Before independence, Muslims were divided into two factions– one who supported Muslim League and Jinnah’s call for two states, and the other who believed in the concept of unified Indian nationalism and supported a secular state. This significant group of Indian Muslims was led by Allah Baksh, Moulana Abul Kalam Azad, Hakim Ajmal Khan, MA Ansari, Saifuddin Kitchlu, Asaf Ali, Abbas Tayabji and others.
Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) is one of the few educational institutions which came into being in response to the nationalist call for freedom by boycotting educational institutions supported by the British. As the fight for freedom intensified, so did the demand for another nation raised by people of the minority community led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah. In opposition to the two-nation theory, the JMI was founded in Aligarh to ideologically counter the Muslim League and the demand for creation of Pakistan, campaigning vigorously on the plank of composite nationalism.
How Jamia Millia Islamia came into existence?
Some important Muslim personalities strongly stood against Jinnah, Muslim League and the idea of partition of India. Since AMU was considered to be pro-partition at that time, Moulana Mahamudul Hasan, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Moulana Mohammad Ali and others established a Muslim educational institution in Aligarh on October 29, 1920 (later shifted to Delhi), based on secular and composite ideology, which today is known as Jamia Millia Islamia University.
The move came after the British government conferred Muhammadan Anglo Oriental College, Aligarh the status of a university, thus becoming Aligarh Muslim University.
JMI had a total of 18 founding members who comprised the Foundation Committee – a group of self-dedicated group of Muslim intellectuals and religious elites.
Dr Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari and AM Khwaja were other important national leaders in the Foundation Committee who tirelessly worked for its progress.
The purpose of establishing the JMI?
The founders wanted JMI to be a model Muslim educational centre and a hub of nationalist activities aimed to serve the purpose of promoting Hindu-Muslim integration. The All India Nationalist Muslim Party was also established in 1929 to counter communalism in Indian politics.
According to Historian Francis Robinson, the activities of Muslim personalities, like founders of JMI, ‘are the testimony to the fact that in a region increasingly beset by communalism there were Muslims who worked for the highest secular ideals’.
Role of Jamia in freedom movement
One of the major events in which JMI got actively involved was the peasants’ revolt in Surat district of Gujarat in 1928. Farmers in that entire region were facing a lot of hardships due to floods and the unbearable increase in revenue tax. Gandhi, who also belonged from Gujarat, encouraged farmers to protest. His veteran friends Abbas Tayebji (founding member of JMI) and Imam Abdul Qadir Bavazir, who also helped Gandhi establish the Satyagraha Ashram in South Africa, resonated his calls for active protests.
In spite of several leaders associated with JMI facing imprisonment, many students of the institution volunteered themselves for the Bardoli Satyagraha and assured support of Muslim farmers of the area towards its success.
The students of the JMI had also participated actively in the Quit India Movement, which was a nationwide civil disobedience movement.
‘Oasis of peace in the Sahara’
The partition riots, which had shaken the entire nation, did have a little impact on Jamia, but the campus remained calm at large. Mahatma Gandhi had then said that the JMI was “an oasis of peace in the Sahara” of communal violence.