Syed Ali Kazim
Today is the third death anniversary of one of the greatest historians of Modern India and an institution builder, Prof Mushirul Hasan. I had the privilege to work as a guest faculty in the Department of History and Culture, Jamia Millia Islamia, during his VCship as well as a Research Officer under his editorship of the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru.
In fact he recommended my name to the Vice Chairman of JNMF, Dr Karan Singh for the post when I had almost decided to leave the research and academic field. A new world opened to me from Teen Murti and there was no looking back.
An MA in Medieval India from AMU and a doctorate from Cambridge and author/editor of more than fifty books he broke new grounds and braved new frontiers while digging out new information from hitherto untapped sources of 19th and 20th century Indian history, especially the neglected Urdu sources.
He was brave enough to question the role of some sacrosanct personalities in fomenting communalism and the partition of India. Most often toeing the line of his supervisor Anil Seal he entered into meaningful debate with some stalwarts of dominant Nationalist and Marxist history, leading to the rejection of his candidature several times in CHS, JNU.
However, he being made up off different mettle worked and wrote more rigorous books and articles. Apart from his academic acumen, a new aspect of his personality dawned upon us when he took over as the VC of Jamia in 2004. Seldom in the history of the Universities of India one man has played such a pivotal role as was played by him in tranforming Jamia from a madarsa/college to that of international fame University.
I had seen with my own eyes the rapidity with which he would take decisions and implement it. No wonder the result was the establishment of dozens of Centres and departments as well as dozens of massive buildings and beautification of Jamia. I wish he had got a second term in Jamia and at least a couple of years to upgrade AMU as well.
Thereafter he as a Director General of National Archives of India completely transformed the institution by taking care of the minutest details right from beautification of the premises to holding half a dozen big conferences and seminars where scholars from all over the world would turn up at his call to discuss issues and ideas pertaining to archival preservation and scholarly discussion of the various themes of Indian History. Hundreds of documents, files, private papers, government reports, lying unattended and unused over the years were catalogued and made ready for the scholars to consult. I had seen myself the transformation of NAI beyond recognition during this period.
On a personal note during his last assignment as the fellow of my institution JNMF in 2014 just few months before he met with a massive accident he would always invite me for a cup of tea in his room or canteen and discuss several issues of national and international importance.
An era came to an end on 10th December 2018 with the death of this 24 carate Alig right from Minto circle to MA Centre of Advanced Study, Department of History.
Allah aapkee maghfirat karey aur jawar e rahmat mein jagah dey. Ameen.
(It is originally a Facebook post shared by Syed Ali Kazim, who teaches history at AMU)