Skip to main content

Remembering Maulana Barakatullah on the occasion of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav


By Prof Abdul Ali*
Maulana Barakatullah (1859-1927) was one of the distinguished luminaries of modern India. He was a multidimensional personality and indefatigable freedom fighter. He appeared on the scene of the Indian freedom movement at a time when the Indians in general and the Muslims in particular had become demoralized through their constant persecution and harassment at the hands of the British authorities in the wake of the failure of 1857. Another serious setback of far-reaching implications that confronted the stalwarts of the freedom movement as a backlash of the defeat of the 1857 mutiny was the danger posed to the deep-rooted composite culture of India. Applying the divide-and-rule tactics, the British encouraged and doctored pseudo-reformist Hindu and Muslim currents, thereby separating Hindu history from Muslim history at the cost of the Ganga-Yamuni tehzib (culture) which had remained intact in the subcontinent till 1857 and had filtered down to peasant village and artisan culture.
It was against this background that Maulana Barakatullah and like-minded revolutionaries appeared on the scene and thwarted the nefarious design of the British as well as championed the cause of the freedom movement by strengthening the forces of national integration on the basis of the liberal-secular ingredients of the unifying composite culture of India. The Maulana became a symbol and champion of Hindu-Muslim unity. He tried his best to see that both Hindus and Muslims remained united. But for that, India might not have achieved independence.
He took upon himself the task of freeing India by soliciting support from the countries hostile to Britain. With that aim in sight, he embarked upon his self-styled political exile which lasted for about 40 long hectic years. He spent 11 years in England, 6 years in the USA, 5 years in Japan and a considerable part of his life in Central Europe, Central Asia and Soviet Russia.
Barakatullah worked in close association and collaboration with such revolutionary stalwarts as Shyam Krishna Verma, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Lala Hardayal, Champakraman Pillai, Ras Bihari Bose, Tarak Nath Das, Bhagwan Singh, alias Natha Singh, Lucas Joshi, Indu Bhushan Dey Mazumdar, Madame Bhikaji Cama, Virendrannath Chattopadhyaya, and his life-long friend Raja Mahendra Pratap.
The Maulana had an academic side also. Side by side with his work for independence, he studied strenuously and became a polyglot and distinguished scholar of literature and international politics. He served as Professor of Arabic at the Oriental College in Liverpool University on a salary of Rs. 1500 per month. His academic leaning brought him into contact with such reputed authors and Orientalists as Stanley Edward Lane-Poole and E. J. W. Gibb and assisted them in their comprehension of Arabic and Persian sources of history. No wonder, Gibb acknowledged his sincere thanks to Barakatullah for having ” placed with the utmost kindness at his disposal the stores of his great erudition”.
Barakatullah wielded a facile pen and was a fine, eloquent speaker. He took pen as a fighting weapon and published blazing articles in leading journals and dailies of England, America and Japan to incite the fire of independence. Even his Islam was deeply overshadowed by Indian nationalism and anti-imperialism. He is credited with having worked out a remarkable synthesis of different ideologies including communism. As rightly pointed out by Ramnath Maia in her Haj to Utopia, Barakatullah was the most important interfacer of Pan-Islamism, communism and the Indian national liberation struggle. He was a sort of connecting link between different movements of concern to the Indian freedom fighters. He was a nationalist to the core. He was completely free from any religious or communal bias. In the words of the German diplomatic attache Otto von Hentig: “Barakatullah was first in line a nationalist and then a Muslim”.
After having worked in England and America, he left for anti-British Japan which he found to be a fertile ground for his nationalist activites. His arrival in Tokyo in February 1909 gave a shot in the arm to the anti-British political activites at India House. He was appointed as Professor of Urdu and Persian at Tokyo School of Foreign Languages on March 7, 1909. Wherever he went, he always remained under the strict surveillance of British intelligence. Soon he became very popular among both the Japanese and the Indians. An idea of this fact may be had from the statement given to the police after much interrogation by Kanchan Kumar: “Barakatullah is a good and spirited speaker… He speaks against the British Government. He was a great favourite of the Indians and the Japanese, and commanded immense influence. In my opinion Barakatullah is the Shyamji Krishna Verma of Japan. He carried on correspondence in cipher (code). Savant, Gikhale and Mukherji know Japanese and are friends of Barakatullah ”.
Barakatullah published a number of journals and periodicals, in which he espoused the cause of freedom of India by highlighting the British atrocities. He was the chief transit point for the dissemination of revolutionary literature including the Indian Sociologist edited by Krishna Verma and other journals from America and Europe. He also managed to circulate his own revolutionary writings among Indians throughout India and East Asia via Singapore. No wonder, Tokyo had become an important headquarters of the activities of Indian revolutionaries, which was later fully exploited by Rash Behari Bose and Subhash Chandra Bose as a base in their freedom struggle. Ultimately, Barakatullah was extradited from Japan under pressure from the British Government.
Undaunted, Barakatullah returned to San Francisco, accompanied by a leader of the Ghadar Party which was founded by Lala Hardayal and his associates in 1913. He joined the Yugantar Ashram and worked with Taraknath Das in the editorial department of the party to edit the weekly Ghadar paper. The Ghadar party was the first organized violent bid for freedom after the uprising of 1857. Barakatullah played an important role in strengthening the party.
Another great contribution of Barakatullah was that with help of Raja Mahendra Pratap and with the support of Germany and Turkey, he succeeded in forming during the First World War an Azad Indian Government-in-exile on 1st December, 1915, in Kabul. He himself was designated as Prime Minister of the Government, while Raja Mahendra Pratap was made its President. The parallel Government in Afghanistan was established with the avowed aim of organising an armed revolt in India. Its ambassadors were sent to different countries such as Japan, Turkey, Russia and China. But this government could not function for a long time due to adverse circumstances.
Even after the collapse of the parallel government in Kabul, both Barakatullah and Mahendra Pratap remained active and busy making efforts for the independence of their country. They travelled widely in Germany, France and Russia. But the hectic political activities adversely affected the health of the Maulana, following which he was shifted to Germany for treatment along with Raja Mahendra Pratap. When he recovered, he resumed his nationalistic activities with full vigour.
Barakatullah visited Berlin in 1926 where he met Jawaharlal Nehru. Giving his impressions of the meeting, Nehru called him a progressive Moulvi and different from others. He also described him to be “a delightful old man, very enthusiastic, very simple and very likable, who was trying to imbibe new ideas and understand the present day world”. In February 1927, the Maulana participated as a representative of the Ghadar Party at an anti-imperialism international conference held at Brussels where he met Jawahar Lal Nehru for the second time, who represented the Indian National Congress at the Conference.
Finally, Barakatullah left for San Francisco, accompanied by Mahendra Pratap, in July 1927 on the invitation of the Ghadar Party. But his condition suddenly worsened and he breathed his last on the night of 27th September,1927. Raja Mahendra Pratp acted as his closest relation on that occasion. He was buried in Sacramento Historic Cemetery. His funeral was attended by large numbers of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. On his death a glowing tribute was paid to him in the United State of India, a publication of the Ghadar Party, a small portion of which is quoted below: ” His death is a great loss to India in that it constitutes a serious blow to the revolutionary movement whose main pillar he had been for more than thirty years. The loss will not be easily forgotten, nor will the gap created soon be filled. Heroes like Barakatullah are not born everyday… He wandered from place to place as a political refugee. It was just a matter of good fortune that he did not actually fall into the enemy’s trap, from which there would have been no escape”.

