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The Gordian Knot


Girish Mathur

MUSLIMS AND THE CONGRESS; NATIONALISM AND COMMUNAL POLITICS IN INDIA
By Mushirul Hasan
Manohar Publication, New Delhi, 1978 & 1979, pp. xxxv 335 & pp. x 372, Rs. 100.00 & Rs. 75.00

VOLUME IV NUMBER 4 January-February 1980

The first book is a collection of letters to and from Dr. M.A. Ansari; it also con­tains some statements issued by Dr. Ansari in his long political career and his addresses as chairman of the reception committee for the Delhi session of the Muslim League in 1918, president of the Indian National Congress at its Madras session in 1927, and chairman of the all-­parties Muslim National Convention at Calcutta in 1928. Dr. Ansari was one of those national leaders who did not allow their religious faith and their association with the political life of their community to colour their nationalism. Even when he differed from the non-Muslim leaders of the national movement, he did not leave it. But in the histories of the national movement which have been written re­cently, and also in the official history of the Congress compiled by Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya as early as the mid-thirties, due attention has not been paid to the contribution of men like Hakim Ajmal Khan, Dr. Ansari, and Asaf Ali, the three great leaders produced by Delhi. The editor has done a national service by bring­ing these letters to the notice of those who did not have access to the Jamia Milia library where, according to a report in a New Delhi newspaper some years back, they were lying uncared for. Dr. Ansari entered public life in 1912 and came into prominence when he led a medical mission to Turkey during the Turko-Italian war; he had become a· national figure by the time the noncooper­ation and Khilafat movement began. But this book contains only eight letters (seven by and one to Dr. Ansari) covering the period 1912-1920. Although his address as chairman of the reception committee for the all-India Muslim League session at Delhi in 1918 brings out the issues which were agitating the Muslims in that period, it does not reveal the thought pro­cesses of the leaders of the Indian Mus­lims in those days. If the editor had gone beyond the Zakir Hussain (Jamia) library, he could have found some more material which would have helped the reader in knowing how Muslim .opinion gradually came close to the mainstream of national opinion and also the strands in Muslim thinking which later, in the twenties, led to the parting of ways; 1910-1919 was the period when gradually educated Muslims in North India turned away from the path charted ...


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