Focus

Bi Amman remembered

By Mohammad Naushad Khan
New Delhi: For the first time in living memory a lecture on “Bi Amman”, the great freedom fighter and mother of equally great freedom fighters, was organised on 13 November at Jamia Millia Islamia to mark her 85th death anniversary as a token of remembrance by an ungrateful nation. Abadi Bano Sahiba, popularly known as “Bi Amman” was born in Rampur in 1857 and died there in 1924. She was mother of the great freedom fighter “Ali Brothers” who had no equals in the 1920s. Although “Bi Amman” was illiterate, she left no stone unturned for the cause of the freedom of the country, Hindu-Muslim unity and participated in the Khilafat movement.

Efforts are being made by Prof. Yaswed Diwakar of Jamia Millia’s MCRC and his associate Yasir PV  through various media to make people aware about her struggle and her contribution. A documentary film titled "The brave mother of Rampur" is being produced by Yaswed Vision highlighting the struggle of Bi Amman who travelled across the country along with other freedom fighters to impart the nationalist message and to promote communal harmony amongst the masses.

Great freedom fighter Bi Amman, forgotten in her homeland and remembered by a neighbour; her illustrious sons Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali

Senior journalist Kuldip Nayar speaking on the occasion said that it is painful that so far Bi Amman’s contribution has been neglected by our educational system and it is the need of the hour that a book be written and taught in schools and colleges. He added that her speech in Lahore during the Khilafat movement reflected her commitment towards pluralism and the language she used was no less than a piece of literature. She said that Hindus and Muslims are the two eyes of India and worked for friendship between the two communities. Nayar said that a time will come when the region will emerge as economic unit where India and Pakistan would play a major role in initiating the process.

Venkitesh Ramakrishnan, deputy editor of The Hindu/Frontline, said that there is a complete blackout of her contribution from our history books and people have forgotten the laudable efforts of Bi Amman. He said that he himself was not at all aware of Bi Amman despite having followed political stories for about 20 years and at the same time having visited her birthplace many times. He said  that India needs leaders like her to curb divisive politics.

Historian Narayani Gupta, who earlier taught history at the Jamia Millia, urged the youth, particularly girls, to emulate the charisma and wisdom of Bi Amman. She further said that Bi Amman's history is a reminder of the space women had in the freedom struggle of our country. She went on to say how the period of late 19th and early 20th century was a period of renaissance for women in India as they could communicate with women further away from their immediate surroundings, they could get education and they could associate themselves; citing the examples of Pandita Ramabai,  Begum Roquia Shekawat Hussain, Annie Besant and Sarojini Naidu. She said that this was a period in which women took to writing and how classical music and dances were revived by women.

Yasir PV, who has being doing research on Bi Amman for the last four years, paid rich tributes to her with his presentation "A Passage from Moochi Gate to Palaghat.” The paper he presented was synthesized with elements of Yeats, Margaret Atwood, Ghalib and Nehru. People do not know that the “Gandhi cap” was invented by Bi Amman and that during the freedom movement she had collected 40-45 lakh rupees for the struggle. Most of the participants were of the view that a chapter of her contribution to be included in NCERT books for she can be an inspiration for all who believe in communal harmony and role of women in our society.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 December 2009 on page no. 1

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