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Muslim contribution to the formation of Jharkhand State
By Afsar Ali, Jamshedpur

According to RR Diwakar, author of Bihar Through Ages, first Muslim contingents arrived in Jharkhand territory 800 years ago and settled in the villages of Mundas. They mixed with the locals in such a way that they forgot their own culture, language and life-styles. The most surprising matter is that the residents of this territory not only treated them as their own but according to Father Hoffman, 'they adopted Arabic and Persian words in their own language. 

Muslims set up their mosque in Jharkhand territory for the first time in 1661 in Dayoodnagar. Later on madrasas were set up. In 1740 it was the first chance when a Muslim known as 'Hidamatullah Khan' was nominated as jagirdar of Japla in Jharkhand. 

These historical events show that the Muslims in Jharkhand have a long history. They have taken active part in the Indian Independence Movement as well as in the movement for the formation of a separate state in Jharkhand. 

Now Jharkhand state has been formed and the first BJP government was sworn in on 15 November 2000. The dream of the formation of Jharkhand state has been cherished by the Jharkhand Movement in which the Muslims have played a vital role. The contribution of Muslims in the formation of Jharkhand state is not less than the contribution of any other community. But it is a matter of grave concern that the contribution of Muslims in Jharkhand movement is already being totally neglected.

It is worthy to note that the Muslims of Jharkhand state have not only taken part in Jharkhand movement, they have also taken part in the freedom movement to free India from the clutches of the British colonial rule. Shaikh Bhikhari is one of the heroes who fought against the Britishers and sacrificed his life for the country. When he was 38 years old in 1857, Thakur Vishwanath Shahdeo gave him an opportunity to become an active member of Mukti Vahini. He helped the Indian army when there was revolt at Doranda (Ranchi) on 31 July 1857. The British commander Graham and three other officers were stunned by Shaikh Bhikhari's bravery. He planned with commander Vishnu Singh to fight the Britishers when the army attacked Ranchi on 2 August 1857. This bravery foiled British plans. Later on Shaikh Bhikhari awakened the Santhalis of Santhal Pargana to revolt against the Britishers. The battle continued for one hour and the Indians were defeated. The main cause of this defeat was that the followers of Shaikh Bhikhari had country-made guns. He himself used to make guns with the co-operation of Shaikh Saad. On 2 August 1857 there was a fierce battle in Chatra under the leadership of Jai Mangal Pandey.. Shaikh Bhikhari was also leading a contingent. During 1857, Nadir Ali (Chatra), Shaikh Bhikhari (Chutupal), Salamat Ali (Chaibasa), Shaikh Haru (Chaibasa) lost their lives and became immortal in the history of Jharkhand. Nadir Ali was sentenced to death alongwith Thakur Vishwanath Pandey while Salamat Ali and Shaikh Haru were sent to kalapani (deportation for life to the Andamans). 

In 1923 Momin Conference was formed at Murma, 13 miles west from Ranchi. Its Chotanagpur conference was organized to condemn Jalianwala Bagh massacre, to pay homage to the Indian martyrs and save the weaving profession from the British tyranny. Imam Ali (Brombay), Nazahat Hussain (Bundu) Jaggu Mian (Bijulia) Farzand Ali (Itki) Abdullah Sardar (Sisai) Zakir Ali (Itki) Ali Jan Mian (Gudri Ranchi) Sohbat Mian (Ranchi) Chandan Mian (Dumri) were among the important Muslim figures of Jharkhand who protested against the brutality of the Britishers in India.

History bears testimony that when Bihar State was separated from Bengal in 1912, various parts of Jharkhand territory were included in Bengal, and Chotanagpur Santhal Pargana became part of Bihar. Asmat Ali was the first leader in Jharkhand territory who guessed the impending danger in Bihar. He was sure that the social culture of Jharkhand territory would be at stake. So he raised the demand of a separate Jharkhand state in 1912 and since then the emotions for the preservation of the social culture of Jharkhand has been a popular issue in the area. Chiragh Ali is also a renowned figure in the history of Jharkhand movement who strengthened it in 1919. Following him a large number of Muslims took part in the movement for the formation of Jharkhand. In 1989, Muhammad Murtaza Ansari (Chakdrapur), in 1990 Ashraf Khan (Khellari Ranchi), in 1992, Muhammad Sayeed and Zuber Ahmad (Sonari-Jamshedpur), in 1993 Wahab Ansari (Kothashila-Purulia) and S.K.Qutubuddin (Medinapur) sacrificed their lives for the Jharkhand movement.

