A Muslim scholar with a passion for Sanskrit

Pandit Dastagir

Mumbai: In downtown Worli, it is common to hear the strange greeting of ‘Assalamu-Alaykum, Guruji’ whenever an 80-year-old Muslim man steps out of his modest home. He is none other than renowned Sanskrit scholar Pandit Gulam Dastagir, who over six decades has impressed the Shankaracharyas, late prime minister Indira Gandhi, RSS leaders and Islamic scholars, all with equal elan.

Armed with a deep knowledge of both Islam and Sanskrit, Pandit Dastagir can speak with authority on any religious topic — and earn their unabashed admiration.

Born in Chikhali village in Solapur district, Pandit Dastagir completed his schooling before joining a government Sanskrit institution.

“I was the only Muslim student in a class of around four dozen Brahmins. My Brahmin Guruji developed a special liking for me and encouraged me. I acquired my entire Sanskrit knowledge of the scriptures, Vedas and other texts there,” Pandit Dastagir told IANS.

Around mid-1950s, he shifted to Mumbai and joined the Maratha Mandir Sansthan’s Marathi-medium Worli High School as a Sanskrit teacher for all classes.

Two decades later, to comply with professional requirements, he appeared directly for a Master’s degree in Sanskrit from Mysore University.

After the Emergency, when the Janata Party ruled India, Pandit Dastagir was suddenly targeted. “They suspected I was a namesake Muslim propagating the RSS and Jana Sangh ideology through Sanskrit. It was only after a long investigation that they were proved wrong,” the man chuckled.

When Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980, she summoned him and was surprised to discover that Pandit Dastagir was actually a ‘Syedvanshi’, or belonging to a clan considered the direct descendents of Prophet Mohammed.

“She met me several times and appreciated my knowledge and love for Sanskrit. In 1982, she told the education ministry to appoint me as a ‘Rashtriya Sanskrit Pracharak’,” Pandit Dastagir said.

When baffled officials asked Gandhi how should his duties be classified, she reportedly shot back: “He will teach us what needs to be done. Let him function independently.”

For two years, he toured India extensively and propagated Sanskrit in government and private institutions. He quit the post after Gandhi’s assassination in 1984.

“I acquired MA in Sanskrit only in 1987 when I was around 50 years old although I was proficient in the language long before.”

Since his retirement, Pandit Dastagir lectures on the similarities between Islam and Hinduism with reference to various aspects of one of the world’s oldest and richest languages, Sanskrit.

“Sanskrit is not only for Brahmins. But this perception made the masses reluctant to study it. I create awareness about Sanskrit all over India among different castes and religions,” he said.

Pandit Dastagir explained that Hinduism does not recognize ‘conversions’ or the caste system. “The current craze for ‘conversions’ has no basis in Hindu scriptures. It is not recognized. At best, you can change a person’s name, not his soul from the religion of his/her birth,” he said.

An old darling of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), Pandit Dastagir credits the group with giving him full encouragement to pursue his vocation without having to change his religion.

He feels the RSS was not against any religion. “But if anybody threatens Hinduism, they will hit back, irrespective of the opponent’s religious beliefs,” Pandit Dastagir said.

He has also never encountered objections from fellow Muslims over his passion for Sanskrit. “Comparative study of different religions makes you more reasonable. I am not a fanatic, just an ordinary Muslim.”

His love for Sanskrit has not made him lose Islamic identity. He prays daily at the mosque. “I have built up a huge library of thousands of books on Sanskrit and Islam which I study and propagate,” Pandit Dastagir said.

He laments that there are many other Muslim Sanskrit scholars in the country but financial constraints prevent them from propagating the ancient Indian language.

Pandit Dastagir’s wife Vahida is a supporting housewife. Their son Badiujjama is a Sanskrit scholar but runs a shop, elder daughter Gyasunissa Shaikh runs a Sanskrit research centre in Solapur, and their other daughter Kamrunnisa Patil never pursued her father’s passion.


‘Projections in the Forest’, A Short Film Captures the Magical Beauty of Luminescent Life in the Forest

Projections in the Forest, a short time lapse film by Friedrich van Schoor and Tarek Mawad, captures the incredible beauty of luminescent plants and animals whose glow make the forest a seemingly magical place.

