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INTERVIEW: Saiyid Hamid
‘We need a modern university for the 21st century’ 

Saiyid Hamid
A retired IAS officer and a former vice chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, currently Saiyid Hamid is the chancellor of Jamia Hamdard and secretary of the Hamdard Education Society. For his multi-faceted contributions to the educational field, he has been dubbed as the Sir Syed of this century. He is also involved with various Muslim organizations all over the country. He is the man who assisted late Hakeem Abdul Hameed Saheb in the establishment of Hamdard Study Circle, which is very popular among students seeking to appear in civil services examinations. AN Shibli met him in his office at Taleemabad in south Delhi. Excerpts:
Q.: This year too the percentage of Muslim candidates passing the civil service exams is less than four percent. Why is this so?
A.: The main reason is that Muslims are not competitive. Muslims lack any proper arrangement to get informed about the happenings in the country and the world at large. There is a lack of proper guidance in childhood and even at later stages. Without a strong base at school level success cannot be achieved at higher levels. Now the total civil service vacancies have been reduced to 427. This is another reason.

Q.: This year result of Hamdard Study Circle is not much impressive either. Why is this so?
A.: Our main duty is to polish students’ talents. If a candidate has no strong base we will not change his life within one year. Parents are also responsible for this. They don’t care about their children’s education during school days.

Q.: Hamdard Study Circle is an ideal place for coaching for civil service examinations. Don’t you think that this type of centres should be opened in other parts of India too?
A.: Why not? This type of study centres should be opened in every capital of the states. But due to lack of infrastructure it will not be easy. In Kerala and Hyderabad this type of study centres have been opened. If anyone wants to open such centres, we will assist him.

Q.: You are involved with so many NGOs. How do you manage to take part in the activities of these NGOs?
A.: I have an interest to work for the people. If you have this kind of inclination and you really want to help others, time will not be a constraint.

Q.: People say that Muslim organizations spend foreign donations on their office-bearers. Donations are not used for the actual projects for which they are taken..
A.: This is not correct. Such irresponsible talk is a result of the habit of some Muslims to make ill-informed comments on others. Using IDB donations, a large number of schools and colleges have been opened in India. There may be some misuse of funds but I believe that the maximum part of donations have been utilized on actual projects.

Q.: You were the leader of the All-India Educational Caravan in 1995 and All-UP Health Caravan in 1999. Have these caravans changed the conditions of Muslims in any way?
A.: Our duty is to inform the people about the right and wrong. After the educational caravan Muslims realized the need of education. A chain of schools opened in various parts of India after this caravan. People invited me to inaugurate new schools and colleges. During the health caravan I was surprised to see the success of schools which were started after getting inspiration from our educational caravan. In the health caravan we sent out the message of health and hygiene which is part of the the message of Islam. It is a fact that Muslims are completely ignorant about their health. Gandagi has become the identification mark of Muslim localities while Islam says that 'purity and neatness is half of the faith.' We are currently working on four major fields, i.e., education, health and hygiene, social reforms and communal harmony.

Q.: Why the educational performance of Muslims in south India is better than north Indian Muslim?
A.: In south India they depend on business, that is why they have no financial problems. North Indian Muslims traditionally depended on services. Now the services have been reduced and getting employment has become difficult. Communal flare-up from time to time also depresses north Indian Muslims. Unlike south Indian governments, north Indian governments have not given any support to Muslims. It becomes very difficult for them to open an educational institution because here the government suspects that these institutions are dens of ISI agents. Madrasas are under suspicion.

Q.: In your view, what are the major problems of the Indian Muslim?
A.: Muslim are educationally and economically backward. They are always anxious about their security. That is why they don't give proper attention to their problems. Unemployment tops their major problems. Numbers of Muslim child-labour are increasing day after day. Due to unemployment, Muslims get involved in various crimes like smuggling.

Q.: Don't you think that there is a need to change the syllabus of madrasas in order to make them respond to our current needs?
A.: Modernization of Madrasas syllabus is very important. I had started this programme in Aligarh. Earlier there were some opposition from the Ulama. But now they too have realized the need. Mr Seraj Ahmad, vice chancellor of Jamia Hamdard, has prepared a new syllabus for madrasas which will be used by UP government in the near future. Some madrasas are already using the new syllabus.

Q.: There is a complete lack of leadership in the Muslim community. Why is this so? Who, in your view, is at present the best leader of Muslim?
A.: Muslim do have leaders but they are not constructive leaders. Some years ago Syed Shahabuddin was the best to lead. But people did not support him. Now he enjoys no such position. At present no person seems to be in a position to lead Muslims. But leadership must emerge. We would have to give a chance to someone to lead us. If his leadership is not satisfactory, we may remove him later. Muslims are busy fighting each other. They don't have time to think about leadership which is necessary for any community.

Q.: People say that you are the Sir Syed of this century. How do you feel?
A.: It is not my praise. Rather, it seems like decreasing the status of Sir Syed. He has contributed more than any Indian Muslim. He touched and affected every section of our life. Every Muslim should be obliged to him.

Q.: You have been working on a project to establish a technical Muslim university. What happened to this project?
A.: Due to lack of funds, we have suspended the project for some period. After the availability of fund we will start it again. It is a necessity for Indian Muslims. AMU and Jamia Millia were established for the 20th century. Now it is necessary to establish a modern university for the 21st century.

Q.: How do you look at the issue of reservation for Muslim?
A.: In order to make them stand on their own feet, reservation is must for Muslims. It should not be forever but for a limited period like 20 to 25 years.
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