MUSHIRUL HASAN | 8 JUNE, 2018
AMU: Inheritor Not of Colonial Rule and Partition But of a Modernist and Reformist Legacy
AMU: Inheritor Not of Colonial Rule and Partition But of a Modernist and Reformist Legacy
Editors Note: Professor Mushirul Hasan, a world renowned historian, and alumni of Aligarh Muslim University wrote this excellent article in 2003 for the India International Centre quarterly. An important voice Hasan is not well now but this article remains relevant today when the Aligarh Muslim University is under attack from right wing forces who have little idea of its history, and absolutely none of the contribution it has made to the pluralistic, secular discourse of India since. The Citizen with permission from Zoya Hasan, a scholar and wife of Professor Hasan, is reproducing the article that places AMU in the midst of Indian history
Ah yaad-i raftagaan ki bhi himmat nahin rahi
Yaaron ne kitni door basai hai bastiyaan
(Memories of the past cannot be invoked
Friends have moved their abodes so far away…)
— Firaq Gorakhpuri
Jawaharlal Nehru would have noticed quite a number of familiar faces in the sprawling convocation pandal. Next to him on the podium sat Nawab Mohammad Ismail Khan, the vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University. Adorning the front row of seats in the audience were members of the Muslim landed gentry handsomely dressed in their black achkans. There were others as well on that wintry afternoon in January 1948, awed by the occasion and by the Prime Minister's presence. He was at Aligarh Muslim University on a mission of goodwill, to provide the healing touch, allay the fears of a beleaguered intelligentsia, and assure them of a safe future. Listening with rapt attention to his eloquent speech, the audience admired his breadth of vision, and felt relieved that the university, having fallen on evil days, would have its rightful place in Nehru's India.
Long after this visit, the story doing the rounds was that the university's saviour was no other than Nehru. This image of him stayed until the late sixties and early nineteen seventies, even though the university, tainted by its association with the Pakistan movement radical in the 1940s,had shrugged off its past and moved into the present.
Those privileged to be its students did not carry the cultural and ideological baggage of the Partition days; instead, they saw themselves as the inheritors of the great modernist and reformist legacy pioneered by Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of the M.A.O. College.
They were reminded of what Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the first education minister of free India, had said about Syed Ahmad challenging traditional values and outmoded beliefs to further the forces of change. He had declared: "The battle was fought here in Aligarh and Aligarh is the visible embodiment of the victory of the forces of progress."
Vishwa Bharati had its Rabindranath Tagore, Banaras Hindu University its Madan Mohan Malaviya. On the other hand, Syed Ahmad was the Muslim communities' prized trophy. Quite rightly, Muhammad Iqbal described him as 'the first modem Muslim to catch a glimpse of the positive character of the age that was coming,' and 'the first Indian Muslim who felt the need for a fresh orientation of Islam and worked for it.'
Aligarh had its own share of writers, poets, artists, musicians, and scholars. And because India's history has a strong majoritarian perspective, and, in some respects a pronounced Bengali bias, most educated Indians have scarcely heard of them. With India's cultural histories being contested and fractured, the voices of 'Muslim' poets, writers and intellectuals (they themselves did not see themselves as Muslims per se) are either unheard or brutally stifled. The result is for everybody to see: Mirza Ghalib, India's greatest poet in the nineteenth century, is, today, in his own words, Main andalib gulshan-i na-afrida hun (I am the bulbul of the garden uncreated).
Iqbal is dismissed as an 'Urdu' poet, whereas Tagore is said to represent the 'Indian' genius speaking the universal language of love and compassion. People know of Faiz Ahmad Faiz, but how many have heard of Hasrat Mohani, Yas Yagana Changezi, N.M. Rashid, and Firaq Gorakhpuri? With some notable exceptions, most progressive writers and poets in Urdu too have faded into oblivion.
This is a contentious story. Let me therefore revert to the confidence and buoyancy of Aligarh's campus life during my student days from 1964 to 1969. As Aligarh's first vice- chancellor after Independence, Zakir Husain's eclectic vision and breadth of outlook stood in sharp contrast to the growing parochial tendencies in the institutions located in Uttar Pradesh.
He tried to disassociate the university from the Muslim League past, provide a modernist and radical thrust to it, and harness the younger teachers' intellectual energies to great effect. In 1948, the year Zakir Husain joined Aligarh, an atmosphere of gloom and uncertainty prevailed on campus. But when he left in 1956 as Bihar's governor, he had already turned things around.
