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Realising Sir Syed's dreams
Thursday October 16, 2014 9:45 PM, Dr. Shakeel A. Samdani

Though we prepare ourselves to celebrate the 200th birth anniversary of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, founder of the Aligarh Muslim University in 2017, there are moves to belittle his invaluable contribution.

Sir Syed Khan
[Zoheb Shaikh (Courtesy:]

There is no denying of the fact that Sir Syed contributed immensely in the field of education, agriculture, legislation and journalism but for many his main mission represented by the Aligarh Movement has not achieved desired result. If it is so, it means that some where we have gone wrong. Sir Syed had not founded MAO College , the flag bearer of the AMU just only for teaching or learning but for taking up the community and social work. Another factor was to produce concerned leaders who may take community forward. If the AMU continues to be an ordinary university his mission remains unfulfilled.

Sir Syed was the first Indian educationist who had visited England and had keenly studied Oxford and Cambridge Universities before he had established MAO College. He was the first to make the education globalized in India. Moreover , he was the first educationist who introduced the residential system at MAO College. Sir Syed was also the first educationist who had not only allowed but established first Students Club in country on the lines of Oxford and Cambridge Universities by in shape of Syddons Club where the students used to debate their problems and issues concerning the community and the country. What it indicates? It shows that Sir Syed was a democrat in true sense and a believer in justice and peace.

To understand the educational policies of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, we have to go rivet on to the failure of First War of Independence ( Popularly Known As Indian Mutiny ) - 1857 . After its failure Sir Syed did not revolt or give up hope but embarked upon a definite mission. He decided to empower his community with education to fight back and recover the lost grounds. He executed this holy task in a manner that has no other example in history. He not only devoted himself to this mission but successfully mobilized a vast majority of Muslims and Hindus alike to realize it. He did succeed in preparing a generation of Muslims which not only fought with British in pre - independence days but also participated in nation building in post- independent India.

Education policy of Sir Syed had two main concerns. First, to educate the shattered Muslim masses in western scientific education and the second, to produce law abiding good citizen. It is due to that fact that Sir Syed emphasized on moral character , truth, honesty and hard work. It is due to that Sir Syed had always opposed flattery , lethargy and dishonesty .In fact the residential system was made compulsory to ensure that the students adopt finer manners and move in the society in a responsible way with pride compounded by knowledge. Not much time has passed when an Aligarh boy remained apart of others in any company. He or she could be identified anywhere.

Another aim of Sir Syed`s education policy was to produce such citizen who may be aware about their rights and about achieving those rights. This is very important in present socio - political scenario. We are all aware that India is a democratic nation and we have been bestowed upon by certain rights. Hence to get those rights we must know them . We should also know how to achieve them ?

Presently the Muslims remain the most economically depressed section of Indian society and that has been confirmed by the Report of the Sachar Committee itself. Isolated by the majority prejudice, deprived of their fair share of educational and employment opportunities , majority of Muslims live in ghetto like situation. The days of communalism are not over but in fact more than that the socio - economic deprivation has become more important. The Indian Muslims need a leadership which will rouse them not just on religious issues but organise them for educational and socio - economic progress so that they are in a better position to improve their lot. And that was the glorious aim of Sir Syed also in changed circumstances after the collapse of First War of Independence ( 1857 ). Hence we can say that the scenario is the same as was after 1857 .

After the independence we had adopted the Constitution which ensures justice and equality. The Constitution declares that India is a secular state . Indian Constitution has Article 29 which gives the right to conserve language, script or culture of any section of citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof. It also expressly forbids discrimination on grounds of race, religion, caste and language in the admissions in the educational institutions run by the government or aided by it. Further Article 30 is vital to the protection and preservation of rights of the minorities to establish their educational institutions. Article 16 guaranteed that no discrimination will be made in matters of public employment on grounds of religion , caste or creed. Likewise Article 25 guaranteed freedom of religion to every individual . It also assures that the citizen have the unhindered right to follow and propagate their religion.

I wish to draw the attention of the readers towards fact that it is the duty of every citizen to know the law. Ignorance of law is not innocence at all. Knowledge of Constitutional provisions and laws are also necessary to take the rights or to fight back injustices in a dignified and lawful manner. We have to realise that the legal education is imperative to produce good citizens who may follow human values and rights. And realise that was the dream mission of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan.

Let's take a glance over legal contributions of Sir Syed. Though not much attention has been paid to bring forth Sir Syed`s legal and legislative contributions but still we have some points which indicate that Sir Syed had not forgotten this important aspect of civil society. Just remember Sir Syed had said that, " to permit liberty of the press is the part of a wise government. To preserve it is the part of a free people." In those days perhaps there was no conception of freedom of expression and this great doyen was talking about it. Just imagine the flight of his mind and commitments. Not many people are aware that Sir Syed was instrumental in enactment of , " Act No : 10 , Stamp Act , 1882 , Act No : 14 ( Limitation ) Act - 1859 - 1864, Act No : 16 (Registration of Documents ) , 1864 and The Kazis Act, 1880, in British India. The Kazis Act empowers the state government to appoint Kazis for the purpose of desiring local Muslims with solemnization of marriages, etc. The Government in British India had inherited the power to appoint Kazis from the Mughal rulers but had abdicated it in 1864. On the demand of Muslim leadership led by the great Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the power was resumed by enacting the Kazis Act 1880.

