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AR KIDWAI: educational philanthropist and man of all seasons

Educationist, philanthropist, nationalist, scientist and, above all, humanist - are all adjectives that harmoniously gelled in Prof. AR Kidwai, a multi-faceted splendour, versatile character and the ex-Governor of Bihar, Haryana, West Bengal and Rajasthan. The lovers of Kidwai from all cross sections of society assembled to remember him at the Ansari Auditorium of Jamia Millia Islamia including eminent personalities like - Mohsina Kidwai, Syeda Hameed, Tariq Anwar, SR Kidwai, Dr ZM Khan, Prof Akhtar-ul-Wasey, Prof Javed Ahmed, Ramesh Chander, Mohammed Adeeb, Dr Zaheer, Admiral Chopra, Ashfaq Karim, Aftab Ahmed, MQH Baig, besides many others.

Prof. AR Kidwai in his youth and old age

Born in Baragaon village in Barabanki on July 1, 1920, Kidwai studied for his BA at Jamia Millia Islamia in 1940, did M Sc at University of Illinois, US in 1948 and PhD at Cornell University, US in 1950.  Dr. Kidwai started his professional career as the professor and head of department of chemistry and dean of faculty of science at Aligarh Muslim University. Kidwai then went on to become the Chairman of Union Public Service Commission from 1974 to 1977. He was Governor of Bihar twice, from 1979 to 1985 and 1993 to 1998, and Governor of West Bengal from 1998 to 1999. Perhaps, he happened to be the man who had seved the longest term as governor since he was found faultless.

A film on the life and times of AR Kidwai was also shown by his nephew, Safi Rizvi. Dr. Kidwai had a taste for literature and philosophy along with science and technology. Through his brainchild, Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali Foundation in Mewat, Haryana, he was able to lift the low educational levels of girls besides working for reform within the Muslim community. According to Syeda Hameed, he combined the both the scientist and a artist in him. He also worked for strengthening Haryana Urdu Academy. If he could deliver a lecture on medicinal plants, he could also speak on Ghalib, Rumi and other sufi saints.

 SR Kidwai, another scholar associated with the Kidwai family, spoke of his long standing association with, and how he grew under the guidance of AR Kidwai. He spoke of the simple lifestyle of AR, who never relaxed despite being a Rajya Sabha MP and a recipient of the second highest award, the Padma Vibhushan. He spoke at length of the struggle AR had faced in his journey from his birthplace to AMU, Bihar, West Bengal and Haryana.

 Prof ZM Khan, secretary, Institute of Objective Studies stated, "The mark of a great man is that after meeting him, a commoner too must feel great and this quality was in Akhlaq-ur-Rehamn Kidwai." Besides, positivity was his watchword and he was a man connected to the grassroots. Even as the governor or the dean of faculty of sciences at the Aligarh Muslim University, he would ride his bicycle or drive his car at times.

 Dr Javed Ahmed, a senior member from the faculty of Jamia Hamdard talked about AR Kidwai's association with Hakeem Abdul Hameed and his contribution to the Jamia Hamdard which began in 1989. It goes to the credit of AR Kidwai that he established the Institute of the History and Research in Medicine, besides setting up of medicinal farm. Umpteen medicinal plants are today grown in Jamia Hamdard. Apart from people like Hakeem Abdul Hameed and Prof. SA Ali, the credit goes to AR Kidwai for making it a prestigious institution of medical and scientific education in Delhi. Hakeem Abdul Hameed trusted Kidwai for his honesty and integrity. Above all, the hakeem praised him for keeping his word in all matters.

Once in 2008, this author contacted him regarding the uplift of Anglo-Arabic School with his lawyer friend while Kidwai was in Delhi at Haryana Bhawan. This was a time when, apart from being the Governor of Haryana, he was also looking after Delhi as the then Delhi Lient. Governor Tejendra Khanna had been on a long leave. He told us that he wanted to tour the historic seminary. He came and took a round of the campus. He was immensely impressed by the three-century old seminary started by Ghaziuddin Khan, a noble of Aurangzeb. He was briefed about the history of the institution. The institution received the necessary funds after that. He was ever ready to help anyone who contacted him. He was so accessible that at times one wondered how simple it was to meet him unlike other dignitaries.

Atyab Siddiqui, the son of another philanthropist and messiah of the railway coolies and workers, Aftab Ahmad Siddiqui, told the author that AR Kidwai even helped his father raising the cause of the "mobile clerks" of Indian Railways when he met him in March 1982. These "mobile clerks" were provided ad hoc jobs by the railway department during the holiday season and afterward they were arbitrarily transferred to some other place. However, they were not regularised even though they had worked for years on. Not only in Patna or Delhi but all over India, this became a precedent.

It is also pertinent to mention that his heart used to throb for the cause of education of the marginalised sections of society. He relentlessly tried to get a new and modern building constructed for the Shafiq Memorial School situated in Bara Hindu Rao, Delhi-6. This money was to come from his MP LAD fund. However, manipulations in the Delhi Education Society and some staff members of the faculty of education, JMI, the project could not materialise. Dr Kidwai made a herculean effort to provide modern infrastructure this institution. The fact that the building could not be constructed upset him.

 Dr Zaheer of the CSIR (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) said that Prof Kidwai was instrumental in getting the 400 yard plot at Rafi Marg and also helping in its construction since CSIR was close to his heart. He vividly remembered how MCD officers denied the building a completion certificate and when the director contacted Dr. Kidwai, he wrote to the bureaucrats, many of whom had joined service while he was at the helm of affairs at the UPSC, and in no time got the required papers. According to Admiral Chopra of DPS Schools, the biggest contribution of AR Kidwai was the infusion of nationalist sentiment at school-level education.

The author is a teacher and columnist. He may be reached at

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 October 2016 on page no. 12

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