‘It was Maulana Azad’s foresight which created the IITs, UGC, science academies across the country.’
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government has decided to not mention Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) textbooks henceforth.
Historians have criticised this move and declared that it is very unfortunate that the man who was at the forefront of India’s Indian Independence movement will not be known to future generations of Indian students.
Maulana Azad was against the division of the country and had openly advocated against the forming of Pakistan.
He had warned the Muslim community in 1947 that Pakistan would be disastrous for Muslims left behind in India and even for those who would migrate to Pakistan.
Post Independence he became India’s first education minister, which post he occupied till his death in 1958.
“Azad’s (education) policy was first Indian and then global,” Syeda Hameed, Maulana Azad’s biographer, tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com in an e-mail interview.
Hameed — a former member of the then Planning Commission — is the author of India’s Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Islamic Seal on India’s Independence: Abul Kalam Azad — a Fresh Look and Maulana Azad, Islam and the Indian National Movement.
As a scholar on Maulana Azad’s life, how do you see the NCERT move to remove references to him from its textbooks?
It is gross violence on future generations who will not know a man who was known all over the world as an ‘apostle of Hindu-Muslim unity’.
Why is it important to learn about Maulana Azad’s life in today’s India? What role did he play in India’s freedom movement?
Maulana Azad jumped into the freedom struggle in 1912 — before Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru.
He was the youngest Congress president in 1923.
He was indicted by the British government in his statement Quol e Faisal before entering Alipore jail in 1916.
He negotiated with the Cripps Mission in 1942.
He started basic education based on the Wardha scheme of Gandhiji. He remained steadfast in opposing Partition until the end.
Why was Maulana Azad chosen to lead India’s education department after Independence? Was it because he developed a deep friendship with Jawaharlal Nehru when they spent time together in jail at Ahmednagar Fort?
He was offered any portfolio of his choice, but he chose education as it was most crucial for the newly independent India.
It’s most erroneous to say that it had anything to do with ‘friendship with Nehru’. They were comrades and fellow travellers from the very start.
Distribution of portfolios among a bunch of young freedom fighters had nothing to do with ‘deep friendships’.
When the British left India, India’s literacy rate was just 12%. What were the steps Maulana Azad took to ensure India became a 100% literate country?
It was his commitment to education which led him to collect the best minds in the country to move the agenda.
It was his foresight which created the IITs, UGC, science academies across the country, in addition to the three Akademis to engrain art and aesthetics.
Basic universal education was his hallmark.
He was India’s first education minister, so could you tell us what was the education policy during British times and what did policies Maulana Azad change and implement post 1947?
British education policy was dyed in colonialism.
Azad’s policy was first Indian and then global. (Maulana Azad emphasised) primary education in the mother tongue, work by hands, humanism beyond borders and boundaries.
Jawaharlal Nehru is credited for setting up educational institutions like the IITs. As education minister, what was Maulana Azad’s role in setting up the IITs?
It was Maulana who set up the IITs with the full support of all his colleagues, primarily Panditji.
The Right-wing blames Maulana Azad as education minister for introducing a Marxist version of history in India which propagated the Aryan invasion of India theory which many of them believe is a false narrative. Did Maulana Azad have any active role to play in it?
This is false, erroneous and has no historical basis whatsoever.
Another allegation against Maulana Azad is that he encouraged Indian historians to glorify the Mughals as secular rulers whereas the fact is that they were barbarians who only believed in crushing Hindu customs and way of life.
Was there a deliberate attempt from the education ministry to glorify the Mughals in Independent India?
This is equally false and mischievous and misleading. Azad’s writings are testimony.
Those who spread these canards have not read anything written by him.
Remember, he was a writer par excellence and a meticulous student of history.
Your father Khwaja Ghulamsahab worked as secretary in the ministry of education. Did he ever share with you what it was like to work under Maulana Azad?
My father Khwaja Ghulamus Saiyidain worked very closely with Maulana Sahib for 10 years.
Maulana was excellent in English, but preferred to speak and write in his own language. So father did most of the required translation.
We were taught to understand Islam through his translation and explication of the Quran which was simple, universal and inclusive.
Now, we don’t know what the motive behind the government removing Maulana Azad’s reference from textbooks is, but could it be that he was very harsh on Sardar Patel in his biography India Wins Freedom in which he stops short of blaming Patel for the Partition of India?
No comment on the government’s motives to remove Azad’s references from NCERT texts.
India Wins Freedom is a book written by Professor Humayun Kabir based on his interactions with Azad.
There are books written with Azad’s pen which beautifully explain his philosophy and worldview.
Not one of the commentators have read Azad’s own writings. Their superficial pronouncements are based on secondary sources which have no credibility whatsoever.
Why could Maulana Azad not win over the Indian Muslim masses to not opt for Pakistan, and lost to Jinnah’s appeal?
‘Indian masses’ — what does that mean?
A handful of Muslims under the leadership of Mr Jinnah voted for Pakistan, the British placed their seal on it and the world witnessed mass killings and miseries and a mass exodus.
Azad stood like a rock to stop this madness, but none of the coterie cared.
The coterie, not the masses.
And has the power elite ever cared for the masses?
He was a two-time Congress president. Even the Congress forgot to display his picture this February at its plenary session in Raipur. Why has Maulana Azad become like a pariah even for his own party?
Not a pariah at all. Just unthinking publicity which shows up in these public hoardings.
I have often pulled up the party publicity department for not displaying Azad properly; a stunning personality with exquisite looks.
Instead, his images on hoardings are mediocre and stereotypical.
Is it true Maulana Azad had become friendless and alone in the last days of his life? Why did this happen?
Azad until the end was deeply engaged with the Indian polity.
His speech at the Ramlila Grounds in February 1957, two days before he passed away, was for the importance of all Indian languages.
He was sharing the dais at the Ramlila grounds with Pandit Nehru and Pandit Sunderlal.
Azad was a private person whose life was work; to that extent he remained aloof, by choice.
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