*Former Chairman, Department of Islamic Studies, AMU, Aligarh

Comments

TRENDING

Only 15% businesses provide employees real-time sustainability dashboards: Study

Kyndryl in collaboration with Microsoft has released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm, finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data. A Kyndryl note: *** Kyndryl (NYSE: KD), the world’s largest IT infrastructure services provider, in collaboration with Microsoft , today released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm , finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data.

देशव्यापी ग्रामीण भारत बंध में उतरे मध्य प्रदेश के आदिवासी, किया केंद्र सरकार का विरोध

- हरसिंग जमरे, भिखला सोलंकी, रतन अलावे*  15 और 16 फरवरी को निमाड के बड़वानी, खरगोन और बुरहानपुर में जागृत आदिवासी दलित संगठन के नेतृत्व में आदिवासी महिला-पुरुषों ग्रामीण भारत बंद में रैली एवं विरोध प्रदर्शन किया । प्रधान मंत्री द्वारा 2014 में फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने का वादा किया गया था, 2016 में किसानों की आय दुगना करने का वादा किया गया था । आज, फसलों का दाम नहीं बढ़ रहा है, लेकिन खेती में खर्च बढ़ता जा रहा है! खाद, बीज और दवाइयों का दाम, तीन-चार गुना बढ़ चुका है! किसानों को लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने के बजाए, खेती को कंपनियों के हवाले करने के लिए 3 काले कृषि कानून लाए गए । 3 काले कानून वापस लेते समय प्रधान मंत्री ने फिर वादा किया था कि फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव की कानूनी गारंटी के लिए कानून बनाएँगे, लेकिन वो भी झूठ निकला! आज जब देश के किसान दिल्ली में आपको अपना वादा याद दिलाने आए है, तब आप उनका रास्ता रोक रहें है, उनके साथ मारपीट कर उन पर आँसू गैस फेंक रहें हैं, उन पर छर्रों से फायरिंग कर रहें है! देश को खिलाने वाला किसान खुद भूखा रहे, क्या यही विकास है?

