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The speech by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan at the inauguration of Muhammadan Anglo Oriental College (AMU) on 8 January, 1877

(This is the text of the speech Sir Syed Ahmad Khan gave at the public dinner in honour of the foundation of the Mohamedan Anglo-Oriental College, Aligarh, at the Aligarh Institute Hall on 8th January, 1877)

The enthusiasm with which you have drunk my health, fills me with feelings of a mixed nature. I feel obliged to you for the great honour you have done me; I feel sincerely happy that the events of to-day have passed off well, but along with these feelings there is a consciousness that I am neither worthy of the honour you have done me, nor that the success which the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College (later developed into Aligarh Muslim University) has hitherto secured, is due to my exertions to the extent you imagine. But, gentlemen, there is one thing which I admit sincerely, and without any hesitation, and that is, that the College of which the foundation-stone has been laid to-day, has been for many years the main object of my life. Ever since I first began to think of social questions in British India, it struck me with peculiar force that there was a want of genuine sympathy and community of feeling between the two races whom Providence has placed in such close relation in this country. I often asked myself how it was that a century of English rule had not brought the natives of this country closer to those in whose hands Providence had placed the guidance of public affairs. For a whole century and more, you gentlemen, have lived in the country in which we have lived; you have breathed the same air, you have drunk the same water, you have lived upon the same crops as have given nourishment to millions of your Indian fellow subjects. Yet the absence of social intercourse, which is implied by the word friendship, between the English and the natives of this country, has been most deplorable. And whenever I have considered the causes to which this unsatisfactory state of things is due, I have invariably come to .the conclusion that the absence of community of feeling between the two races, was due to the absence of the community of ideas and the community of interests. And, gentlemen, I felt equally certain that so long as this state of things continued, the Mussalmans of India could make no progress under the English rule. It then appeared to me that nothing could remove these obstacles to progress but education. And education, in its fullest sense, has been the object in furthering which I have spent the most earnest moments of my life, and employed the best energies that lay within my humble power. (Applause.) Yes, the college is an outcome to a certain extent of my humble efforts, but there are other handsr whose existence has not only been most valuable but absolutely essential, to the success of .the undertaking. And I feel sure that the honour of the successes due to them, rather than to me. But gentlemen, the personal honour which you have done me to-night assures me of a great fact, and fills me with feelings of a much higher nature than mere personal gratitude. I am assured that you, who upon this occasion represent the British rule, have sympathies with our labours. And to me this assurance is very valuable, and a source of great happiness. At my time of life, it is a great comfort to me to feel that the undertaking which has been for many years, and is now, the sole object of my life, has roused on one hand the energies of my own countrymen, and on the other, it has won the sympathy of our British fellow-subjects, and the support of our rulers; so that when the few years I may still be spared are over, and when I shall be no longer amongst you, the college will still prosper and succeed in educating my countrymen to have the same affection for their country, the same feelings of loyalty for the British rule, the same appreciation of its blessings, the same sincerity of friendship with our British fellow-subjects as have been the ruling feelings of my life. (Cheers.)

Gentlemen, I thank you again for the honour you have done me, and sincerely reciprocate the good wishes you have so kindly expressed this evening. (Loud Cheers.)

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Saquib Salim

Saquib Salim is a well known historian under whose supervision various museums (Red Fort, National Library, IFFI, Jallianwala Bagh etc.) were researched. To his credit Mr. Salim has more than 400 published articles on history, politics, culture and literature in English and Hindi. Before pursuing his research and masters in modern Indian History from JNU, he was an electrical engineering student at AMU. Presently, he works as a freelance/ independent history researcher, writer and works at www.awazthevoice.in