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Books and Documents ( 12 Oct 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Documenting the Past - A Peep into the Contemporary History of Indian Muslims

By Mushtaq ul Haq Ahmad Sikander, New Age Islam

12 October 2021

Lived Experiences and Testimonies of the People Who Have Contributed In The Process Of History Making Are Essential For Creating A Factual Analysis of Events

Main Points:

1.    Agha Ashraf Ali has been an eye witness of the decisive moments of Indian and Kashmiri history.

2.    Agha laments at the sad matter of affairs where the teachers have no love for books.

3.    Agha describes the agony of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad after the partition of subcontinent.


Kuch Tou Likhyey Ki Loug Kehtey Hain (Write Something As People Are Demanding)

Author: Agha Ashraf Ali

Transcribed By: Syed Habib

Publisher: Kashmir Times Publications, Jammu & Kashmir.

Year of Publication: 2010

Pages: 341 Price: Rs 400


History writing is of two types; one as documented by historians and writers and the other one as depicted in novels, short-stories and poetry, but the latter genre is difficult to decipher but now this form is also accepted as a source to recreate and envision history of a period. Certainly there is now another source of history writing and that is oral history. People who have lived and contributed in the process of history making, their lived experiences and testimonies are essential for creating a factual analysis of events.

The people who had a hand or contribution during the decisive moments of Kashmir history are many, but only a few have opted to jot down their memoirs for the sake of future generations. Autobiographical accounts of eminent personalities in this manner are very essential. Agha Ashraf Ali on this account is a new entrant to this genre, with his autobiographical account titled as Kuch Tou Likhyey Ki Loug Kehtey Hain.

Agha Ashraf Ali who has crossed his nineties, has been an eye witness of the decisive moments of Indian and Kashmiri history, which the autobiography very well elucidates. Agha Ashraf Ali is one of the profound scholar, intellectual and educationist of the valley, whose lectures are revered for their depth, scholarly content, spicy humor and wise anecdotes which inspire hundreds and are loved by the students. Though Agha does not write himself, but loves to lecture, this autobiographical account was also prepared in the similar manner, and his obedient student and friend Syed Habib did the work of transcribing and editing the same, and he has done the work quite lucidly without flaw, which is also a testimony of this friendship spanning more than four decades.

This autobiographical account spreads over hundreds of pages and Agha has tried to pen down all the important events of his life minutely as he describes his childhood as violent because his tutor thrashed him regularly, his brothers were envious and in his classroom he was an untouchable. He also describes the contrast between his paternal and maternal grandfathers, the former Westernized and the latter upholder of Eastern norms and this dichotomy influenced the tender mind of Agha.

Agha describes his tryst with science but he fails in senior secondary standard and has to choose Humanities instead. During those days he is influenced by the legendary educationist and teacher Dr Zakir Hussain, some Pandit teachers and even the politics of the subcontinent began to have its influence on Agha whom students began to taunt as Nehruvian, hence a traitor.

He then describes his journey to Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and from there to Jamia Millia Islamia(JMI). In AMU he spent two years under the guidance of Prof. Muhammad Habib and in JMI he taught and learnt with Prof Habib’s younger brother Prof Mujeeb, Zakir Hussain, Prof Sayideen and other luminaries and scholars which further nurtured, refined and polished the talent of Agha and gave a proper channelization and direction to his quest. Agha describes the role events of 1947 as witnessed in JMI and the role of these academics and leaders in the aftermath of partition, and the agony of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad after the partition of subcontinent, as partition brought in its wake violence, rage, killings, kidnappings, rape, abduction, loot and arson on an unprecedented scale. Agha also describes the ramifications of partition on his family as his own brother Agha Showkat who supported Muslim League and Jinnah, was exiled to Pakistan. Agha with a heavy heart describes how the Communal Ideology of V.D Savarkar came to have an upper hand in India and how Congress party came to handle the affairs and how Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai and Dr Zakir Hussain were neglected.