It is a fact that Muslims throughout Jharkhand region were first to raise the Jharkhand issue. In 1912 Asmat Ali gave a call for the separation of Jharkhand from Bihar for the first time. And in 1936 Momin Conference passed the resolution calling for a separate Jharkhand state. In 1952 Chiragh Ali Shah raised the voice for the fulfillment of this demand and in 1989 Jharkhand Qaumi Tahrik played an important role to lead Jharkhand movement. In 1937 R. Ali of the Momin Conference, defeated the Muslim League candidate and became a member of Bihar Legislative Assembly. In 1946 H.Saharwardi (Bengal) lead the Muslim League election campaign in Jharkhand territory and the Momin Conference frustrated this campaign by winning five seats out of seven in the Legislative Assembly election. After 1937, Dhable Urao formed Adivasi Progressive Society and Momin Conference raised a voice for the welfare of the inhabitants of Jharkhand. Later Haji Imam Ali, Nazarat Hussain, Abdullah Sardar, Farzand Ali, Sheikh Ali Jaan, Maulvi Dukhu Mian and others became active members of the Adivasi society which proves that from the very beginning there has been close relationship between Muslims and Adivasis who were united to save their old customs, culture and social rituals in Jharkhand. Jamiyatul Momin, which later came to be known as Momin Conference, spread the message of nationalism in Jharkhand territory. After the independence of the country Momin Conference backed Marang, Gomlle and Jaipal Singh in Jharkhand state movement. The conference made a pact with JMM on the 7 July 1990 and the All-India Momin Conference Committee under the presidentship of Zia-Ur-Rahman Ansari passed a resolution in Ranchi on the 6 July 1990 for the formation of Jharkhand state. 

Jharkhand Qaumi Tahrik played an important role in the Jharkhand movement as it struggled with All Jharkhand Student's Union (AJSU). In 1989 Jharkhand Qaumi Tahrik was formed at Sitaram Dera Jamshedpur and its first president Prof. Khalid Ahmad, secretary Aftab Jameel, Muhammad Rajan, Imran Ansari and treasurer Bashir Ahmad were elected. It held its first conference on 23 July 1989 in the Ranchi University campus in which a policy was framed. A list of demands for the safety and welfare of the minorities was prepared and AJSU gave its consent. 

The demands of Jharkhand Qaumi Tahrik were as follows:
a) Jharkhand state will be a secular state and there would be no discrimination against the religious minorities in Jharkhand state.
b) In the Jharkhand state appropriate representation would be given to minorities in politics, government and administrative services.
c)In the proposed Jharkhand state, like backward caste, the Muslims in proportion to their population would get reservation in education, technical education, employment, government services and higher education.
d) In the Jharkhand state all the popularly used languages would be recognized by the government and there would be no injustice to the linguistic minorities.
e) In the Jharkhand state the educational institutions set up by minorities would get government approval and affiliation.
f) For the progress of the minorities, Jharkhand Minority Commission, Haj Committee, Madrasa Board and Waqf Board would be set up.

These policies of the Jharkhand Qaumi Tahrik (JQT) had their effect not only in the Jharkhand territory but they also influenced the national politics. National leader Syed Shahabuddin (MP) took interest in the Jharkhand problems. Jharkhand Qaumi Tahrik marched shoulder to shoulder with AJSU leaders and this benefited the Muslim community. Muslim youths took active part in Jharkhand movement with the help of JQT and its organizational units were formed in all the districts of Jharkhand. 

Like AJSU all the Muslim youths related to JQT were influenced with the Assam movement and they were ready to shed their blood during Jharkhand movement for the the cause of a separate Jharkhand state. When a seminar was organized at Pillai Hall (Chaibasa), a large number of Muslim organizations declared their support to JQT. As a result hundreds of Muslims, especially Muhammad Fauzi, Sarfaraz Ahmad, Mushtaque Ahmad, Imran Ansari, Mujibur Rahman, Muhammad Sajid (Ranchi), Sarvar Sajjad, Subran Alam Ansari (Gumla), Muhammad Allauddin Ansari (Giridih), Zikrul Hoda, Muhammad Amin (East Singhbhum), came forward and lead the JQT under the banner of AJSU. On numerous occasions they were beaten up by police and imprisoned in jails. 
An important question arises here: whether the BJP government in Jharkhand would succeed in wining over the hearts of the Muslims of the state or not? The Muslims throughout this State know very well that BJP has always considered Muslims as Indian citizens not as a vote bank and has raised the slogan 'Justice for all, appeasement for none.' Here is an opportunity to test the BJP especially under Bangaru Laxman. There is no Muslim MLA among the BJP allies nor is there any Muslim minister in its cabinet. The BJP government is facing a herculean task in Jharkhand. It will have to offer proper representation to the Muslims in the state cabinet. Moreover it will have to set up Jharkhand Urdu Academy, Jharkhand Madarsa Examination Board, Jharkhand Sunni Waqf Board, Jharkhand Urdu Mushawarati Committee, 15 point programme committee, Haj Committee, Urdu Directorate, Arabic-Persian Research Institute, Jharkhand Minority Finance Corporation, Minority Commission and prefer Urdu Language. If the BJP government does not pay attention to these issues, Muslims will feel that their contribution has gone unrecognized. It is a fact that neither Governor Prabhat Kumar, nor CM Babulal Marandi has said a single word for minorities in their speeches delivered in the new state's legislative assembly.

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