The projection mapping “bioluminescent forest” is made by artists Friedrich van Schoor and Tarek Mawad. The artists spent six weeks in the forest fascinated by the silence and natural occurrences in nature, especially the phenomenon “bioluminescence”. They personified the forest to accentuate the natural beauty by creating luring luminescent plants and glowing magical mushrooms that speaks volumes to any visitor that enters the minds of the artists through viewing “bioluminescent forest“.

K M Shareef re-elected as Chairman of Popular Front of India

K M Shareef

Calicut: Mr K M Shareef has been re-elected the Chairman of Popular Front of India by the National General Assembly of Popular Front of India which was held at Malabar House, Puthanathani in Malappuram district on 27-29 December 2014. The Assembly concluded with the election of National Executive Council members and National Functionaries for the next two year term. The other National Functionaries are E M Abdul Rahiman (Kerala Vice Chairman, M. Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Tamil Nadu) General Secretary and Muhammad Khalid (Manipur) Treasurer.

In addition to the above, the members who constitute the new National Executive Council are as follows: O M Abdul Salam, C Abdul Samad, M Abdul Samad, Abdul Vahid Sait, C K Afsal, Anis Ahmed, Ashraf Moulavi Karamana, Hamid Muhammad, Prof P Koya, Muhammad Roshan, Adv Muhammad Yusuf.

The Assembly started with the introductory speech by the chairman K M Shareef. The annual report was presented by the General Secretary O M A Salam. The members reviewed the report and submitted suggestions for next term.

During past one year the organisation has shown considerable increase in number of members and units across the country. At present the organisation has around 80,000 cadres along with more than 3 lakh associates. In addition to 11 states where the organisation has full-fledged network, it has registered expansion and growth in another 7 states.

During the current one year, Popular Front has intervened in different social, political and international issues. A nationwide campaign was held demanding the repeal of the draconian law UAPA. The organisation has taken steps to build a broad based alliance of different minority and civil rights leaders and groups against growing authoritarian and communal tendencies. The national movement against UAPA, the Sikh-Muslim mission for communal harmony, the joint platform that has commemorated anti-Sikh riot of 1984 and Babri Masjid demolition of 1992 are a few among such steps. In the context of Israel’s attack on people of Gaza, Popular Front held nation-wide solidarity campaign captioned ‘I am Gaza’.

In the community development and social welfare areas, the organisation has undertaken the School Chalo campaign cum service programmes during the current year also. 78,889 school kits were distributed in 16 states at a cost of Rs. 2,54,59,116. An amount of 94,17,802 were spent for scholarships. 2047 students got the benefit of this scheme. In addition it was reported that around Rupees 8 crore were locally mobilized and utilized in different activities such calamity relief, medical support, home to homeless, drinking water and self employment. Immediately after the flood in Kashmir, the organisation has launched a relief and rehabilitation project. Along with the distribution of food and clothing, 347 winter homes were constructed and handed over to stranded families in 35 villages. This task was completed within 3 months by spending around Rs 2 crores collected from public.

A set of resolutions pertaining to various social and political issues were adopted after discussions. The Assembly renewed their pledge to stand in the forefront to empower Muslims and all other deprived and targeted classes and take them to a bright future in spite of all adversaries. The NGA has also resolved to strengthen the struggles against the communal, fascist, anti-people, anti-democratic and anti-national challenges increasingly engulfing the nation. Moulana Usman Baig, Prof P Koya and Anis Ahmed addressed different sessions. Around 200 delegates from 11 states participated in the NGA. The programme was concluded with address by relieving general secretary O M A Salam and re-elected chairman K M Shareef. The programme director Adv Muhammad Yusuf proposed vote of thanks.

PLO: Israel has detained 1266 Palestinian children in 2014

Muntasser Bakr, an eleven-year-old Palestinian boy who lost four of his relatives when two Israeli missiles slammed into a beach during the 50-day July-August Gaza war, stands outside his house on December 24, 2014 in Gaza City. AFP / Mahmoud Hams

Muntasser Bakr, an eleven-year-old Palestinian boy who lost four of his relatives when two Israeli missiles slammed into a beach during the 50-day July-August Gaza war, stands outside his house on December 24, 2014 in Gaza City. AFP / Mahmoud Hams

by Al Akhbar

Israeli forces detained over 1,000 Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank and annexed Jerusalem in 2014, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said Tuesday.

Abdul-Nasser Farawna, head of Authority of Prisoners’ Affairs, a PLO body, said that Israel detained 1,266 Palestinian children, below the age of 15, in the West Bank and Jerusalem in 2014.

