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Bharat Ratna to Sir Syed
By:Danish Ahmad Khan, India
Date: Tuesday, 10 April 2012, 3:10 pm

Recently, Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chauhan made an announcement in the state assembly and said that the state cabinet at its meeting has unanimously resolved to recommend Sachin Tendulkar's name for India's top civilian award Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India). Chavan said that the state government had also written to the central government to give the award to Tendulkar.

Even Justice Markandey Katju, a former judge of the Supreme Court and present Chairman of Press Council of India, seems to suggest that Bharat Ratna should not be awarded to sportspersons or film stars, and has instead raised a demand for conferring Bharat Ratna on Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib, Bengali novelist and short-story writer Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya and Tamil poet Subramania Bharathi.

According to media reports, Justice Katju has argued that if Vallabhbhai Patel and B R Ambedkar could be honoured with a Bharat Ratna decades after their deaths, why can't these great writers be accorded the same treatment. It may be recalled that Mirza Ghalib Ghalib died in 1869, Bharathi in 1921 and Sarat Chandra in 1938.

Arguing vociferously in favor of Mirza Ghalib, Justice Katju has linked his demand for a Bharat Ratna for Mirza Ghalib to the current status of Urdu. Justice Katju contended, "Before 1947, Urdu was the common language of the educated class in large parts of India -- whether Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian. Regrettably, after 1947 some vested interests created a false propaganda that Urdu was a foreign language and a language of Muslims alone. Mirza Ghalib is the foremost figure in Urdu, and in our composite culture. He no doubt died over a century back, but our culture, of which Urdu is a vital part, is still alive."


Prominent social activist and Bohra reformist Asghar Ali Engineer too supported Justice Katju's stand and launched a signature campaign on the internet to petition President Pratibha Patil demanding Bharat Ratna for Ghalib. In an email Engineer exhorted, "Please treat it as most important and urgent petition as Ghalib was not only a great poet but also great representative of our composite culture, secularism, and liberalism."

Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian honour given for exceptional service towards advancement of Art, Literature and Science, and in recognition of Public Service of the highest order. It was introduced in 1954.

This time the Government of India has failed to award Bharat Ratna for the year 2011. Even before the award could be given to any prominent personality, the government amended the provisions of the award and included sportspersons in this category. There were strong demands to present the award posthumously to Hockey wizard Major Dhyanchand on one hand, while on the other a majority of countrymen are raising their voice to bestow the award to the cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar. This has surely put the government into a fix, and it thought it best not to present Bharat Ratna to any person for 2011.

If at all Bharat Ratna is to be awarded to any sportsperson, then why Sachin Tendulkar first, and not Major Dhyanchand? Presenting the award to a sportsperson associated with a foreign sport like cricket for the first time ever in the history of Bharat Ratna award, would in fact be construed to be belittling the National Sport 'Hockey', and which should be avoided at all costs. Cricketers should also be kept out of the category of Bharat Ratna because they play less-heartedly for the country and more for commercial ventures like IPL. Cricketers give more preference to monetary benefits from other sources, rather than holding national interests true to their hearts. Moreover, a player like Sachin Tendulkar has been given undue preference by cricketing authorities and allowed to fulfil his dream of making records upon records, even though it has come after sustained efforts and several successive failures.

Players apart, even personalities like Mirza Ghalib have not done worthwhile for the nation, and hence do not reserve Bharat Ratna at all, as Justice Katju and Asghar Ali Engineer have suggested or advocating for. The only contribution that Mirza Ghalib has made is to espouse the cause of Urdu, which was born and bred in Mughal India.

The most towering personality who truly deserves Bharat Ratna is, of course, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the Founder of Aligarh Movement. This great educationist, social reformer, modernist and scholar of 19th century has contributed immensely in building modern India by establishing Aligarh Muslim University. He played a crucial role in reforming, educating and empowering the Muslim community, and thereby the Indian nation as such. He championed the cause of modern education at a time when all the Indians in general and Indian Muslims in particular considered it a sin to get modern education and that too through English language. He was successful to a great extent in implementing his vision despite strong opposition from a section of the Muslim community, which hated the British and their English language.

At a time when Muslim youths are being currently hounded, subjected to unnecessary harassment and arrested on frivolous charges of terrorism, only to be released later by Indian courts, the Aligarh Movement has emerged as a ray of hope for the beleagured Muslim community and the Indian nation. By awarding Bharat Ratna posthumously to this great son of India, the Government of India will do it only too well to once again give a fillip to educational renaissance amongst Muslims, inculcate positive thoughts and contribute towards nation building.

The IndianMuslimObserver.com has started an Online Petition and seeks to urge the President of India and Prime Minister of India to bestow Bharat Ratna award posthumously to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan without any further delay. The IndianMuslimObserver.com also invites AMU alumuni in India and worldwide, and also Indian Muslims to support this online campaign strongly and make sustained efforts unless the Government of India finally announces Bharat Ratna award to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan.