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An Individual in Command



The Man Bent on Exposing the Truth

Monday February 09, 2009 11:16:05 AM, Aleem Faizee


Shamsuddin Agha, President of Indian Muslim Federation (United Kingdom) was recently in Malegaon for the Secondary School Quiz competition organised by National Awakening for Development of Youth (NADY). He shared the inspiring personal accounts with Aleem Faizee exclusively for ummid.com.



Video: Shamsuddin Agha-President of

Indian Muslim Federation (United Kingdom)

delivering the keynote speech at the Quiz Competition.


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Shamsuddin Agha, President of Indian

Muslim Federation in an exclusive

interview with ummid.com 

It was almost 11:00 late in the evening and we were waiting for the Manmad bound Panchavati Express from Mumbai to reach the Manmad Junction. Minutes after the speakers at the platform roared announcing the arrival of the train, we could see the train approaching the platform. To receive our guests, we rushed towards Air Conditioned (AC) coach. There we found an old-man deep in conversation with a bright young man while his two companions were standing by his sides.


“Come to Malegaon tomorrow. You would certainly experience a memorable event”, we heard him telling the young chap. He was referring to the Secondary School Quiz competition to be held in Malegaon the following day on February 1. The young chap was working at Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) plant near Manmad. The old-man was trying hard to convince him to come to Malegaon for the next day’s event. He kept him telling as we made our way towards the main gate of the railway station. It was only after the young man departed that the old-man turned to us, raised his right hand in a typical gesture and said as a glorious smile ran all across his face. “Shamsuddin Agha. Delighted to be here.”


It took us around forty minutes to reach to Malegaon. By the time we reached the town the duration was enough for Shamsuddin Agha to bring every wall of unfamiliarity to ground. Once this barrier was removed, in front of us started unfolding the testing yet very interesting and inspiring accounts of his life.


Son of a Mughal descendent, Shamsuddin Agha in 1962 was teaching English language and Calssical Persian at VS Patel College in Billimora, Gujarat. Agha’s father was so fond of the British that he wanted him to migrate to United Kingdom at the very first opportunity. Prof. Ab. Shakoor was teaching with Agha at VS Patel College and was also willing to shift to England. Agha’s father cohered with Prof. Shakoor for Agha’s migration. Agha thus migrated to England though for certain reservations Prof. Shakoor could not fulfill his dreams.


A most sought after and highly respected English language teacher in India, Shamsuddin Agha was now a smalltime labourer in England. He was working in a Lancashire Spinning Mills with illiterate mob of migrants from Gujarat. “My fellow workers in the spinning mill were all from very humble backgrounds. I am sure they must be earning hardly anything in India. But here it was a heaven for them. They were earning 20-25 pounds a week. For few extra pounds, they were even ready to stay in the mill”, Agha recalled before adding with a generous laughter, “However for me, it was a very awkward situation. I was literally feeling like Meer, who had said phirte hain Meer khwar koi poochta nahi.”


During these depressing moments Qazi Chiraguddin of Nandurbar in Maharashtra came to his rescue. Qazi was known to Agha when he was working as a Principal at a Mumbai college. Once on a weekend visit to London, Agha accidentally met Qazi. His advice to Agha helped him to shift from Lancashire to London. He approached the education department of Greater London Council (GLC) for a job and was lucky to get one very soon. The teacher in India was again a teacher in England. He was now joined by his wife in London.


Getting a job as a teacher, however, did not mean the testing time for him was over. “The students were taller than me in built and were literally uncontrollable. For whole of the first week, in exchange for the regular academic lessons I had to play as an Indian Cowboy with them. Somehow I managed to complete my tenure”, Agha said, paused as if he felt the heat of those testing days even today and then went on, “When I was assigned another class I came to know that the previous duty-head of the class I was handling earlier had the nervous breakdown.” After teaching for fifteen years in and around London, Agha finally gave up the teaching job.


Agha had given up the teaching job but not actually the teaching. In 1980 he joined as Ethnic Minorities Liasion Officer. At the same time he was responsible for keeping the cultural records. Moreover he was travelling to faraway places with mobile libraries. During this stint he realized that the libraries did not have enough books in other languages and had hardly any book on information for the migrants in their mother tongue. In an important initiative for the migrants, Agha decided to translate the books on information in various Indian languages. The idea received such a wonderful response that soon people found these books translated into twenty-six International languages. Agha gave Mushairah a respectable status and introduced remuneration for the poets first time in England. He made it sure that Nehru Center in London regularly organized various cultural programs and popular plays in Indian languages. Simultaneously he efficiently used the technology and was instrumental in introducing the famous Urdu Software InPage in UK libraries.


In 1969 when Gujarat was facing the worst ever communal riots before the infamous 2002 Genocide, Shamsuddin Agha along with few of his friends founded Indian Muslim Federation in United Kingdom. “It was a tough decision. People from other Asian countries were wary of the name Indian Muslim. Yet we remained adamant and went ahead with the decision.” Indian Muslim Federation helped not only Indian migrants in United Kingdom but also the fellow Indians in the homeland. IMF was at the forefront for the rehabilitation work first after the earth quake in Gujarat and then again after the Gujarat carnage in 2002.


Formation of Indian Muslim Federation was an encouraging step for Shamsuddin Agha to widen his cultural activities. Once a respected teacher, Agha when time demanded also became a producer, director and even an actor. But as he proved in his earlier tenures, here too he was all innovative and creative in his ideas. He dramatized Maulana Abul Kalam Azaad’s famous speech delivered immediately after the partition from the historic Delhi Jama Masjid and staged it in London in a style reserved for him. Tired of the discrimination by those in power when Agha staged the famous Indian play Anarkali, he twisted the traditional theme of the play and gave it a modern touch with a message. His symbolic representation of Anarkali as working class, Emperor Akbar as house of power and Prince Saleem as the play-boy was heartning for the audience. His yet another creation Mirza Ghalib London Mein…staged during Festival of India became so popular that it was translated in many languages including Gujarati and staged at various places for months. “Audience just could not control themselves when they saw Ghalib asking the fellow poets came cho in Gujarati”, Agha recalled.


Shamsuddin Agha is a man in his seventies and miles away from India, however meeting him will immediately reveal that his heart still beats for his motherland. India is one of the best places to live on earth, he used to reiterate. He became restless watching communal forces hijacking the country for the narrow political gains. “To expose how a section in the society plays the dirty politics of divide and rule for the sake of achieving power, I staged a play on Tipu Sultan’s last battle with the British and another on the Partition of India", he said.


To his credit part of his play on Tipu Sultan staged at the time of inauguration of the Asian Centre in London even impressed Prince Charles and Princess Diana. So much so that Agha was in the list of Buckingham Palace invitees along with other Asians later in few Royal functions. However Agha's exposure of the truth did not go well with the officials. “Both of these plays received criticism from the Indian and Pakistani embassies. But it made no difference to me. I am of the opinion that if you are sure of something then you must die for it”, Agha made a point and concluded, “I believe the communal forces in India are on the verge of defeat and the time is not far when India will once again become free from all kinds of evil.”












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Sare Jahan Se Accha

Hindustan Hamara

In 1905 more than 100 years from today, when Iqbal was a lecturer at the Government College, Lahore he was invited by his student Lala Hardayal to preside over a function. Instead of making a speech, Iqbal sang Sare Jahan Se Accha Hindustan Hamara in his style. Iqbal compiled this poem in praise of India and the poem preaches the communal harmony that had unfortunately started ceasing in India by that time. Each and every word in this poem depicts an Indian’s respect and love for the motherland and the values the Indian society inherited for long...Read Full





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