“The vast majority of the arrests happened in the second half of the year,” Farawna said in a statement, adding that at least 200 children are still detained in Israeli jails on various charges.

Israeli forces routinely conduct arrest campaigns targeting Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and annexed Jerusalem on claims they are “wanted” by Israeli authorities.

According to the PLO, more than 10,000 Palestinian minors in the occupied West Bank and annexed Jerusalem have been held by the Israeli army for varying periods since 2000.

“The number of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces, especially in annexed East Jerusalem, has sharply risen,” Farawna declared, saying that the number of children detainees had increased by 87 percent over the past three years.

“The majority of the detained children were subjected to beatings and torture by Israeli security personnel while in detention,” he asserted.

Farawna’s statements echoed similar comments last month by another PLO official, Issa Qaraqe, who said that around 95 percent of children detainees were subjected to beatings and torture by Israeli security personnel while in detention, while many were forced to make confessions under duress and undergo unfair trials.

Violent practices by Israeli soldiers as well as settlers against Palestinian children is endemic and often abetted by the authorities.

“Israel does not provide any immunity for children and regularly violates international agreements on children’s rights by humiliating and torturing them and denying them fair trials,” Qaraqe explained.

A report by Defense for Children International (DCI) published in May 2014 revealed that Israel jails 20 percent of Palestinian children it detains in solitary confinement.

DCI said that minors held in solitary confinement spent an average of 10 days in isolation. The longest period of confinement documented in a single case was 29 days in 2012, and 28 days in 2013.

A report by The Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights Israeli forces arrested nearly 3,000 Palestinian children from the beginning of 2010 to mid-2014, the majority of them between the ages of 12 and 15 years old.

The report also documented dozens of video recorded testimonies of children arrested during the first months of 2014, pointing out that 75 percent of the detained children are subjected to physical torture and 25 percent faced military trials.

The most excruciating violations are seen in the psycho-physical torture methods, including the act of forcing children to sit on the investigation chair chained hand and foot and covering their entire heads with foul-smelling bags, in addition to depriving them of sleep.

In 2013, the UN children’s fund (UNICEF) reported that Israel was the only country in the world where children were “systematically tried” in military courts and gave evidence of practices it said were “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.”

The UNICEF report said in a 22-page report that over the past decade, Israeli forces have arrested, interrogated and prosecuted around 7,000 children between 12 and 17, mostly boys, noting the rate was equivalent to “an average of two children each day.”

Palestinian children as young as five years old have also been detained in the past.

In 2013, Israeli forces in the West Bank detained four Palestinian children aged five to nine years.

Palestinian activist Murad Ashtiye told AFP at the time that “Israeli soldiers arrest the children and tie their hands behind their backs using plastic strips.”

Meanwhile in Gaza, a 51-day Israeli aggression last August left at least 505 children dead, 20 percent of the total civilian death toll.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA said 138 of its students were killed during the assault. The organization’s spokesperson Christopher Gunness said an additional 814 UNRWA students were injured and 560 have become orphans due to the Israeli onslaught.

The worst massacre took place in the Abu Hussein School of the Jabaliya refugee camp in the north killing and injuring dozens even after the agency said that it gave the school’s coordinates to the Israelis more than 17 times so they won’t hit it.

(Anadolu, Al-Akhbar)

UNSC rejects resolution on Palestinian state

Bid to end Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories by 2017 garners eight votes, one short of total needed to pass.

The Palestinian leadership has once again demonstrated its capacity to blow lots of smoke with no fire [AFP]

The Palestinian leadership has once again demonstrated its capacity to blow lots of smoke with no fire [AFP]

by Al Jazeera

The UN Security Council has rejected a Palestinian resolution calling for peace with Israel within a year and an end to Israel’s occupation by 2017.

The resolution failed to muster the minimum nine “yes” votes required in the council for adoption.

The motion received eight “yes” votes, including from Russia and France, two “no” votes from the United States and Australia, and five abstentions.

Riyad Mansour, Palestinian ambassador to the UN, criticised the world body for the failure of the vote.

“The Security Council has once again failed to uphold its charter duties to address this crises and to meaningfully contribute to a lasting solution in accordance with its own resolutions,” Mansour said.

“This year, our people under Israeli occupation endured the further theft and colonisation of their land, the demolition of their homes, daily military raids, arrests and detention of thousands of civilians including children, rampant settler terrorism, constant affronts to their human dignity and repeated incursions at our holiest sites.”

