Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Nawab who could not settle in Pakistan!

When India was partitioned, hundreds and thousands of families were uprooted. People left their homes and belongings to save their lives. The wealthy, educated and well connected people too changed their addresses to where they thought they would be safe, secure and able to prosper.

However, there were some exceptions who were in Pakistan but chose to come back to India. And this post is about one such person. His name was Ahmad Hussain who left his job as an Information Officer with the Associated Press of Pakistan in Lahore and returned to India in 1950.

Born in 1921 in Allahabad in a Nawab family, Hussain did his MA in English and Urdu from Allahabad University. He was a descendant of Nawab Tajjuddin Hussain Khan who was a Vazir in the Awadh court. The family later settled in Allahabad. At Allahabad University he was in close contact with his teachers such as Profs Ajaz, Ehtesham Hussain of Urdu Department and Firaq Gorakhpuri of English Department.

Hussain’s father-in-law, Mohammed Hussain, was a close associate of Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. He joined the freedom struggle, along with his brother-in-law Mubarak Mazdoor (in pic below, standing behind the girl) who was an active Congressman in his student life and a freedom fighter too from his school days.

He was very close to Firaq Gorakhpuri who had taken him as his foster son. Very soon he found himself surrounded by famous poets and writers who used to frequent Firaq’s residence. After completing his studies he joined the Press Information Bureau as a class I officer and moved to Delhi.

While first in Allahabad and later in Delhi, Hussain’s love for literature and his association with Firaq got him in close contact with Majaz, Josh, Sajjad Zaheer, Shaukat Thanvi, Shamsher Bahadur Singh (Hindi poet), Saghar Nizami, Inder Pratap Tewari, Dr Suresh Awasthi, Ram Pratap, Munish Narain Saxena, Rahi Masoom Raza, Dharam Vir Bharti, Kamleshwar, Dr Namwar Singh and other prominent writers and poets.

Hussain was deeply influenced with the leftist movement after the Russian revolution. He had a leftist leaning and was always concerned about the poor, labour class and weaker section of society.

According to his son Dr Ahmad Cameron: "As the Communist Party had been banned in Pakistan after the country came into existence, my father realized there cannot be democracy in that country as the labour, poor & weaker sections of Pakistan being ruled by landlords, zamindars etc will never be able to have a voice of their own because the party which was genuinely for them had been banned."

Thus he came back to India in 1950 and joined Hindustan Times. His other cousins and maternal uncles had also migrated to Pakistan but that did not come in front of his decision to come back to India. Interestingly, his two younger brothers, one sister and mother went to Pakistan after he returned to India. His father and elder sister though never migrated to Pakistan.

I am sure a man like Ahmad Hussain would have been a rarity. And he was very soon noticed by the political and the intellectual class. Being the only Muslim journalist in an English language newspaper in Delhi till late 1950s, the letters written by his father Mehdi Hussain, would reach him with just the following address:

Barkhurdar Ahmad Hussain Sallemahu
Akhbar Angrezi

Feroz Gandhi who was the General Manager of Indian Express employed him for his newspaper after learning about him that though a Muslim, who consciously decided to return to India, was also instrumental in saving many Hindu families in Lahore and ensuring their safe passage to India. He also worked for the National Herald and Patriot.

For Hussain religion was a private matter and he disliked organizations exclusively using religion as a tool to reach out to people.

“I remember I had started attending RSS Shakha with other school boys of the colony when we were living at Mall Road in Delhi. He discovered it one day. He gave me a good thrashing pointing out the kind of poison RSS spreads and they were the killers of Gandhiji. But by then I had attended Shakha for about 10 days! So I have a first hand knowledge about the things that go on in Shakhas. I was in 7th grade at that time so I was not that young either! Similarly he was dead against the Jamat-i-Islami and found the two organizations as two sides of the same coin,” remembers Cameron.

Though a leftist at heart, Hussain never missed any namaz. But he would also never go to offer namaz in a masjid either, except on Eid. He taught as a faculty member at AMU’s department of journalism in early 1980s.

It was only after his death his family came to know that he used to give monthly donations to the charities of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians which worked among the orphans. None in his family or he ever regretted returning to India.

Like him, his wife, Sardar Fatima Ahmad, was also unique in many ways. She was the first female Post Graduate of Urdu employed by Delhi Administration for teaching of Urdu language to school children, after 1947 in Delhi, who finally retired as the Principal of Govt Intermediate School.

I have always believed history is all about knowing the present better by learning about events and people of the past. If India continues to be a plural and democratic country, it is only because of people like Ahmad Hussain who was an English language journalist, Urdu language critic and Hindi poet.

He and his wife are both buried in Jamia’s grave yard in Delhi.