His able and energetic successor, B.H. Zaidi, had facilitated the smooth accession of the princely state of Rampur to the Union. Now, in his new role, he carried forth Zakir Husain's unfinished agenda. And because of the elegant and finely proportioned buildings built by him, including the library named after Maulana Azad, Kennedy House, the Polytechnic and the Engineering College, he became Aligarh's Shahjahan. These modem structures, combined with the grand courts of the late nineteenth century, reveal purpose and achievement.
Aligarh's Islamic content was, contrary to popular perception, next to nothing. Sure enough, the university conducted its teaching and research programmes in Urdu, Arabic, Persian, and Islamic Studies; but so also did other universities. Most students and teachers were, admittedlyMuslims, and yet the campus ethos was neither 'Muslim' nor Islamic per se. Hindu-Muslim tension in the city recurred, but this did not polarise our sentiments. Many of our teachers were non-Muslims; so were our best friends. I do not recall any of my Muslim teachers making us aware of our Muslim or Islamic identity. We read what our counterparts in Delhi, Allahabad, and Banaras did.
Oddly enough, the Shia-Sunni divide rather than Hindu-Muslim antagonism became more and more apparent to us. While the Medical College and the Engineering College recruited scores of non-Muslim teachers, the Sunni establishment resented the appointment of three Shia vice-chancellors—Zaidi, Ali Yavar Jung and Badmddin Tyabji after Zakir Husain. Over the years, I discovered the anti-Shia sentiment was equally pronounced in several other Muslim institutions.
When, for example, my father joined the Jamia Millia Islamia in the mid- 1960s to establish the history department, he was explicitly told by its vice-chancellor not to appoint 'communists' and 'Shias'. When I became pro-vice-chancellor in the same university in February 1992, anti-Shia feelings, though dormant for a while, were heightened during a protracted controversy over the next few years.
Aligarh was, admittedly, socially conservative. But it was not the hotbed of bigotry or religious intolerance. Girls observed purdah, but not as widely as one would imagine. Campus life did not exactly pulsate with new ideas, but spaces for expressing creative energies existed. Mohammad Habib (1895-1971), who had studied with D.S. Margoliouth at New College, Oxford, inspired an entire generation of students. Few teachers of history and political science can ever have had so many pupils who were later to win distinction as scholars.
He retired in 1958, but contemporaries remember his gracious and courteous bearing, the eagerness of his talk, and the humility that endeared him to those who knew him well. Hamza Alavi, the eminent sociologist, had this to say:
What saved my soul at Aligarh (1942-44): was the personal friendship and future kindness of that great historian, Professor Habib. I went there with a letter of introduction to Mrs. Habib from her cousin, Maryam Khala, the wife of the late Mr. Justice Hatim Tyabji, who were our close family friends. At Aligarh Prof. Habib stood ten feet tall in the midst of the mediocrity that surrounded him. He was a source of inspiration and knowledge.
Hamza Alavi soon gravitated to radical circles, though his involvement with left politics began with the rather mundane matter of food. He developed close friendships with many comrades, including Sajjad Zaheer and Sibte Hasan, but did not join the Communist Party "because of serious reservations about its blatantly undemocratic character."
The Aligarh historians promoted the study of medieval Indian life in different ways. Nurul Hasan, in particular, did much for furthering historical study. His writing talents dried up after he published a few seminal papers, including one on "Nur Jahan's Junta"; but he lent much intellectual support to young and upcoming Marxist historians like Irfan Habib, Athar Ali, and Iqtidar Alam Khan. He talked freely, with a touch of formality, in short incisive questions; he listened as easily and naturally as he spoke. His circle of friends was large.
I remember the excitement when we set our eyes on E.J. Hobsbawm, S. Gopal, Romila Thapar, and Parthasarthy Gupta. Some of us still recall our endearing teacher Noman Siddiqi, who, in his laconic style, insisted on pronouncing Hobsbawm as "Hobbs-bom".
These historians wrote books that set new standards of scholarship. Moving away from elite perspectives and the communal claptrap, they brought alive the people's history through a study of agrarian relations, and the very many forms of exploitation in the rural hinterland. Satish Chandra published a major book on parties and politics in the Mughal court.