Following the vote, the US, Israel’s closest ally, reiterated its opposition to the draft resolution.

Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, said the resolution undermined efforts to “achieve two states for two people”.

“It is deeply imbalanced and contains many elements that are not conducive to negotiations between the parties including unconstructive deadlines that take no account for Israelis legitimate security concerns,” she said.

Palestinian statehood

The resolution, which was submitted by Jordan – currently the only Arab member of the security council -had called for occupied East Jerusalem to be the capital of Palestine, an end to Israeli settlement building and settling the issue of Palestinian prisoner releases.

The resolution also called for negotiations to be based on territorial lines that existed before Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in 1967.

Israel had said the Security Council vote, following the collapse in April of US-brokered talks on Palestinian statehood, would deepen the conflict.

Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, derided the resolution, telling Al Jazeera it undermined Palestinian rights, including the rights of refugees and the future of Jerusalem.

“This was a terrible resolution which was unaninimously opposed by every major Palestinian faction, it contained so many compromises in an attempt to avoid a US veto that it was weaker than existing UN resolutions,” he said.

The Palestinians, frustrated by the lack of progress on peace talks, have sought to internationalise the issue by seeking UN membership and recognition of statehood via membership in international organisations.

Several European parliaments have adopted non-binding motions calling for recognition of Palestine.

The Palestinians had warned that if the UN resolution failed they were prepared to join the International Criminal Court to file suits against Israel.

UN Security Council vote on Palestinian draft resolution

YES: Jordan, China, France, Russia, Luxembourg, Chad, Chile, Argentina.

NO: United States, Australia.

ABSTAINED: United Kingdom, Lithuania, Nigeria, South Korea, Rwanda.

Bolivia's Morales: U.S 'backs drug trafficking'


by teleSUR

According to the Bolivian President, Washington “uses its War on Drugs to pursue its own geo-political agenda.”

The so-called War on Drugs pushed by Washington is just one of the many means that the United States uses to pressure and control governments in Latin America, according to Bolivian President Evo Morales.

“(U.S. government) uses its War on Drugs to pursue its own geo-political agenda and now they use it to accuse other governments and take them down,” Morales, one of the Latin American leaders who has most fiercely criticized U.S. policy in the region, told the Mexican newspaper La Jornada in an article published Monday.

“They even named me the ‘Andinean Bin Laden’ and accused us of being terrorists and drug traffickers and at the same United States is the top-nation that backs and benefits from drug trafficking,” the Bolivian president continued.

Morales, whose political career began as a coca leaf farmer, said that drug trafficking is one of the many ways that the U.S. government uses to impose its own agenda in the region.

“Drug trafficking seems like the big business of the capitalist system. (United States) is a very developed country, with a lot of technology and the one who consumes the most drugs. How is it that they cannot control drug trafficking?,” asked Morales. “I think the country that drives the drug trade is the U.S., it’s big business; the big, illegal business of the capitalist system.”

Since electing Morales as President in 2006, Bolivia has been in dispute with Washington the coca leaf production in the South American nation, which the country’s indigenous majority use for a range of non-narcotic purposes, including religious ceremonies.

The coca plant is considered sacred in several Andean countries.

Morales also slammed U.S. policy in the region, including the recent announcement by the Obama administration to impose diplomatic sanctions against Venezuela.

Morales urged all Latin American leaders to unite against U.S. imperialism. “Unity is the only way to guarantee a future in Latin America,” the Bolivian leader concluded.

Veteran journalist B.G. Verghese dead


New Delhi: Veteran journalist B.G. Verghese, who in 1975 won the Ramon Magsaysay award for outstanding journalism, died in Gurgaon near here Tuesday. He was 87.

Verghese, a former editor of the Hindustan Times, passed away at 6 p.m. at his son’s residence, a family member said. His body will rest till the cremation Jan 1.

The former information advisor to prime minister Indira Gandhi leaves behind wife Jamila and sons Vijay and Rahul.

Friends described Myanmar-born Verghese as a tireless crusader for the underprivileged and an inspirational journalist.

A product of The Doon School and the University of Cambridge, Verghese was associated since 1986 with the think-tank Centre for Policy Research.

