New Delhi: As anniversaries go, secularist and freedom fighter Maulana Abul Kalam Azad's 127th birth anniversary went largely unnoticed. Except for a handful of officials from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the ministry of minority affairs, no dignitary visited his mausoleum at Jama Masjid.
In the larger celebrations of Diwali on November 11, the birth anniversary of one of the founding fathers of the nation was forgotten by most politicians and leaders. After independence, Maulana Azad became India's first education minister, laying the foundation for moving towards an educated India. He was also a recipient of the Bharat Ratna posthumously, the highest civilan award.
Azad's anniversary is marked as the National Education Day by the ICCR. In a public function organised at his mausoleum, under the shadow of the historic Jama Masjid here, the Director-General of ICCR, C Rajasekhar, noted that in the aftermath of the partition, Azad advised his Muslim brethren by quoting from the Quran: "Do not fear and do not grieve. If you possess truth, you will gain the upper hand."
The speech given by Azad from the steps of the Jama Masjid on October 23, 1947 was reflective of the secular nature of the man and the ideas he stood and fought for. Rajasekhar said that Azad had a remarkable openness to modern western knowledge even as he opposed western rule over India.
Firoz Bakht Ahmed, columnist and grandnephew of Azad, paying tribute to "the tallest votary of tolerance and Hindu-Muslim unity," lamented that except for ICCR, nobody was concerned about Azad who had been "forgotten and dumped".
Bakht said that in the present scenario where some people want to annihilate India's greatest secular credentials and the virtue of co-existence, the need of the hour was to propagate Azad's message.
Azad was a major figure in twentieth-century Indian History and a scholar trained in the traditional Islamic sciences, with great eloquence of pen and speech, he said. Bakht suggested that school texts should cary lessons on Azad's efforts to cement Hindu-Muslim bonds.
According to Bahar Barqui, well known Muslim lawyer and an expert on Muslim jurisprudence, who also conducted the programme, major concern of Azad's life was reform of the Indian Muslims in all aspects of life.