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Pasmanda-Bahujan against Sir Syed’s casteism

Pasmanda-Bahujan against Sir Syed’s casteism



Round Table India

For the last few days, Pasmanda collective and Bahujan students have been protesting against the written accounts of Sir Syed on the social media. As per allegations made by these activists and students, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had referred to an Indian Muslim caste as Badzat (low born) Julaha (weaver community) in his book titled ‘Ashbab-e Baghawat-e-Hind’ or ‘The causes of Indian Revolt’ Page-60. It is evident in his various other speeches and statements that his thoughts were systematically against the betterment of Muslim lower castes, women, and Bahujan. Due to all these reasons, aggrieved Bahujan students are calling him casteist. Bahujan Students are asserting that they cannot count anyone as a great leader of their community or Baba-e-Quam who has followed the casteist approach to develop an understanding about life. Bahujan students are claiming that Sir Syed was not only a casteist but also a disparager of women’s education.


Bahujan students, referring to one of the speeches of Sir Syed on the issue of women’s education delivered in Jalandhar (Punjab) on 20th April 1894, excerpted his statement ‘I am against sending girls to the schools, who knows what kind of company they will get there.’ Sir Syed further says ‘I very forcefully advise that the Ashraf should get together and make arrangements for their daughters that should be patterned on the traditional style (of education) that was once in place. Any person from a respected family cannot imagine to impart such education to his daughter which will place her either in a Telegraph office to give signals or in a Post office to stamp the letters.‘[Aligarh Institute Gazette, 15 May 1894, Part: 29, Edition: 39 (Reference: Khutbat-e-Sir Syed); Title: ‘Musalmano ki Tarakki aur Taleem-e-Niswan par Sir Syed ki Taqreer’, 20 April 1894, Place Jalandhar 2/279].

Bahujan students are also claiming that Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was a profound supporter of English and Modern education but only for Ashraf (Muslim upper castes), he had a very different perspective and vision for Pasmanda (Muslim Dalit/ backward castes). One of the instances of his discrimination was illustrated by students when Sir Syed was invited to lay the foundation of ‘Madrasa Anjuman-e-Islamia’ in Bareilly, a study place of children belonging to those of Muslim communities who were referred as lower castes. On this occasion, he mailed back on the same address which was given to him to attend the function, he replied:

In your address, you have mentioned that we should not hesitate to acquire the knowledge of other communities. Perhaps by this is meant the teaching of English but I tell you, with regards to a Madrasa like yours, teaching English is a grave blunder. There is no doubt that there is a pressing need for [knowledge of] the English language and for the teaching of British sciences. It is incumbent on the leaders and nobility of our community to provide higher education to their sons in the British sciences. No one is a greater supporter of the dissemination of English education and sciences among the Muslims than me. But there is a time and place for everything. I have seen that in your Madrasa located in the courtyard of a mosque […], there are 75 boys engaged in studying. Given the status and the class of these boys, it is useless to teach them English. Keep them busy with the old system of (Madrasa) education that is better for them and for the country.” [Sir Syed Ahmed Khan: Collection of Lectures & Speeches, Edition: Munshi Sirazuddin, Published: Siddhor 1892, Referenced by Ateeq Siddiqui: Sir Syed Ahmed Khan ek Siyasi Mutaala, Chapter: 8, Taleem Tahreeq aur uski Mukhaliphat, Title: Gurba ko Angrezi taleem dene ka khayal badi galti hai, Page no. 144/145]

In the series of his speeches, we can have a look at his Lucknow oration given in 1887. He says in the third paragraph of his speech, “It is very necessary that for the Viceroy’s Council the members should be of high social position. I ask you – would our aristocracy like that a man of low caste or insignificant origin, though he may be a B.A. or M.A., and have the requisite ability, should be in a position of authority above them and have power in making laws that affect their lives and property? Never! Nobody would like it. (Cheers). A seat in the council of the Viceroy is a position of great honour and prestige. None but a good breeding can the Viceroy take as his colleague, treat as his brother, and invite to entertainments at which he may have to dine with Dukes and Earls. Hence no blame can be attached to Government for making those great Raises members of the council.”

