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On this National Education Day let us remember Abul Kalam Azad, his glorious life history

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: Marking the birth anniversary of India’s first education minister Abul Kalam Ghulam Muhiyuddin, every year since 2008, November 11 is celebrated as the National Education Day. Fondly known as Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, he served as the first union education minister of independent India for over 10 years from 1947 to 1958.

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Honoured with India’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna in 1992, Abul Kalam Azad donned many hats of being a journalist, freedom fighter, politician, and educationist. On the birth anniversary of the late education minister who transformed the education system of India, we the team of PardaPhash, are going to reveal five lesser-known facts about his glorious life:

-Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in 1888, to an Arab who was the daughter of Sheikh Mohammad Zaher Watri. His father, Maulana Khairuddin, was a Bengali Muslim of Afghan origins who came to Arab during the Sepoy Mutiny and proceeded to Mecca, where he later settled down. Azad’s father moved back to Calcutta with his family in 1890 when Abul Kalam was only two years old. 

-Azad received traditional Islamic education and was taught first by his father and later by eminent scholars at home. Azad learned Arabic and Persian first and then philosophy, geometry, mathematics and algebra. He also learned English, world history, and politics through self-study. Azad was also well versed in Hindustani, Hindi and English languages. 

-To forge Hindu-Muslim unity after the bad blood was created between the two communities in the aftermath of Morley-Minto reforms, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in 1912, started a weekly journal in Urdu called ‘Al-Hilal’. His weekly publication played an important role and became a revolutionary mouthpiece ventilating extremist views. ‘The government regarded Al- Hilal as a propagator of secessionist views and banned it in 1914. 

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After the success of ‘Al- Hilal’ Azad then started another weekly called Al-Balagh with the same mission of propagating Indian nationalism and revolutionary ideas to further strengthen Hindu-Muslim unity. In 1916, the government banned this paper too and expelled him from Calcutta. He was exiled to Bihar from where he was released after the First World War 1920.

-Supporter of Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad entered Indian National Congress in 1920. In 1923, he was elected as the president of the special session of the Congress in Delhi and at 35, he became the youngest person to serve as the President of the Indian National Congress (INC). 

-In 1930, Azad was arrested for violating the salt laws as part of Gandhiji’s Salt Satyagraha. He was put behind the bars in Meerut jail for a year and a half. After his release, he once again became the president of Congress in 1940 form Ramgarh and held the post till 1946.

-Azad was also one of the founding members of the Jamia Milia Islamia University, originally established at Aligarh in the United Provinces, India in 1920.

-Maulana Abul Kalam Azad is known for shaping the modern education system of the country. The first IIT, IISc, School of Planning and Architecture and the University Grants Commission were established under his tenure as the education minister. The most prominent cultural, literary academies including; the Sangeet Natak Academy, Lalit Kala Academy, Sahitya Academy as well as the Indian Council for Cultural Relations were also built under his supervision.

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