My father Mohibbul Hasan had moved to Aligarh from Calcutta, and earned respect for his study of Tipu Sultan. K.A. Nizami, who dug deep into the social and religious history of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, excelled as a teacher; his main strength lay in his clear thinking, and his words carried weight. He turned to the Persian texts and followed the lead of the evidence, and rarely indulged in bold generalisations. His scholarship was to continue for many decades, though he became drawn into university politics for awhile.
The elegantly dressed cigar smoking Abdul Waheed Qureishy was great fun. He knew his Lewis Namier, Herbert Butterfield, and Dorothy Marshall. The only problem with him was that he rarely went beyond the reign of George III. We were left to read the rest of British history on our own, or seek the help of the two young lecturers, Raj Kumar Trivedi and Arshad Ali Azmi, who were also familiar with the secondary literature on Bismarck.
Irfan Habib was, of course, the rising star on the intellectual firmament. Though self-effacing, we knew full well that his agrarian history of the Mughals was a masterly piece of work that made its readers think, and added a lively, stimulating interest in economic history. Irfan used to ride a bicycle then, as he does now. His extremely charming economist wife, Saira, drove an ambassador car.
We were fortunate in so far as the history department attracted leading scholars of medieval India from all over the country and from overseas. Amongst them I remember A.B.M. Habibullah, who taught at the University of Dacca; Mahdi Husain, a leading authority on Muhammad bin Tughlaq; and Hasan Askari, the legendary teacher from Patna.
I remember them also because they stayed with us at Haider Villa. K.M. Ashraf, a brilliant historian who should have been teaching in Aligarh and not at Delhi's Kirori Mai College, knocked at our door virtually every morning to demand pm from my mother. Over the years he and my father had exchanged letters on political issues that were subsequently sent to his German wife in East Berlin.
Aligarh had a galaxy of scholars. K.G. Saiyidain profiles them in his book, Mujhe kehna hai kuch apni zabaan se, and so does Ale Ahmad Suroor's autobiography. Although they had retired long before our days, their reputation was intact. We heard of Hadi Hasan, the London- educated professor of Persian, Rashid Ahmad Siddiqi, the Urdu scholar with a pungent sense of humour, Haider Khan, the science professor, and Mukhtar Hamid Ali, the popular English teacher.
It is worth mentioning that in the 60s, Abdul Alim, Munibur Rahman and Maqbul Ahmed, rather than the Islamists, dominated the departments of Arabic and Islamic Studies. Alim Sahib, a major disaster as vice- chancellor, had been a key figure in the Progressive Writers' Movement.
Munib, a poet now settled in the United States, lived in London from 1947 to 1953 before joining Aligarh, whereas Maqbul, a specialist on West Asia, had been a pupil of Ms. Ann K.S. Lambton at the University of London. Both had European wives, who added a certain variety and depth to the social landscape. As children we visited Maqbul Sahib's house called "Allah wali Kothi", enjoyed the cookies his wife baked, and spent hours playing with their daughter Zohra and my brother Najmul Hasan's girlfriend.
My father had ceased to be a fiery revolutionary, but he was radical enough to draw left-wing intellectuals to Haider Villa. Here they dined frequently, partaking of the elaborate Lakhnavi cuisine cooked by my mother, drank whisky, and engaged in heated discussions. I remember V.G. Kiernan staying with us on a couple of occasions. In those days the Marxist intellectuals gathered to discuss what was a hotly debated issue: the great divide between Moscow and Peking. Victor Kiernan, who had translated Mohammad Iqbal and Faiz Ahmad Faiz into English, was Professor at the University of Edinburgh. He and my father spent many years together in Amritsar and Lahore, along with Faiz and M.D. Tasir, the poet and literary critic.
Moonis Raza, who headed the All India Students' Federation at Aligarh in the early 1940s and returned to the university as lecturer, dominated the political landscape until the late 1960s.4 With his expansive style, he, more than anyone else, gave a much-needed sense of the value of discipline and direction to the study of geography in India. Though feudal in his habits and life style, he could also be frugal, austere, and unconventional in his ways. He was a most exuberant man, and seemed to put all his strength into whatever he said or did. His genial personality, remembered especially by his colleagues at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, opened doors to him wherever he went.
Moonis Sahib's brother, the sherwani-clad and pan-chewing Rahi Masoom Reza (1927-1992), became a leading Hindi writer and, in Bollywood, wrote songs and scripts, including the script for B.R. Chopra's television series, Mahabhamt. In his Aligarh days he was a bohemian, radical and revolutionary. Indeed, he talked of
Yeh chiragh jaise lamhe kahin raiga na jayen
koi kwhab dekh dalo koi inquilab lao.