He adds on in the same speech, “What is the result of competitive examination in England? You know that men of all social positions, sons of Dukes or Earls, of Darzies and people of low rank, are equally allowed to pass the examination. Men of both high and low family come to India in the Civil Service. And it is the universal belief that it is not expedient for Government to bring the men of low rank; and that the men of good social position treat Indian gentlemen with becoming politeness, maintain the prestige of the British race, and impress on the hearts of the people a sense of British Justice, and are useful both to Government and to the country…..Now, let us suppose the Viceroy’s council [to be] made in this manner. And let us suppose first of all that we have universal suffrage, as in America, and that everybody, Chamars and all, have votes.” [Source: Sir Syed Ahmed on the President State of Indian Politics, Consisting of Speeches and Letters reprinted from the ‘Pioneer’ (Allahabad: The Pioneer Press, 1988), pp. 1-24. Modern facsimile version (Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 1982)

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On the other hand, former Student President, Faizul Hassan, of Aligarh Muslim University has lodged an FIR against Pasmanda activists and Bahujan students. In this FIR, it is stated that thousands of Aligarian students got emotionally offended due to such comments on Sir Syed. Concerned authority, therefore, has been requested to act upon involved people named Kanaklata Yadav, Waqar Ahmed, Nurul Momen, Lenin Maududi. AIPMM leader Waqar Ahmed questioned this report that ‘Sir Syed had offended his caste by calling them as Badzat or low born and now when he is putting forward his arguments with factual data, Sir Syed’s followers calling him back as casteist. Are only they entitled to have emotions?’ Another accused of the FIR, Lenin Maududi responded by saying ‘all records and documents of Sir Syed are stored in the library of Aligarh Muslim University. If anyone thinks that allegations on Sir Syed are wrong then they can themselves check the references given by Bahujan students. Further, Nurul Momin takes this charge of FIR as an opportunity to spread his words to the remotest audience and it will be easier now to expose the venomous elements in our Muslim society.


Kanaklata Yadav, Vice President of Bahujan Sahitya Sangh, has been continuously abused with casteist slurs. Ms. Kanaklata says ‘when I am writing against the casteist statements made by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, please don’t take it as against the Aligarh Muslim University. Also, don’t divert the objective of the whole debate and issues. If a person disapproves the ideology of Madan Mohan Malviya (Founder of Hindu Mahasabha and BHU) associated with Hindu Mahasabha then would it mean that one is also opposing the institution of BHU? If one disapproves the foreign policy and other ideas of Jawaharlal Nehru then would it be considered equal to opposing the Institution of JNU? Similarly, when one writes about the opinion and ideas of Sir Syed or protest against them then certainly it is not at all against any institution or university be it Aligarh Muslim University.’


In short, it is to convey that if debating against any regressive ideas is a matter to be discussed through threats and judicial processes, then we must not hesitate at all to stand united against the hidden and malafide intention of dominant communities, be it within any religion. We can, for example, see that how such henchmen claiming to be belonging to Brahmin community have debarred women from entering the Sabarimala temple. Sadly, despite the Supreme Court giving the judgement in favour of women’s entry to the Sabarimala temple, some handfuls of goons claiming to be Brahmins are not just standing against the following of the law of the land but breaking the whole concept of equality of body and mind, be it men, women, transgender or anybody. This must also be noted that not all Brahmins of the country are against the women entry to Sabarimala Temple.

In continuity, it must be clear that if handfuls of elites and powerful upper caste Muslim would want to hide their unjust privileges under the garb of filthy politics of something called ‘Hurting Sentiments’, then they should know that India has a number of struggles in its historical account of freedom against any kind of slavery. As we are sure, it is just a matter of time that the dominance of just one caste (Ashraf) among Muslims happens to face the same fate of the ideological debacle.


Courtesy: All India Pasmnada Muslim Mahaz, Bahujan Sahitya Sangh