Independence Movement Rewriting Indian History

Speech Of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan At Meerut, 1888 [Excerpt]

Source: – http://www.columbia.edu

t the invitation of the Mahomedans of Meerut, Sir Syed Ahmed went to that town on the 14th of March [1888], and delivered two lectures, one on education and one on politics. He was met at the station by the leading Mahomedan gentlemen of Meerut, who raised a cheer as the train drew up at the platform, and threw flowers over him when he alighted. Carpets and red cloth were at once spread along the ground from the railway-carriage to the road. The first lecture was given at 8 A.M. in the durbar tent of the Meerut fair. Four hundred and fifty chairs had been placed in the tent, and not only were all filled, but a large number of people had to stand. The audience rose as the Syed entered. An address was first read, after which Sir Syed Ahmed delivered his first lecture which lasted an hour and twenty minutes, and was received with rapt attention. It was devoted to the condition of the Mahomedans and to the need of education; and was very effective, the audience being, at times, moved to tears. Next day in the evening he gave his second lecture on politics. As the Nauchandi Fair was at its height, the audience was very crowded, not less than seven or eight hundred being present, including many people belonging to the Delhi, [[30]] Saharanpur, Moradabad, and other districts. The audience was mainly Mahomedan, all the great Raïses being present, and great appreciation of the speech was manifested. At the close three cheers were given for the lecturer, and then the people adjourned to another tent where a tea-party was held in honour of Sir Syed, some hundred and fifty people sitting down to the repast. The utmost enthusiasm prevailed, and at the close Maulvi Hashmat Ullah, Statutory Civilian, made a speech, expressing the prevailing sentiment, and thanking the Syed for the great service he had rendered the Mahomedans. The political speech was as follows:–


    {1}  I think it expedient that I should first of all tell you the reason why I am about to address you on the subject of tonight’s discourse. You know, gentlemen, that, from a long time, our friends the Bengalis have shown very warm feeling on political matters. Three years ago they founded a very big assembly, which holds its sittings in various places, and they have given it the name “National Congress.” We and our nation gave no thought to the matter. And we should be very glad for our friends the Bengalis to be successful, if we were of the opinion that they had by their education and ability made such progress as rendered them fit for the claims they put forward. But although they are superior to us in education, yet we have never admitted that they have reached that level to which they lay claim to have attained. Nevertheless I have never, in any article, or in any speech, or even in conversation [[31]] in any place, put difficulties or desired to put difficulties in the way of any of their undertakings. It has never been my wish to oppose any people or any nation who wish to make progress, and who have raised themselves up to that rank to which they wish to attain and for which they are qualified. But my friends the Bengalis have made a most unfair and unwarrantable interference with my nation, and therefore it is my duty to show clearly what this unwarrantable interference has been, and to protect my nation from the evils that may arise from it. It is quite wrong to suppose that I have girded up my loins for the purpose of fighting my friends the Bengalis; my object is only to make my nation understand what I consider conducive to its prosperity. It is incumbent on me to show what evils would befall my nation from joining in the opinions of the Bengalis: I have no other purpose in view.

    {2}  The unfair interference of these people is this — that they have tried to produce a false impression that the Mahomedans of these Provinces agree with their opinions. But we also are inhabitants of this country, and we cannot be ignorant of the real nature of the events that are taking place in our own North-West Provinces and Oudh, however their colour may be painted in newspapers, and whatever aspect they may be made to assume. It is possible that the people of England, who are ignorant of the real facts, may be deceived on seeing their false representations; but we and the [[32]] people of our country, who know all the circumstances, can never be thus imposed on. Our Mahomedan nation has hitherto sat silent. It was quite indifferent as to what the Babus of Bengal, the Hindus of these Provinces, and the English and Eurasian inhabitants of India, might be doing. But they have now been wrongly tampering with our nation. In some districts they have brought pressure to bear on Mahomedans to make them join the Congress. I am sorry to say that they never said anything to those people who are powerful and are actually Raïses [nobles] and are counted the leaders of the nation; but they brought unfair pressure to bear on such people as could be subjected to their influence.

    {3}  In some districts they pressed men by the weight of authority, in others they forced them in this way — saying that the business they had at heart could not prosper unless they took part; or they led them to suppose that they could not get bread if they held aloof. They even did not hold back from offering the temptation of money. Where is the man that does not know this? Who does not know who were the three or four Mahomedans of the North-West Provinces who took part with them, and why they took part? The simple truth is they were nothing more than hired men. (Cheers.) Such people they took to Madras, and having got them there, said, “These are the sons of Nawabs, and these are Raïses of such-and-such districts, and these are such-and-such great Mahomedans,” whilst everybody knows how the men were bought. We [[33]] know very well the people of our own nation, and that they have been induced to go either by pressure, or by folly, or by love of notoriety, or by poverty. If any Raïs on his own inclination and opinion join them, we do not care a lot. By one man’s leaving us our crowd is not diminished. But this telling of lies that their men are landlords and Nawabas of such-and-such places; and their attempt to give a false impression that the Mahomedans have joined them — this is a most unwarrantable interference with our nation. When matters took such a turn, then it was necessary that I should warn my nation of their misrepresentations, in order that others should not fall into the trap; and that I should point out to my nation that the few who went to Madras, went by pressure, or from some temptation, or in order to help their profession, or to gain notoriety; or were bought. (Cheers.) No Raïs from here took part in it.

    {4}  This was the cause of my giving a speech at Lucknow [in 1887], contrary to my wont, on the evils of the National Congress; and this is the cause also of today’s speech. And I want to show this: that except Badruddin Tyabji, who is a gentleman of very high position and for whom I have great respect, no leading Mahomedan took part in it. He did take part, but I think he made a mistake. He has written me two letters, one of which was after the publication of my Lucknow speech. I think that he wants me to point out those things in the Congress which are opposed to the interests of Mahomedans, in order that he may exclude them [[34]] from the discussion. But in reality the whole affair is bad for Mahomedans. However, let us grant that Badruddin Tyabji’s opinion is different from ours; yet it cannot be said that his opinion is the opinion of the whole nation, or that his sympathy with the Congress implies the sympathy of the whole community. My friend there, Mirza Ismail Khan, who has just come from Madras, told me that no Mahomedan Raïs of Madras took part in the Congress. It is said that Prince Humayun Jah joined it. Let us suppose that Humayun Jah, whom I do not know, took part in it; yet our position as a nation will not suffer simply because two men stand aside. No one can say that because these two Raïses took part in it, that therefore the whole nation has joined it. To say that the Mahomedans have joined it is quite wrong, and is a false accusation against our nation. If my Bengali friends had not adopted this wrong course of action, I should have had nothing to do with the National Congress, nor with its members, nor with the wrong aspirations for which they have raised such an uproar. Let the delegates of the National Congress become the stars of heaven, or the sun itself — I am delighted. But it was necessary and incumbent on me to show the falsity of the impression which, by taking a few Mahomedans with them by pressure or by temptation, they wished to spread, that the whole Mahomedan nation had joined them. (Cheers.)

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