Friday 5 August 2011

Dr. Zakir Husain

Embodiment of Humility Dr. Zakir Husain, the third President of India, was born in Hyderabad on February 8, 1897. He came of a Pathan family who, settled at Qaunaganj in Farrukhabad of Uttar Pradesh. His father, Fida Husain Khan, went to Hyderabad, studied law and had a successful career. He died when Dr. Zakir Husain was only ten years old.
After finishing school in Etawah, he joined the M.A.O. College in Aligarh and studied upto M.A. When the Indian National Congress and the All-India Khilafat Committee, joined hands in launching the Non-Cooperation Movement, Mahatma Gandhi toured the country to induce teachers and students to leave government-administered schools and colleges.
The young Zakir Husain, who was then half-student, and half-teacher, prominent among the students and popular with a large section of the staff, persuaded Hakin Ajmal Khan and other leaders to establish a national institution in Aligarh, and the Jamia Millia Islamia came into being on October 29, 1920.
But Zakir Husain did not leave his studies incomplete. He went to the University of Berlin in Germany, for higher studies in 1923, returned with a doctorate in economics three years later. He rejoined the Jamia Millia in February-March, 1926 and became the Shaikhu Jamia (Vice-Chancellor). It was at the Jamia Millia that Dr. Zakir Husain developed his gifts as an educationist.
It was his experience here as well as his deep study of the philosophy of education which enabled him to take charge of the scheme of Basic National Education when it was launched in 1938. He was the President of Hindustani Talimi Sangh, Sevagram, from 1938 to 1948.
In November 1948, he was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University. He was also nominated a member of the Indian Universities Commission. The World University Service made him the Chairman of the Indian National Committee and in 1954, he was elected the World President of the organisation.
In reply to a letter of congratulations for the high honour bestowed on him from this scribe who was an active member of the National Committee, he replied back in his typical humility, “I have no doubt in my mind that my election is not due to any personal eminence but it is due entirely to the place the Indian National Committee holds in the world organisation. I shall, therefore, expect the Indian Committee to re-double its efforts in order to justify the choice of one of them as the Chairman of the International Organisation.”
Dr. Zakir Husain’s outstanding success in life was attributed to his humility, simplicity and sincerity of purpose. Ghalib, the famous Urdu poet wrote, “How difficult it is to make anything simple. Even man finds it hard to be human”. Zakir Saheb did not have to strive to be simple. Simplicity as a matter of fact was an integral part of his being.
In 1953, a group of foreign students came to India to attend an international seminar. Both the foreign and the Indian students including this writer called on Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi. Zakir Saheb went to the Prime Minister’s house with them and without any hesitation sat down on the floor near the sofa of Nehru.
Despite the Prime Minister’s insistence, he continued to sit on the floor with the students. Such was his utter simplicity and humility.
Dr. Zakir Husain was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1952 as a distinguished savant. He was renominated in 1956. In 1957, he was appointed Governor of Bihar, an office he held until 1962.
He continued to serve the cause of education and culture within the country and abroad in many ways. He represented India in UNESCO, and served as a member of its Executive Board during the years 1956-58. He travelled and lectured widely in Europe and America, propounding his ideas on education.
He once defined a university as “primarily as a community of scholars and students who should be treated as responsible members of a free and academic society, free to think, free to express their thoughts, free to refuse, to conform, free to be unorthodox and even free to err.”
This broad vision inspired his work as an educationist throughout his life. He was elected Vice-President of the Republic. He won the respect of the House through his erudition, impartiality and gentleness. He visited many countries of Asia, Africa and the West.
In 1963, he was awarded the highest honour of the land, the Bharat Ratna for his great service to the nation. After serving as the Vice-President for a term of five years, Dr. Zakir Husain was elected President of India in May 1967. In his deeply moving inaugural speech, he said that the whole of India was his home and all its people were his family. His wisdom and healing touch were of immense value to the nation during periods of stress and strain.
His vision and adherence to principles, his grace and dignity, his high aesthetic sensibilities, his understanding and compassion added a new luster to the high office he held, and earned for him the affection and admiration of all sections of Indian people.
Tall, well-built, fair in complexion, with a noble forehead, a sensitive aristocratic nose, a well-trimmed beard and always neatly and tastefully dressed in sherwani and pyjama, Dr. Zakir Husain was an imposing embodiment of culture and refinement. He was sensitive to beauty in all its forms and had an intense passion for excellence. His varied tastes and hobbies, his love of roses, his collection of cacti, fossils, paintings and specimens of calligraphy, objects d’art, and curios and above all, his rich library were evidence of his versatile personality.
Dr. Zakir Husain lived the life of an ideal and true Muslim. As Prof. Mujeeb who succeeded him in Jamia as Vice-Chancellor said, “He read the Quran regularly. In Ramzan days, he tried to read it as many times as he could. He fasted regularly.”
On May 3, 1969, this great son of Mother India breathed his last, following a massive heart attack in the Rastrapati Bhavan.
Article by : R. K. Bhatnagar
Source: Bhavan's Journal 31 July 2009
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