Sir Syed himself was from legal background. It was due to that reason he understood importance of the legal education at that time when in fact nobody had given much importance to it. Sir Syed had established Law department in MAO College in 1891 and Law department of MAO College or say AMU is one of the oldest. He also sent his son Justice Syed Mahmood, to legal education who became the illustrious judge of the Allahabad High Court. It may be noted that even today Supreme Court of India quotes his judgements.

Sir Syed pointed out in his Aabab-e-Baghawat-e-Hind that one of the big reasons behind revolt was that Indians were not involved in the administration and judiciary. That impressed the British and in 1862 for the first time an Indian Shambhu Nath was appointed as judge in the High Court.

This fact indicate that Sir Syed had much interest in legislation and enactment of laws. That is due to fact that Sir Syed fought to re-gain respect and rights and powers in British India within legal and Constitutional parameters . Today we need the same strategy. We cannot achieve our goals and rights by shouting on streets but by adopting legal and constitutional ways.

Now I am turning again on Sachar Committee Report with a specific purpose. Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee was appointed by UPA - 1 and no doubt it is an authentic document on the backwardness and deprivation of the Muslims. but see another aspect. It has a political angle also. The Report convinces the Muslims that without government patronage , indirectly meaning political class , the Muslims are doomed. But has the Muslims or Muslim leadership realise that the best way to turn Muslims dysfunctional and rob their initiative is to make them lose confidence and ask for government ( or say political class ) patronage ? It's very dangerous and I am surprised why Muslims intellectuals have failed to note this fact ?

Patronage of government or political class means their management. And remember that the best business enterprises when managed by the government went sick. How can then the government assume responsibility for developing a community a far more complex composition than an enterprise ? Government patronage makes a community government dependent and robs of its honour and initiatives.

Here we have to look how some communities far more disadvantaged than Muslims have developed without any government patronage . just go through the rise of Gounders and Naidues of western Tamil Nadu , Ezhavas of Kerala , Patels of Gujarat and Ramgadias of Punjab . They were all socially and economically deprived in more than one sense but they rose in industrial and business activities. Studies of these communities show that they have moved ahead because they did not seek any government patronage or allowed the government to patronise them. They turned their community linkage into social capital instead of vote banks to serve the interest of political class. We have to stand on our own . And that was also message of Sir Syed.

In this connection, it should be pointed out that present Vice Chancellor Lt. Gen (Rtd) Zameer Uddin Shah has tried his best to achieve wider mission of Sir Syed. After assuming office, he first turned AMU campus into a disciplined academic fora and then embarked to pay attention to beautification of campus. One may recall that Sir Syed was environmentalist and lover of greenery. Lt. Gen (Rtd) Zameer Uddin Shah also launched Green campaign in campus and urged the students to use cycles for maintaining eco balance and clean environment. Upkeep of university buildings and smooth roads became his priority. The change is visible in campus. Whoever may have visited the campus few years back, may notice change now.

Lt. Gen. (Rtd) Zameer Uddin Shah is concerned, the university is rapidly progressing under his able administration of two and half years. During his tenure, the campus is very peaceful and academic atmosphere is prevailing. The students of university are succeeding in different competitions. Many marvellous buildings have been already constructed and stone laying ceremony have been taken up for some. The medical college building has been extended and a big medical enclosure equipped with latest medical facilities is already there. Stone laying ceremony for girls hostel for 1500 P.G. students has been done which will be ready by March 2016.

Sir Syed was a sports lover and he had always encouraged the students to practice in sports events. Just like that the present Vice Chancellor also took up it and an Astroturf of Hockey costing 4 crore rupees is complete in front of Aftab Hall. A modern swimming pool is under construction. Due to paying attention to the importance of sports, the AMU students have been selected in various state and national level teams. Present Vice Chancellor Mr. Shah and Pro Vice Chancellor Brig (Rtd) Syed Ahmad Ali themselves visit sports grounds and due to that the students get moral encouragement.

Present Vice Chancellor has also given a new direction to the Centre established at Murshidabad and Mallapuram and has introduced B.Ed course there. Adequate number of teachers have been appointed. Many new buildings have been constructed and modern facilities introduced. Not only that he has also started Kishanganj (Bihar) Centre and the academic activities has begun there. This noble work of Lt. Gen (Rtd) Zameer Uddin Shah will be inscribed in golden letters in history.

Legal education which is part of wider education not only produce effective lawyers but also awaken citizen and community leaders. It is time that we concentrate on the legal education due to certain facts and compulsions. Muslims need good lawyers to plead their cases but more than that Muslims need legal education to know their rights . They must know how to achieve them ? It is my humble plea that we encourage our children to take up legal education in more impressive way. Legal education is the most effective tool by which Muslims can achieve dignified status in Indian society and take legal remedies of the injustices heaped upon them.

As I have earlier said that Sir Syed had not founded this institution just for education but for wider community welfare. If we have to celebrate 200th birth anniversary of Sir Syed in 2017 , then we have to achieve a respected place in Indian society by that time. In addition to focusing on implementation of the recommendations of the Sachar Committee report, we will have to focus on taking up challenges and initiatives for empowering us with legal education in a big way .

[The writer is a senior faculty member of Law Faculty, Aligarh Muslim University. He can be reached at :]

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