Four ways to portray Muslims as India's biggest threat

These four separate incidents in two states – Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh – were driven by just one motive: sparking communal disharmony through false information.


by Aditya Menon, @adityamenon22

1. Abdul Khan, the fictitious ISIS Bangalore bomber: Until a day ago, the Twitter handle @LatestAbdul that ran tweets claiming responsibility for the Church Street blast in Bangalore, was speculated to belong to one of the radicalised Indian Muslim cadres of the ISIS. Now it turns out that the person behind the terror threats is a 17-year-old and reportedly not a Muslim. The police claims the teenager Satish (name changed) was mentally stressed. Going by the name Abdul Khan, Satish had been had been threatening to bomb a college for a while and had tagged members of the police force and politicians in his tweets.

On his Twitter timeline, Satish/Abdul had hurled abuses at a wide range of people such as Bangalore police commissioner MN Reddi, DCP (crime) Abhishek Goyal, Union home minister Rajnath Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He had threatened to bomb the Alvas College in Moodbidri in Dakshina Kannada if police did not release alleged ISIS sympathiser Mehdi Masroor Biswas, who ran the pro-ISIS Twitter handle @ShamiWitness.

On December 22, “Abdul” had tweeted to commissioner Reddi, “Let’s start the game, Karnataka Police cannot catch us.” He threatened that he would kill at least a thousand people. He had also claimed that he and ISIS members were seeking funds, to “blast all of India” if needed.

2. Desh Raj Singh the “professional riot-manufacturer”: On December 15, a buffalo carcass was found on the premises of a temple in Parsauli village in Budhana block of the Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh. Also inscribed on the temple wall was an inflammatory message in support of the Islamic State. On December 20, parts of a buffalo carcass were found inside another temple in the area and an idol of Nandi was reportedly found missing. Budhana had witnessed communal violence during last year’s riots in Muzaffarnagar and the two incidents sparked tensions yet again. Union minister Sanjeev Baliyan, who is accused of instigating the riots, also visited the area.

The Uttar Pradesh police’s investigation revealed that this was the handiwork of 35-year old Desh Raj who wanted to instigate riots in the area. Apparently, Raj even confessed that he killed a dog and left its corpse hanging in a mosque to fuel tensions. According to the police, Raj claims that his aim was to ensure that “koi masjid na rahe, sirf mandir rahe (no mosques should remain, only temples should remain)”. Many Muslims who were displaced during the riots last year were settled near Parsauli village. Apparently, this demographic change in the area upset him. Desh Raj would have succeeded had the police not caught him and exposed his plan in time. Looking to fish in troubled waters, the UP unit of the Shiv Sena had threatened to hold a Hindu mahapanchayat in the district if the culprit was not caught.

3. A gang-rape that wasn’t: In August this year, we heard of the ghastly gang-rape of a Hindu girl at a madrassa in Meerut. With each passing day, more and more sordid details of the case started coming out: that the girl was gangraped and forcibly made to convert to Islam; that a flesh trade racket was being run from the madrassa, where she was an employee; that many women were held captive there and then sold off to rich men in Gulf countries. The allegations sparked an outrage and understandably so. Western Uttar Pradesh, which was already a communal tinderbox, came on the verge of another riot.

Two months later, the victim filed a report denying that she was gangraped or forcibly made to convert. She claimed that she had actually eloped from home with a Muslim boy. She wrote in the statement, “I was staying with my parents, but I ran away from home because I feel a threat to my life from my parents and relatives… I went with the boy belonging to a different community out of my own will”. Hindutva groups spared no effort in raking up the “Meerut gangrape” especially as it also came on the eve of crucial by-elections in Uttar Pradesh.

Each and every aspect of the entire tale – from the “forcible conversion” to the “madrassa gangrape”, and of course, “girls being sold in the Gulf” – were straight out of a Hindutva hate-monger’s playbook. Of course, no story involving a Muslim villain is complete without women being forcibly converted to Islam and sold to an Arab shaikh!

4. Pakistani flag, Hindutva flag bearers: In January 2012, six activists of the right-wing Sri Ram Sene were arrested for trying to instigate communal violence in the north Karnataka town of Sindhagi. Their modus operandi was unique. They hoisted the Pakistani flag on the mini Vidhan Soudha premises, blamed the act on the Muslims and, on the very next day, staged demonstrations in the town protesting against the delay in arresting those responsible! Like the young Satish, the Sene cadres were all aged between 18 to 20. The men, who saw themselves as defenders of Indian nationalism, actually took the trouble to stitch the Pakistani flag at their homes. Of course, this act of mischief hardly came as a surprise as Sene chief Pramod Muthalik was himself caught in a sting operation in 2010, discussing how his outfit could instigate a riot for a price.