In Kashmir too industrialization could not take place after accession, hence government or civil services were chosen which proved as blighted sores and had permanent impact on the society. Nepotism also took roots on epidemic levels in the aftermath of 1953 removal of Sheikh Abdullah from the scene and when he again came to hold the reins of power in 1975 he proved ineffective to reverse the process and distrust in the government got reinforced.

The movement for the right to self-determination once gain initiated in the aftermath of 1953 and Kashmiri Muslims were hurt by the fact that Pandits were happy being Indians, and Pandits also resented Muslims because the agricultural land was snatched from them and disturbed among the landless labourers, a revolutionary act by National Conference and this resentment between the two communities was well cashed by the Centre. The Pandits also created many problems for Agha at his workplace and even raised false charges of bribery against him.

Agha then went on a Fulbright scholarship to America and had a chance to travel various countries of Europe. He visited France, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden etc and studied their educational systems and came back to Kashmir to implement the radical changes and he dreamt to do great things in Kashmir but couldn’t as people were not ready and environment hostile towards any change in status quo, hence his dream was shattered by the realities at the grassroot levels. Agha describes how “educational system was completely under the influence of politics. The autonomy of University and other educational institutions was lost due to politics. The recruitment of teachers was also done on basis of political rapport” (P-141).

Despite the heart rendering helplessness Agha describes his biggest achievement as his rapport with young intelligent students who still accompany him at this stage of life, which nepotism or favouritism can hardly impede or hamper.

In a separate chapter on “Friends and Students” he describes his own relationship with teachers turning into friendship like Prof Mujeeb, Habib and Dr Zakir Hussain, and Agha also is a living testimony of the same legendary practice of these noble souls, though in this chapter he also praises the separatist leader and Chairman Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front(JKLF), Yasin Malik, but the praises about Yasin’s personality seem to be exaggerated and Agha seems to lose his sense of academic fervour and objectivity on this account.

Agha laments at the sad matter of affairs where the teachers have no love for books, hence never inspire their students to read good books and decries the privatization and commercialization of education system, where the teachers are driven by the craze of minting more money instead of imparting and disseminating knowledge.

Agha has a chapter dedicated to his stance on religion, similar to what Khushwant Singh has in his autobiography Truth, Love and little malice titled as “Wrestling with God” but the contrast is that Khushwant Singh is an agnostic but Agha a believer and praises the teachings of Islam as Universal but is critical of the communalized, exclusivist, violent interpretation and depiction of Islam.

None can dare to deny the ill effects of Corporate Culture which accompanied Globalization and the Neo Imperialistic designs of the world powers but to witness and color everything in economic terms seems not to be a correct strategy, stains and traits of Marxism can be ascertained in the analysis of Agha when he describes the economy as a decisive factor in the armed struggle of Kashmir or describes the communalism, “religious extremism as fundamentally an economic issue” (P-319). The cultural aggressiveness and secular fascism can too be witnessed when common civil code is tried to be imposed on Muslim women in the form of Niqab ban, Burqa ban or beard ban on men.

The last chapter depicts Agha as a feminist who wants women to excel in every field and surmises that economic freedom would make women independent, but in many cases economic freedom is no guarantee to women empowerment as husbands or in laws snatch the income of the woman and she is rendered to a money making machine, with only duties to fulfil. Agha also decries that misogynists must read Ibn Arabi whose views about women are mostly side-lined by the religious clergy.

The book is destined to inspire readers and will escalate their thirst for reading books, as Agha on every page quotes from a scholar, philosopher, prophet, poet, writer or thinker. This book must be high on the reading list of every teacher and student, for teachers to learn how to be good teachers and develop among their students a love for books and knowledge and for students how to strike a cord with their teachers to learn and build an everlasting relationship. The wide ranging knowledge and experience of Agha with great luminaries of education makes it an autobiography of a universal appeal.

We must congratulate Agha for sharing his experiences with us and this autobiography is an important contribution to the history of subcontinent too. The book needs to be translated into English for a wider dissemination.


Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir.


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