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Sadia Dehlvi dreamt for Indian Muslim Youth Movement

I was floored by Sadia Aapa’s grace, elegance, élan and sophistication of her personality

Friday August 7, 2020 10:00 PM, Syed Ali Mujtaba

Sadia Dehlvi

[ I was floored by Sadia Aapa’s grace, elegance, élan and sophistication of her personality. (Photo: Flicker.com)]

I am awestruck seeing the obituary coverage of Sadia Dehlvi, a Delhi socialite, in the media. Her multifaceted personality is brought out in all the media reports that points how important a Sadia Aapa was in the Delhi social circle.

Reading about Sadia Aapa my memory compelled me to unburden my thoughts with an obit sitting here in Chennai where I am currently based. I knew Sadia Dehlvi since 1985-86 when I was 22 year old. Now I am 58.

We were a bunch of AMU students who had come to Delhi with the ambition to crack the Civil Services Exam. We discovered India Islamic Cultural Center (IICC) on the Lodhi Road that provided us free accommodation and a library to pursue our IAS dream.

Every weekend there was a pep-talk by some “big gun” organized at the IIICC for us the civil services aspirants under the "Meet the Celebrity Programme".

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It was in one of such meetings Madam Sadia Dehlvi had come to give a talk on socially relevant issues in India. I was floored by Sadia Aapa’s grace, elegance, élan and sophistication of her personality. She seems to be a well-read person and talked to us quite knowledgeably on several social issues. Her vibrancy and enthusiasm in engaging us in conversation made us demand her again and again. Soon she became a regular visitor to the IICC.

It was in one such meeting, we had engaged Sadia Aapa in a discussion on the problems Muslims face in India. I found she had some original thoughts on this issue. She hailed educational reformers in the country and showered praises on them for uplifting the community from ignorance.

She then came to her original idea and said the primary goal should be social activism to transform the community. She told us that only social activism can take the community forward. Such activism has to be done at an All India level and should be in parallel to the administrative structure of the country.

She wanted the Muslim community to organize into "Self Help Groups" at Panchayat, Blocks, Subdivision and District levels all over the country - just like how the administrative division exists in India.

What she meant was that Muslims should form an advocacy group all across the country. She even coined the term IMYM or Indian Muslim Youth Movement. She said Muslims should not look towards the government for the development of the community. Instead, they should organize themselves under a strong platform that they can help, guide and prepare the community to stand up on its feet.

Sadia Aapa’s ideaa touched an emotional chord among many of us and generated lot of positive energy for such a futuristic vision for uplifting of the marginalized Muslim community.

The idea of IMYM was very refreshing. It was beyond Madrasas and minority institutions or even technical learning schools. It was a call for a new social movement that was unheard and un-talked of in India. Many of us present there were impressed by her fresh thinking towards addressing the problems Muslims faced in the country. Her thought to organize the Muslim community under an umbrella organization was a grand vision for the development of the community.

Unfortunately, her idea of IMYM could never take off. This was because there was a need for many dedicated human resources and other such organizational requirements to take it forward and to be made into a movement.

I later moved to JNU for my Civil Services mission and lost contact with Sadia Dehlvi. Nonetheless, I followed her in the media and it appeared to me that she too had other things to do and she remained busy in them.

Now when everyone is talking about her, I thought I may also enrich my reader a different personality of Sadia Dehlvi. I knew Sadia Aapa was not taken seriously because her lifestyle did not match someone who can be acceptable for the development of the Muslim community.

It was such a rejection that the vision of IMYM went into oblivion. It was also because such an idea came from a lady who did not look like a female version of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (beard and cap).

This is not to denigrate anyone’s contribution to the progress of the community but to underline the point that Muslim women too can take up the role of the leadership of the community. I am writing this because I cherish those memories of Sadia Dehlvi. Having come to know her from close quarters, I can say with some conviction that she was a faithful Muslim.

Her concern for the development of the Muslim community was no less than Muslim clergy and narrow, parochial and patriarchy rooted types of Muslims in India.

When I heard the news of the passing away of Sadia Aapa, a stream of thoughts jogged down my memory lane. I felt compelled to unburden myself to narrate this anecdote that can have a transformative impact on the Muslim community. A change that is what is needed in the Muslim community and that was the vision of Sadia Aapa. She wanted this to happen through IMYM.

Through this obituary note, I must say that I am proud to have met such a visionary personality in my lifetime. I end this with ... Sadia Aapa rest in peace, it was nice knowing you and I joined many others in a silent prayer saying 'Rest in Peace' Aapa. RIP…

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com.]

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