A report of the event by Afzal Usmani
“I had this title in my mind since long. And the reason is that my family was called a Sarkari Mussalman, meaning those who worked for the government, my ancestors for the British and later my grandfather, my father and I worked for the Government of India, hence our family is called “Sarkari Mussalmans.”
This is how Lt. Gen. Zameeruddin Shah, former Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), India, explained the title of his memoir, The Sarkari Mussalman, in response to a question posed at his reception that was hosted by the Aligarh Alumni Association, Washington DC (AAA) on 21st October 2018. Gen. Shah is in the United States to attend the Sir Syed Day celebrations organized by Aligarh Alumni Associations in major US cities. He has attended events in New York, Washington DC, Cleveland and Chicago.
Traditionally, the AAA, since its inception in 1975, has welcomed all the AMU vice-chancellors, which includes Prof. Ali Mohammad Khusro (1974-79), Mr. Syed Hamid (1979-84), Mr. Syed Hashim Ali (1984-89), Prof. Naseem Farooqui (1990-94), Mr. Mahmudur Rahman (1995-2000), Mr. M. Hamid Ansari (2000-2002), Mr. Naseem Ahmad (2002-2007), and Prof. P.K. Abdul Aziz (2007-2012). The reception for Gen. Shah was only the latest.
The event was held at the residence of Dr. Fazal and Fathun Khan, who are long-standing members of the Association and have generously made the facilities at their home available for AAA functions. The guests were welcomed by Afzal Usmani, secretary of the Association, while Dr. Abdullah, one of the founders of the Association, formally introduced Gen. Shah and his wife, Ms. Sabiha Simi Shah. He briefly recounted major projects accomplished during Gen. Shah’s Vice-chancellorship, which included beautification of the campus, renovation of its historical buildings, including the Jama Masjid, Strachey Hall, the establishment of the Musa Dakri Museum, the construction of an Olympic-size swimming pool, Riyadh Hall of residence for students, a new Community College, and fifteen Smart Classrooms supported by donations from the Alumni in the US.
Dr. Abdullah revealed that the AAA had played an important role in encouraging one of its life members, Mr. Frank Islam, to donate two million US dollars for the establishment of Frank and Debbie Islam Institute of Management at AMU.
Mr. Kaleem Kawaja, the executive director of the Association of Indian Muslims of America (AIM), presented a bouquet to the chief guest and Dr. Rafat Husain and Mrs. Aisha Khan presented on behalf of the AAA a plaque of appreciation to him.
Addressing the audience, Gen. Shah emphasized the need for the revival of the Aligarh Movement in our time and designated it the Aligarh Movement 2. Working under the banner of the Sir Syed Education Trust, he and associates have established a school in Saharanpur district of UP, India, and aspire to open similar schools in different parts of the country, designed to cater to the needs of the underprivileged segments of society. He appealed to the alumni in diaspora for financial assistance to fulfil his dream.
The talk was followed by a question and answer session which was moderated by Dr. Fazal Khan. Harris Usmani concluded the event by thanking the guests and volunteers who made the evening a memorable occasion. The author signed copies of his book which was very popular with the audience.
The writer is the secretary Aligarh Alumni Association, Washington, DC