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

Mental health: We talk of poverty figures, but not increase in suicides since 2014

By IMPRI Team Highlighting  the issue of mental health and addressing the challenges involved, # IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a panel discussion on Institutional Support for Mental Health and Wellbeing under the #WebPolicyTalk series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps . The discussion was chaired by Prof Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Professor, IMPRI and Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai . The distinguished panel included – Prof Anuradha Sovani, Former Professor and Head, Department of Psychology, and Former Dean, Faculty of Humanities at SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai and National Core Committee member and Ethics Committee Chairperson, Association of Adolescent and Child Care India ; Dr Soumitra Pathare, Director, Centre for Mental Health Law & Policy at Indian Law Society, Pune ; Dr Swati Rane, Founder CEO at SevaShakti Healthcare Consultancy, Mumbai and Founder V

How India, Bangladesh perceive, manage Sunderbans amidst climate change

By IMRPI Team The effects of climate change have been evident, and there have been a lot of debates around the changes to be made locally to help and save the earth. In this light, the nations met at the COP 26 conference recently. To discuss this further, the Center for Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development (CECCSD) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi , organized a panel discussion on “COP 26 and Locally Led Adaptations in India and Bangladesh Sunderbans” under the #WebPolicyTalk series- The State of the Environment – #PlanetTalks . The talk was chaired by Dr Jayanta Basu, Director, Non-profit EnGIO, Faculty at Calcutta University and an Environmental Journalist, The Telegraph , ABP . The Moderator of the event, Dr Simi Mehta, CEO and Editorial Director, IMPRI , started the discussion by stressing the talk on the living conditions of people living in the Sunderbans Delta from both the countries, i.e. India and Bangladesh. According to the report

NEP: Education must shift away from knowledge, move to teaching students

Dr Anjusha Gawande* The Education sector in the globe is changing dramatically. Many manual jobs may be captured over by machines as a consequence of multiple spectacular advances in science and technology, including the machine learning, and artificial intelligence. A professional workforce, particularly one that includes mathematics, computer science, and data science, as well as multidisciplinary competencies in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, will be in incredibly popular. As a result, education must shift away from knowledge and toward teaching students, how to be creative and transdisciplinary, and how to innovate, adapt, and process information differently in innovative and rapidly changing sectors. The education development agenda at the global level is represented in Goal 4 (SDG4) of India's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted in 2015. Ministry of Education has announced the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) on 29.07.2020. In J

Dishonesty, corruption, manipulation and sustainable growth of mediocrity

By Arup Mitra* The theory of mediocrity would suggest that the meritorious who are always small in number as a nature’s gift will be dominated by a vast number of mediocre as the latter cannot withstand the inferiority they suffer from. By subjugating the merit, they derive a pleasure of having established their superiority. Such processes are functional in all spheres in life though the field of art is the worst sufferer. An artist mind is most sensitive and those who are meritorious in this lot possess exceptionally different traits. This makes them more vulnerable and, on the other hand, it paves the path of the mediocre to cast their shadows all around. Unjust and strong criticisms are sufficient to detract many. In developing countries, the modes of subjugation are many. Individuals do not hesitate to take recourse to criminal means as the subconscious prevalent with vengeance, accesses easily the outlets for execution. The lack of civility and the power of money form a unique com

Migrant problem during Covid and the role of equality for cohesive development

By IMPRI Team  The covid-19 pandemic has deepened the pre-existing inequalities across socio-economic groups, the distressing images of migrants’ exposure remained attached in our minds but not a lot has changed in terms of data collection and policy making since then to understand the role of equality for cohesive development. Cohesive development also means that human beings should respect the boundaries of nature which they cross at their own peril and the peril of other living beings on earth. In lieu to this, The State of Development Discourses – #CohesiveDevelopment, #IMPRI Center for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD) , #IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute , New Delhi organized #WebPolicyTalk with Prof Amiya Kumar Bagchi, on The Role of Equality for Cohesive Development. The session is inaugurated by Ms Mahima Kapoor, researcher and assistant editor at IMPRI. Ms Mahima Kapoor extended her gratitude to the speaker, moderator and the discussant. The moderator for the eve

