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Fights for Rights: Ismail Yusuf College and Indu Mill Compound

Tuesday February 14, 2012 01:29:17 PM, Aleem Faizee,

Mumbai: Muslims would have been termed terrorists or ISI agents and sent to jail if they had protested to take possession of Ismail Yusuf College the way Dalits did to get the Indu Mill land for Ambedkar Memorial, noted scholar Shamim Tarique wrote in one of his weekly columns published in an Urdu daily. He observed that by forcefully breaking in the Indu Mill compound, Dalits succeeded within 24 days in taking possession of the land which actually belonged to the government. “On the other hand”, he wrote, “Ismail Yusuf College and the adjoining lands belong to Muslims. Yet, the government is not ready to handover them to the rightful owners.”

Published barely a fortnight before the Mumbai Civic Elections, the article has revived the effort underway by various Muslim groups since more than a decade to seek from the Govt. of Maharashtra possession of the prime land, located in Mumbai suburbs. The effort which was at its peak post the 2009 assembly elections when Federation of Minorities NGOs while honoring Muslim legislators from all political parties of Maharashtra at a function held at Hajj House submitted a list of proposals and issues to be addressed in the next five years. Convenor of the NGO Salim Alware says, taking possession of Ismail Yusuf College and the adjoining land was second in that list.

The idea of the college was mooted by Sir Mohammad Ismail Yusuf who in January 1910 donated a whopping Rs. 0.8mn to then State of Bombay with a condition to establish a college which should be primarily for Muslims though, he said, students belonging to other religious communities could also be given admissions. The idea began taking shape by March 1924 and the college, one among the four affiliated to University of Mumbai by then, finally started functioning in1930. Situated on a hillock in Jogeshwari (E) in the midst of sylvan surroundings and spread over 54 acres of land, the college even today is considered as one of the premier institutions of higher education with state-of-the-art infrastructural facilities in terms of spacious classrooms, well equipped laboratories, a library with rare collection of books, gymkhana and vast playground, and a beautiful mosque.

Besides the extraordinary infrastructure that attracted people from in and around State of Bombay to send their children to the college, according to Shamim Tarique, it was also the efforts of Dr. Bazlur Rehman – the first principal who took the college to such a top ranking position that students were proud of their association with it. In between the college went through many ups and downs. The fact that the college had only arts faculty to offer was also a major limitation. Then there was the government which said it could not afford to run the college any more. A closure was clearly imminent. However due to the efforts this time of then Anjuman-e-Islam chief Barrister Akbar Peerbhoy the college was back on track. Known for his articulate understanding, Peerphoy also made it sure that along with arts faculty the college should also offer science and commerce subjects to its students.

Nonetheless, till 1975 the college was the favourite institution for Muslim students especially those from places like Mumbai, Bhiwandi and Malegaon, and also from countries like Afghanistan and Sudan. However situation began slipping out of control later on. First, due to the government’s negligence, encroachers and slum dwellers illegally took whatever size of the land they could in their possession. Later on, a considerable size bisecting the land under the college control was used for the construction of Western Express Highway. If it was not enough, part of the remaining land was granted by none other than the government itself to a private society to establish what is known today as Arvind Gandbhir High School and also for constructing a housing society. By the time the Muslims realised the losses the community had incurred, the Ismail Yusuf campus which was originally spread over 120 acres of land, shrunk to about 54 acres.

A stunned community knocked the government’s doors to get the land clear of encroachments and to bring the campus under the control of a Muslim trust. When repeated requests to the government proved fruitless, lawsuits were also filed in court. Meanwhile, differences on who should get control of the campus surfaced between Anjuman-e-Islam, a Pune based Muslim Trust and the one led by some ex-students of the college. Due to the infighting between the three groups neither the lawsuit pending in the court saw a final verdict nor did the government care to take any decision to resolve the issue.

However, it has now been transpired that unanimity has emerged between the three groups. The Pune based trust has backtracked from its claim and the group led by the ex-students of the college also doesn’t have any objection if the control of the campus is handed over to Anjuman-e-Islam. The Anjuman along with Sir Mohammed Yusuf Family Trust is already involved following a court settlement in the affairs of the college, though limited only to the admission process. One of the largest Muslim NGOs, the Anjuman also has to its credit a successful record of running the chain of reputed institutions under its control. Community elites believe, if Ismail Yusuf College and the adjoining land are handed over to the Anjuman, institutions of higher education can come up in the campus which could then be used in more effective way for the betterment of the people in general and Muslims in particular. It is now left to the government how it takes an early settlement of an issue waiting for a solution since over two decades.


(With inputs from WikiPedia)






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