This is what he wrote as the introduction to his celebrated Hindi novel Adha Gaon (Half-A Village), now translated by Gillian Wright:
The Jana Sangh says that Muslims are outsiders. How can I pre-sume to say they're lying? But I must say that I belong to Ghazipur.My bonds with Gangauli are unbreakable. It's not just a village, it's my home. Home....I will remain Saiyid Masoom Reza Abidi of Ghazipur, wherever my grandfather hailed from. And I give no one the right to say to me, 'Rahi! You don't belong to Gangauli, and so get out and go, say, to Rae Bareli.' Why should I go, sahib? I will not go.
Moonis and Rahi were essentially kind-hearted, friendly and generous, though Moonis Sahib, or bhai as he was affectionately called, was prone to encouraging mediocrity during his long career as an academic administrator. He, then living in Vali Manzil, Badar Bagh, in close proximity to Khurshidul Islam, wrote my English speeches for debates; Rahi Sahib, reputed to be Aligarh's Casanova, dictated to me the Urdu version.
Rahi Sahib harnessed his creative energies even after moving to Mumbai, following a marriage that raised many an eyebrow in Aligarh circles. Though Moonis Sahib won laurels as Rector of the Jawaharlal Nehru University he concluded his innings as Delhi University's vice-chancellor somewhat ingloriously.
(Next: Why were so many intellectuals in Aligarh drawn to Marxism? )
AMU Part 2: History and Tradition of a University That Gave Birth Why were so many intellectuals in Aligarh drawn to Marxism? For one, the processes had begun in the 1920s when attempts were made to synthesise socialism with Islam. This was the legacy of the firebrand Urdu poet, Hasrat Mohani. In the 1930s, socialism was the new revelation that young idealists could invoke to exorcise communal rancours, by uniting the majority from all communities in a struggle against their common poverty, and to make independence a blessing to the poor as well as to the elite. Their fervour played a considerable role in the widening gap between the 'left' and the 'right', as people began to say. The university had on its rolls Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, Sardar Jafri, Sibte Hasan, the writer who migrated to Pakistan, and Ansar Harvard, founder of the Students Federation and a devoted follower of Subhas Chandra Bose.Abbas and Ansar Harvani wrote their memoirs that, sadly, so few have read. These capture life at Aligarh vividly.
Eventually though, the radical trends, though kept alive in certain circles, were overwhelmed by the tide of Muslim nationalism. However, once the Aligarh architects of Muslim nationalism left for Pakistan, the socialists and the communists, encouraged by Zakir Husain, moved to Aligarh from many places in north India. Socialism carried the same poetic and romantic appeal as poetic blasphemy in the works of the Persian poets Hafiz, Mirza Ghalib, and Hasrat Mohani. When Hindustan published Asrarul Haq Majaz's poem Andheri Raat ka Musafir (The Traveller in the Dark Night'), the poem inspired his young readers. One line ran thus:
Khuda soya huai hai, Ahraman mehshar ba-daman hai
God is asleep and Ahirman comes bringing doomsday to him.
This is not to suggest that Aligarh had suddenly become the stormcentre of the Communist movement. It had not. The Students' Federation was still a tame affair, drawing only a handful at Al-Hamra, the study circle tucked away across the imposing Sulaiman Hall Gate. Internal factions reigned supreme, and endless ideological wrangling was the order of the day. As a result, the left front split into numerous fractions.
The traditional elements in Aligarh society, spearheaded in the 1950s and 60s by the pro-vice chancellor, Dr. Yusuf Husain Khan, were strong—so much so that girls were prohibited from appearing on stage. The History Department had its own share of traditionalists, who were invariably pitted against the left historians. Hence, both Satish Chandra and Mohibbul Hasan had to leave Aligarh.
Amidst the cacophony of noises, it is quite remarkable that a number of women teachers and students occupied the cultural spaces. Though the butt of ridicule and criticism, the three Zaidi sisters, as they were known, actively organised mushairas and music concerts and staged plays.
Unconventional in their demeanour and often provocative in their style, especially when one of them would light a cigarette in full public view, they were serious academics and at the same time, activists. Grand daughters of the leading poet and writer, Altaf Husain Ali a contemporary of Syed Ahmad Khan, Sabira, Sajida and Zahida broke away from family traditions to bring much richness to Aligarh's intellectual and cultural ambience.
