Bharat Ek Khoj

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Sir Syed Ahmed Khan
(Episode 46)

Nehru notes that after the 1857 Mutiny, the British government deliberately repressed the Indian Muslims to a greater extent than they did the Hindus, which especially affected those sections from which the new middle class might have emerged. British police towards them underwent a change in the 1870's and become more favourable. In this process, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan played a crucial role. He was anxious to make them accept English education and thus draw them out of their conservative shell.

The scene opens dramatically with the Nawab of Moradabad launching a revengeful attack at midnight on the local British collector and Sir Syed thwarting them, explaining the inevitability of the prevailing British Raj and wisdom in accepting the same. The brave effort is duly recognized by the authorities and Sir Syed, while declining a Jagir, is rewarded with a princely lump sum and a monthly pension. In his alignment for British help and cooperation, he repeatedly tries to proves that Muslims as a whole did not rebel during the 1857 Mutiny and that many indeed remained royal to the British power.

To lord Canning, the new Governor General, Sir-Syed pleads for aid in creating a 'scientific' society for the Muslims. His efforts to open an English school for the community are stiffly resisted by the Muslims. With his concerted efforts, the Madarsa is finally established at Ghazipur where five languages are taught-Urdu, English, Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit. He resolves to publish a newspaper and introduce teaching of science since it is closely connected with nature. He also expresses a keenness to visit Europe, to study their progress and development.

Nehru observes, though an array of colourful period- paintings and letters, how Sir Syed was much impressed by the European civilization. On his return the resolve to convert the Madrasa into a college is doubly strengthened and he collects donations personally. Rousing poems are heard on the theme of education for the deprived community. On behalf of the authorities, 74 acres of land, the munificence of Henry Lawrence, comes handy in realizing Sir Syed's dream of founding the Anglo-Muhammadn Oriental college in 1875, eventually to become University of Aligarh. One of the declared objects of the college was to make the Mussalmans of India worth and subjects of the British crown, as quoted by Nehru.

There is the other momentous event of establishing the National Congress and request from its founding fathers like Sir Surendranath Banerjee and Badruddin Tayebji to Sir Syed for Joining the joining the same. As Nehru notes, while Sir Syed succeeded in beginning the English education among the Muslims and diverting the Muslim mind from the political movement, many prominent Muslim nonetheless joined the National Congress. British policy progressively pro-Muslim, in favour of those elements among the moderate Muslims who were opposed to the National movement.