Nostalgia and nuisance
Reviewed by ASIF ANWAR ALIG
A False Alarm: The Rise and Fall of INSAN Mission, by Dr. Equbal Wajid, Arshia Publications, Delhi – 110095, Year2015, 183pp, Indian Rupees 300, Hard.
ducational institutions run by Indian Muslims often remain in the news for variegated reasons. Aligarh Muslim University (AMU); Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) and Jamia Hamdard (JHU) et al are pathfinders but others catch media attention for undulating reasons including striving to survive. Dr. Equbal Wajid’s A False Alarm: The Rise and Fall of INSAN Mission disseminate both nostalgia and nuisance. This former teacher of erstwhile Insan School & College in northeastern Bihar’s Kishanganj does an attempt in autobiography.
This book takes Insan School alumnus to down memory lane. Readers come to know how today’s dilapidated institution was once a model residential school in India. This school used to attract students from far off regions of Bihar to adjoining Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, West Bengal and North Eastern states to neighboring Nepal and Bhutan for enrollment in early 80s.
Dr. Wajid saw its overwhelming glory and equally did he witness profligacies of downfall in a time span of just three decades. Rather self-eulogized this book vividly expresses causes of institution’s downfall. He mentions what popularized it and how it faced the doldrums.
Missionary zeal of Insan School Founder Director Late Padamshree (Dr.) Syed Hasan (30-09-1924 – 25-01-2016), a 1946 graduate from JMI and PhD from USA, brought it into zenith of success. Group institutions—Insan School, Insan College and Insan Adult Education School as part of Taleemi Mission Core (TMC) maintained glory from 1970 until 1995. It spread over an area of approximately 120 hectares land at Shiksha Nagar in Kishanganj. During its heyday it groomed students for overall personality development. Today, its alumnus serves the nation and abroad as Civil Servants, Doctors, Engineers and successful businessmen etc.
Highlighting the role of this institution to bring educational revolution in Kishanganj this book points out how it was once a site of learning & culture under Dr. Hasan’s guidance. Ironically, its doom came before his eyes. This book discusses different shades of his personality. A psychotherapist at par he would treat abnormal people with unique therapies. A dominant personality he groomed budding minds with patience and transformed them. His self-centric attitude developed ambiguous competition amongst teaching staff and repeated psychological experiments developed cunningness.
Dr. Equbal Wajid was appointed lecturer when Insan College was established. He and his colleagues were assured that by 1985 the college would become Insan University which never happened. They imagined for a big leap in their careers but it didn’t materialize. By 1994 the College virtually collapsed while new admissions stopped. Previously enrolled students faced bleak future. Teaching staffs weren’t paid salaries for years. Dr. Hasan hardly changed his stance and didn’t realize that the institution he founded was gradually collapsing.
Summing the plights of Insan College lecturers the author mentions that they were forced to cook food for self and for students. Their families starved for several days until locals came forward to help them. Instead of finding worthwhile solutions Dr. Hasan demoralized them with negative psychology. Outspoken ones were terminated from service.
In glorious time of 1980s Insan College faculty selection was a rigorous exercise. Candidates had to participate in the cultural programmes, teaching performance presentations and written tests for selection. Lecturers felt proud of their association with the College in those days. Young lecturers walking through the streets of Kishanganj would smile in reaction when people gazed at them with respect and pride. It was a period when Insan Group of Institutions received highest accolades from everywhere.
Was Dr. Hasan having hidden agenda for an institution he founded? Whether it truly aimed to promote Muslims? The then Governor of Bihar Mr. Akhlaqur Rahman Kidwai proposed him in 1980 to declare Insan Institutions into Minority Character institutions. It could be a golden opportunity to take shape like AMU and JMI did but Dr. Hasan blatantly refused such idea.
Quoting eminent Islamic philosopher of modern times Maulana Waheeduddin Khan on the rise and fall of Insan Institutions the author brings his observations of way back 1980 in this book. After listening that Dr. Hasan didn’t want help from Government and intended to run the institution on self-help he opined: “it should be ready to face either of the two consequences—Dr. Hasan’s successors would readily hand it over to Government or it would face discredit of a shrunk identity of a local school to enroll the children of foolish.”
Maulana Waheeduddin Khan’s second prophecy proved right. Sooner it shrank into a local school just to yell on its past glory. Author recalls the caveats of eminent Islamic scholar stressing that “Dr. Hasan seemed a clever man.” He was advised to forego his emotional attachment with Insan Institution because its inquisitive management allured its downfall.”
This book is a good research on Dr. Hasan. It cursorily discusses his life from birth to studies to pursuits in higher education until his decision to leave the lucrative career in US and open an educational institution in the remote Kishanganj area where he breathed his last.
It concludes with an assessment on Dr. Hasan if he had hidden agenda to make huge personal property in billions from the Insan Institution he founded. He would escape maintaining any viable relationship with the Government authorities for possible recognition. Hardly had he believed in community service. If intended sacrifice for the country, he could follow a model like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan who founded Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College in 1875 that became Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in 1920. It is a globally reputed university today.
Intellectuals then predicted for Insan School to emerge into future Muslim University. Former diplomat, politician and thinker Syed Sahabuddin writes in this book what led to such grim scenario. The downfall came because of constant conflicts between academic community and authorities. Deliberate attempts of Dr. Hasan are cited other key reasons. He polarized the teachers to ruin institution’s image. Remaining central authority on everything until death he rarely maintained any institutional hierarchy.
Syed Sahabuddin further points out that this institution could regain the lost glory in recent past by availing an opportunity to merge its campus with AMU Kishanganj Extension Center. Dr. Hasan’s blatant refusal to this idea proved biggest failure to tarnish his own image. A false alarm arose in his ripe age. It was suspected whether he truly meant to serve the nation.
This book outlines various such facts on the glories and downfall of Insan Institutions that were not known to us till now. Ironically this institution faced its doom from a person who had nurtured it. With a deliberate perishing of an institution Muslim dominated Kishanganj lost an avenue for its educational empowerment.
It required thorough editing and proofreading to engage the readers. Even though this book has many typing errors it still captivates reader's attention.
This book review was first published in The Milli Gazette, New Delhi in its July 01 - 15, 2016 edition.