These four separate incidents in two states – Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh – were driven by just one motive: portraying Muslims as the biggest threat to India.

Now, it is fortunate that the people responsible were caught in these four occasions and the respective state administrations deserve full credit for their work. But there could be numerous cases in which Muslims have been wrongfully accused. We know of the Malegaon, Mecca Masjid and Samjhauta attacks because of the investigation by the late Hemant Karkare and his team. But what about cases where the administration is not unbiased and where the investigation officers aren’t someone like Karkare?

This article first appeared on daily O.

No end to deadlock on government formation in Kashmir


Srinagar: Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) Tuesday said no breakthrough is expected in the near future over the formation of new government.

PDP chief spokesperson Naeem Akhtar said no serious conclusion has been drawn so far over the formation of new government and the deadlock is likely to continue.

Mehbooba Mufti Tuesday left for Jammu to meet Governor, N N Vohra, for the government formation. “Don’t expect any breakthrough soon after the meet. She has left for a discussion over the present political scenario that has emerged in the state after the results of the state elections of 2014,” Akhtar said. “The talks with all political parties is going on with no final decision made over the issue.”

“It is an evolving situation and not concrete has come to fore yet. The situation continues to remain the same,” said the spokesperson. “The deadlock is not expected to end in the near future.”

He also maintained that Mehbboba-Vohra meeting should not be expected as the final point in ending the deadlock as the party is yet to take final call over entering into a coalition with any other party. “You cannot term it a final step. The discussions are going on and shall continue till final decision is made,” Akhtar said.

The PDP was part of a coalition that ruled the region between 2002 and 2008. Poll pundits suggest that the party is again likely to form the next government in coalition with other political groups and some independents.

People’s Democratic Party has 28 seats and gained seven seats as compared to the 2008 elections. BJP has gained 14 seats in this time election.

National Conference lost 15 seats and most of them from the summer capital Srinagar. Earlier the party had 28 members but this time the results have squeezed it to mere 15. The Congress got 12 seats in its kitty.

Both the BJP and the PDP benefited from widespread public discontent over the ruling National Conference’s handling of devastating September floods that killed more than 200 people in Kashmir.


Saiyid Hamid was like 'Second Sir Syed' to Indian Muslims


by Kaleem Kawaja

Washington: It is with profound sadness that Indian Muslims in North-America have learned of the passing away of Saiyid Hamid, renowned educationist, reformer and a top leader of Muslims in India.

After completing a very distinguished Indian Administrative Service (IAS) career, Saiyid Hamid, who was originally from Bulandshahar (UP), embarked on a 30 year second career as an educationist, working with much dedication to improving education in the Muslim community in India.

He served as vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, and chancellor of Hamdard University New Delhi. He spent nearly 30 years motivating many senior government officials and senior Muslims to build projects to improve education in the Muslim community in India.

He was the prime mover behind persuading the Indian government to form a committee headed by Justice Sachar to conduct research and to document the socio-economic-educational backwardness of Indian Muslims and to build programs for their uplift.

I was fortunate to get acquainted wih Saiyid Hamid on a personl level and to co-host his visit to USA in 1996 to motivate Indian Muslims in US to help in the establishment of educational institutions in India and an English language magazine/newspaper.

Following his visit to USA, as he established a postgraduate college of management and information technology in New Delhi and the monthly magazine ‘The Nation & the World’, I had an opportunity to work with him on these projects for many years.

A conversation with Saiyid Hamid was a pure delight. He was so erudite, so full of knowledge and such a practical visionary, so highly accomplished in both English and Urdu literature that it was difficult to understand how he acquired such broad accomplishment.

Indeed such was the strength of his personality and intellect that no matter who you were it was impossible not to be impressed with him or not to get motivated by his ideas. It was in the fitness of things that many people called him the “Second Sir Syed”, that he truly was.

Indian Muslims will miss him for a very long time as he was a very rare individual who fully epitomized the following verse of renowned Persian poet Hafiz Shirazi, that he once told me in conversation.

“When you travel through a desert, you see all types of creatures, small reptiles, birds, big animals etc travelling towards the oasis to fill their thirst. We should try to be that oasis”. Indeed Saiyid Hamid was an oasis towards whom we all looked up to, to satisfy our thirst to improve ourselves and our institutions.”

Kaleem Kawaja is Executive Director, Association of Indian Muslims of America, Washington DC.