Parallel govts: How unity of various streams of freedom movements took shape in India

By Bharat Dogra  In one of the most inspiring examples of highly courageous spontaneous actions based on the unity of people, parallel governments were formed by freedom fighters in several parts of India in the course of the Quit India Movement in 1942. Although generally four such leading efforts have been identified in Satara (Maharashtra), Talcher (Odisha), Tamluk (West Bengal) and Ballia (Uttar Pradesh), there were some other smaller efforts as well such as those in Bhagalpur (Bihar) and Gurpal (Balasore, Odisha). It is very interesting to see in most of these efforts (also very significant for understanding the freedom movement) that there was constant merging of the various streams of the freedom movement, with more militant activities openly taking place with the help of quickly mobilized militias and this being combined with various constructive programs emphasized by Mahatma Gandhi such as anti-liquor efforts and anti-untouchability movements. In addition we see actions in

West Bengal police inaction in immoral trafficking case of a Muslim woman

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) writes to the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, on Muslim woman victim trafficking, police inaction, and need immediate rescue: I am writing to inform you about a case of illegal trafficking and profuse police inaction regarding the same of a marginalized Muslim teenager named Anima Khatun (name changed), daughter of Mr. Osman Ali. The victim and her husband had been residents of the village Daribas, under Dinhata police station Cooch Behar district since their marriage in 2014. Six months following their marriage, Anima Khatun along with her husband, sister-in-law, sister-in-law's husband as well as her in-laws shifted to Delhi in search of work. They stayed there for 2 years after which they all came back to their native village. They stayed at their native residence for about one month and then they went back to Delhi. In Delhi, Anima was in touch with her family till the next six months, after which t

Impact of climate change on Gujarat pastoralists' traditional livelihood

By Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly, Karen Pinerio* We are sharing a study[1] based learning on climate resilience and adaptation strategies of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat. There are two objectives of the study: (i) to examine the impact of climate on traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Gujarat state; and (ii) to explore and document the adaptation strategies of pastoralists in mitigating climate adversities, with a focus on the role of women in it. In order to meet these objectives, the research inquiries focused on how pastoralists perceive climate change, how climate change has impacted their traditional livelihood, i.e., pastoralism in drylands (Kr├Ątli 2015), and how these pastoral families have evolved adaptation strategies that address climate change (CC)/ variabilities, i.e., traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat state. Pastoralism is more than 5,000 years old land-use strategy in India; it is practised by nomadic (their entire livelihood r

Bangladesh sets shining example of communal peace, harmony in South Asia

By Dr. Abantika Kumari Bangladesh is made up of 160 million people who are multi-religious, multi-ethnic, and multi-lingual. The Constitution of Bangladesh guarantees all citizens the freedom to freely and peacefully practice their chosen religions. Religious minorities make up roughly 12% of Bangladesh's present population, according to conservative estimates . Hindus account for 10% of the population, Buddhists for 1%, Christians at 0.50 percent, and ethnic minorities for less than 1%. As an example of how people of different religions can live together, cooperate together, and simply be together, Bangladesh is regarded. Bangladesh is a country that values religious liberty, harmony, and tolerance. Bangladesh's population is made up of a diverse spectrum of religious groupings and ethnic groups. Such communities and groups live in harmony, putting aside their differences and learning to embrace and respect the diverse and diversified culture that has contributed to Bangladesh

Political leaders' actions are causing decontextualisation of democracy

By Harasankar Adhikari In India, does democracy become a matter of prescription, i.e., to follow the footpath left? Isn't it, in some ways, the adoption of certain prescribed procedures and mechanisms, such as timely election and populist schemes for the poor, etc.? In some cases, acts of government and governance turn democracy into a myth. It is full of political party-based agendas. This continuous hegemonic practise creates a conditional situation for the people of India. People elect their representatives who are not their representatives. They are only representatives of a particular political party that nominated them in the election. Democratic decentralisation of power is undoubtedly a unique step towards the grass roots. But a Panchayat member has no free will to act without the party’s instruction and approval. Michael Saward, a political philosopher, defines democracy as a matter of correspondence in state-society relationships. But India’s parliamentary democracy is un