How the slogan Jai Bhim gained momentum as movement of popularity and revolution

By Dr Kapilendra Das*  India is an incomprehensible plural country loaded with diversities of religions, castes, cultures, languages, dialects, tribes, societies, costumes, etc. The Indians have good manners/etiquette (decent social conduct, gesture, courtesy, politeness) that build healthy relationships and take them ahead to life. In many parts of India, in many situations, and on formal occasions, it is common for people of India to express and exchange respect, greetings, and salutation for which we people usually use words and phrases like- Namaskar, Namaste, Pranam, Ram Ram, Jai Ram ji, Jai Sriram, Good morning, shubha sakal, Radhe Radhe, Jai Bajarangabali, Jai Gopal, Jai Jai, Supravat, Good night, Shuvaratri, Jai Bhole, Salaam walekam, Walekam salaam, Radhaswami, Namo Buddhaya, Jai Bhim, Hello, and so on.

Laxmanpur Bathe massacre: Perfect example of proto-fascist Brahmanical social order

By Harsh Thakor  The massacre at Laxmanpur-Bathe of Jehanabad in Bihar on the night of 1 December in 1997 was a landmark event with distinguishing features .The genocide rightly shook the conscience of the nation in the 50th year of Indian independence. The scale of the carnage was unparalleled in any caste massacre. It was a perfect manifestation of how in essence the so called neo-liberal state was in essence most autocratic. 

India may be fastest growing economy, but it is one of the most unequal countries

By Vikas Parasram Meshram  The economic disparity gap continues to widen with economic disparity.  A large portion of the population is dispossessed, while the poor continue to get poorer. They struggle to earn a minimum wage and access quality education and health care, suffering disinvestment from persistently low incomes. These widening gaps and growing inequalities have the greatest impact on women and children.  The Oxfam International report is known to have expressed concern that, on the one hand, the wealth of some people in the world is increasing at a rocket speed.  And the number of rich people is constantly increasing. As a result, the income of the common man is increasing very little, while the wealth of the rich class has increased manifold.  Not only in India but in many other countries of the world, the gap of economic inequality is continuously widening. Oxfam International in its annual report on economic inequality at the World Economic Forum meeting last month, sai

1982-83 Bombay textile strike played major role in shaping working class movement

By Harsh Thakor  On January 18th, 1982 the working class movement commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Textile Workers Strike that lasted for 18 months, till July 1983. It was landmark event that played a major role in shaping the working class movement. With more than 2.5 lakh workers from 65 textile mills joining in this strike for almost two years, this strike became one of the most significant strikes in terms of scale and duration All democrats should applaud the mill workers’ united battle, and their unflinching resilience an death defying courage continues to serve as a model for contemporary working-class movements. Many middle class persons harboured opinions that the Textile workers were pampered or were a labour aristocracy, ignorant of how they were denied wages to provide for basic necessities. The Great Bombay Textile Strike is notably one of the most defining movements in the working class struggles in Post-independent India. Bombay’s textile industry flourished in

Tamil Nadu brahmins are at cross roads, their future scenario remains uncertain

By NS Venkataraman*  For over 70 years now, brahmin community in Tamil Nadu have been abused, insulted and even physically attacked on some occasions by those who claimed that they were part of the so called dravidian movement. However, brahmin community silently and helplessly ducked under pressure and showed no signs of resistance or fight back.

Israel's merciless bombing of Rafah faced huge protests across the globe

By Harsh Thakor*  With the numbers of the murdered in Gaza surpassing 28,000 people, Israel mercilessly conducted bombing to prepare for a genocidal attack on the displaced people in Rafah. Peoples of the world keep rose up like a spark turning into a prairie fire. 

How Mahakavi Sri Sri defined political and cultural metamorphosis of Telugu society

By Harsh Thakor  Srirangam Srinivasarao, popularly known as Sri Sri, or called Mahakavi (The Great Poet), held a reputation like no other Telugu poet. Today, on June 15th, we commemorate his 40th death anniversary. Sri Sri transcended heights in revolutionary creativity or exploration, unparalleled, in Telegu poetry, giving it a new dimension. His poems projected the theme or plight of the oppressed people at a scale, rarely penetrated by poets, giving revolutionary poetry it’s soul.

Netanyahu's safe pessage? There is no place for the Palestinians of Gaza to go

By Vijay Prashad  On February 9, 2024, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his army would advance into Rafah, the last remaining city in Gaza not occupied by the Israelis. Most of the 2.3 million Palestinians who live in Gaza had fled to its southern border with Egypt after being told by the Israelis on October 13, 2023, that the north had to be abandoned and that the south would be a “safe zone.” As the Palestinians from the north, particularly from Gaza City, began their march south—often on foot—they were attacked by Israeli forces, who gave them no safe passage. The Israelis said that anything south of Wadi Gaza, which divides the narrow strip, would be safe, but then as the Palestinians moved into Deir-al-Balah, Khan Younis, and Rafah, they found the Israeli jets following them and the Israeli troops coming after them. Now, Netanyahu has said that his forces will enter Rafah to combat Hamas. On February 11, Netanyahu told NBC news that Israeli would provide “s