Ghazala Ansari was one of their colleagues, and her brother Ziaul Hasan was a communist working with the Patriot for years. So was her husband Anwar Ansari, a soft-spoken individual who belonged to Lucknow's traditional Firangi Mahal family. Although the Tyabji family in Bombay had established this trend of women breaking away from established family traditions in Bombay, it was not so common among Muslim elites in north India.
By the time I entered the university in 1964 the Progressive Writers' Movement had withered away. Yet, Aligarh had its share of Progressive Writers and poets. Prominent amongst them was Khurshidul Islam, overshadowed for a while by Rashid Ahmad Siddiqi, head of the department. Ale Ahmad Suroor had also moved from Lucknow to Aligarh in the mid-1950s, often mistaken for my father owing to a striking resemblance.
Moin Ahsan Jazbi was around, but his poetry had lost its old vigour; so was the young lecturer Khalilur Rahman Azmi, who had been stabbed, thrown out of the train, and left for dead during the Partition violence. We had easy access to Waheed Akhtar, a fine writer and poet who taught philosophy, and the brilliant up-coming poet Shaharyar whom I got to know well as a post-graduate student.
Asghar Bilgrami, the political scientist, was one of our favourite teachers. Invariably, he talked of his days in Geneva and complained of Aligarh's stifling atmosphere. He, Jamal Khwaja, the philosophy professor, and Aulad Ahmad Siddiqi, the economist, extended their fulsome support to our liberal concerns. They patronised the Secular Society that was needlessly targeted by the CPI (M) group.
In 1968—69 the hub of cultural activities was Kennedy House, with its imposing mural by M.F. Husain. While the muezzin called the faithful to prayers, one could hear Beethoven and Mozart in one of its music rooms specially devoted to western classical music.
Or, one had the option of listening to Indian classical music. For the all-night qazvivali sessions, we'd go to the shrine of Barchi Bahadur, a little distance from the district court; for nautanki, Farid Faridi's favourite pastime, to the exhibition ground. Thanks to Asadur Rahman, the English lecturer and his vibrant wife Shaista Rahman, one had a fair mix of English plays.
My brother took the part of Teiresias in Oedipus Rex of Sophocles, the lead role in Galsworthy's She Stoops to Conquer and acted Gentleman Caller in Tennese William's Glass Menagerie. He also acted in George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man. Rahman's departure to United States and joining Brooklyn College created a void in our lives.
Lest I forget, the star performer then and later was, admittedly, Naseeruddin Shah. He and I took part in a Mock Parliament session in Delhi, and in a debating competition held at Jaipur. Muzaffar Ali, then a painter, Asghar Wajahat, now a famous creative writer in Hindi, Madhosh Bilgrami, and Humayun Zafar Zaidi were a part of a lively literary group. They congregated at a friends house on Marris Road and exchanged their poems over rum and whisky.
Aligarh was the site of not just the annual mushaira held at the sprawling Exhibition Grounds across the railway line—the great divide between the town and gown—but equally within university precincts. Thus we had the good fortune of listening to Firaq Gorakhpuri, Makhdoom Mohiuddin, Akhtar-ul-Iman, Sardar Jafri, and KaifiAzmi.
I recall Makhdoom reciting Ek Chambeli ke Manwa tale at Al-Hamra, Firaq prefacing his ghazal with 'Bhaiyya-re' and Akhtar-ul Iman, the poet from Anglo-Arabic College (now Dr. Zakir Husain College) and Aligarh-educated, reciting the following lines from his poem 'The Footprint' or Nacjsh-i Pa:
Where have life's travellers gone?
What is this world?
No beginning, no end.
The shackles of time yet bind it so fast.
Where can I stand free of those chains?
Yet, Aligarh had its pitfalls. Facilities at the university were excellent, but, with few notable exceptions, the institution did not produce scholars or scientists of excellence. Most people were obsessed with the preservation of the university's 'minority' character, and their conversations centred round the future of the minorities. There were no bookshops, except the Naya Kitab Ghar, run by Kishen Singh, an enthusiast communist, and married to the sister of the surgeon Nasim Ansari, also a member of the Firangi Mahal family. Social life, too, was restricted. There were no restaurants and no decent cinema halls, except for Tasvir
Mahal that screened English films only on Sundays. With limited avenues for self-expression, faculty members developed lazy habits. Comfort and leisure was all that mattered to them. Although Delhi was only eighty miles away, a distance covered by the Kalka Mail in just three hours, the capital seemed beyond the realm of most people's imagination.
