlining his ceaseless quest for a united India.
I chose this unusual form to tell Azad's story because of the authentic nature of the archived documents. Regrettably, it has been difficult to trace some of the events around a picture or the exact year they were taken. I sincerely hope readers enjoy this unconventional form storytelling, which seeks to provide the thrill and opportunity of being a historian and an explorer, to each one.
As early as 1959, professor Mohammad Mujeeb, then Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, requested permission to look into the records of the National Archives to write about Azad, among other people. Prime Minister's Secretariat wrote to the joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, putting forward his request. But Mujeeb was not technically eligible to consult those records, noted the Under Secreatary, in a memo. However, a draft letter grating permission, subject to scrutiny of all excerpts, was circulated and it finally got approve.
Eighty seven pages of these excerpts taken from the National Archives, spanning the years 1914 to 1919, were carefully scrutinised, but severe doubts were expressed regarding releasing them because of the volatile nature of some of the portions which defined Azad as a pan – Islamist. The Joint Secretary thought it was prudent to withhold them for reasons more than one. Since the information had already been communicated to the author, it was concluded that any succinct observation of Azad being a zealot at one time in the cause of pan – Islamism could not be withheld, even if the excerpts were not released. It was therefore left to the better judgment and the nationalistic feelings of Professor Mujeeb to use those excerpts appropriately. These excerpts were finally released in Dec 1959.
Some of those very excerpts, along with some very confidential document, facsimiles of notes, memos and letters from the bulwark of this book. Rich and varied, they unfold the story of Azad's career and of Indian nationalism. Among them, of particular interest to the reader would be the detailed 'history sheets' compiled by the Intelligence Bureau, which are as informative as entertaining. The other documents reflect government policies in relation to the popular upsurge that had taken place in some of the country, an upsurge that also drew Azad into the nationalist fold.
In other words, the long and short notes and comments acquaint us with the working of the colonial bureaucracy and its very different appreciation of nationalist aspirations. It is true that the officials speak in different voices, but it is also true that many of them baulked at imminent dangers from Afghanistan, a possible pan – Islamic of the revolutionary movement and with the emergence of Mahatma Gandhi on the political firmament. It may be claimed that a vein of Humanitarian sentiment, sometimes quixotic, sometimes capricious, mingled with the coarser stuff of political calculation. But, in general, the government of India took recourse to regressive legislation, such as the Rowlatt Bills (1919), and developed an elaborate intelligence network to monitor 'radical' activism.
These documents reveal the truth in a manner of speaking for those who wrote the numerous notes and comments had no idea that they would be so critically scrutinised by their coming generation off Historians. They wrote for the moment to provide to their officers, at least from their point of view, a correct picture of the political events and movements. In the end, though, they travelled down the road without overcoming passion, prejudice, and hysteria.
To maintain a degree of thematic unity we have divided the matter into three parts an arranged them chronologically. Each part is preceded by an introductory note that supplements the existing information on Azad.
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