The segregation of boys and girls was still maintained in lecture rooms—though the winds of change were beginning to alter attitudes. More and more young women from the Women's College would hop on a rickshaw and travel to the campus to take part in cultural and literary activities.
It was difficult for them to visit hostels, but Barbara, later married to my brother Najmul and my friend Salma turned out to be more defiant. More often than not, opportunities of meeting one's girl friend were limited to Friday afternoons.
That is when we would dress up and head towards the Women's College, a remarkable institution headed by an equally remarkable lady, Mumtaz Haider, the mother of Salman Haider, India's former Foreign Secretary. She was indulgent towards our group, and supported our activities, including the publication of a fortnightly magazine, Domain, edited by my brother (the first issue in 15 October 1967). Jokingly, she'd refer to us the English-speaking types as the 'East India Company'.
Though the forces of traditionalism were entrenched, they were hardly visible to us, the students. I had a taste of their strength much later in 1968, when the traditionalists, accusing me of being a communist and a pseudo-secularist, which I was not, mobilised their resources to defeat me in the Student's Union election.
Of all persons, Muzaffar Alam, a Deoband alim and now Professor at the University of Chicago, issued a fatwa in my support. Whether this or the hard work put in by my liberal/secular friends tilted the balance in my favour or not is hard to tell. What brought comfort to all of us was the narrow margin of my defeat. Liberal and left wing teachers, who had predicted my defeat by a huge margin, expressed much joy at my performance. The Vice-Chancellor Ali Yavar Jung was particularly delighted, and soon, I became his unofficial ambassador to various educational institutions.
Ali Yavar Jung became, tragically, the victim of a massive conspiracy. A group of students, backed by teachers and by certain key administrators, organised a brutal assault on his life on 25 April 1965. Today, that incident reminds me of my own trials and tribulations at the Jamia Millia Islamia from April 1992 to September 1997.
Ali Yavar Jung, a suave person with an extremely dignified appearance, was targeted, along with some left-wing teachers that were present at the meeting of the University Court. Ali Yavar Jung's courage and resource did not fail during this desperate time. Yet, this was Aligarh at its worst. Battered and bruised, I remember some of them turning up at my sister's wedding on the same evening.
This assault traumatised campus life for years to come. M.C. Chagla, the Education Minister, over-reacted; and the ensuing ordinances stifled Aligarh's otherwise liberal and democratic ethos. Thereafter, a retrograde legislation which the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi disapproved, was pushed through. Though left-wing intellectuals berated the ordinance, their support in the university had steadily eroded owing to personal squabbles and sectarian visions.
Tired and aging leftist stalwarts faded into oblivion. Others moved elsewhere; Moonis Raza to Srinagar and Nurul Hasan to Delhi, first as member of Rajya Sabha and later as Minister of Education. Historians like Irfan Habib kept the CPI (M) flag flying doggedly; but most saw the prospect of a revolution fading before their eyes. This symbolised the death of a radical tradition.
Zakir Husain had claimed in 1955: 'The way Aligarh works, the way Aligarh thinks, the contribution Aligarh makes to Indian life ... will largely determine the place Mussalmans will occupy in the pattern of Indian life.' Aligarh has negotiated with its past and succeeded in creating a niche for itself in the country's academic structures. At the same time, its alumni face the uphill task of preparing the fraternity of teachers and students to meet the challenges of this millennium. They need to complete Syed Ahmad's unfinished agenda of fostering liberal and modernist ideas and take the lead, once and for all, in debating issues of education, social reforms and gender justice. They need to interpret Islam afresh in the light of world-wide intellectual currents, come to terms with the winds of change and guide the 120 million Muslims within the framework provided by India's democratic and secular constitution, and equip them to cope with the harsh realities of life. This is what the great visionary Syed Ahmad would have expected them to do. Marshall Hodgson observed over two decades ago, 'the problem of the Muslims of India is the problem of the Muslims in the world.'
Observed one of the university's alumni in 1976:
Aligarh needs to be shaken out of the ennui that has set in. With India's largest population of educated, intelligent Muslims collected in one place, Aligarh can provide, by its example and its ideas, the lead to the rest of the community. Muslims will have to pull themselves together, end the search for scapegoats and do something to help themselves. Minorities can never survive on government doles.
Read Part 2: http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/4/14068/AMU-Part-2-Why-Were-So-Many-Intellectuals-in-Aligarh-Drawn-to-Marxism-