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Sir Syed Speaks at Patna in 1883‎

In January 1883 Syed Ahmad Khan delivered a speech in Patna, emphasizing the need for cordial relations between Hindus and Muslims. Excerpts from this speech follow.[1]*

Friends, in India there live two prominent nations which are distinguished by the names of Hindus and Mussulmans. Just as a man has some principal organs, similarly these two nations are like the principal limbs of India. To be a Hindu or a Muslim is a matter of internal faith which has nothing to do with mutual relationship and external conditions. How good is the saying, whoever may be its author, that a human being is composed of two elements—his faith which he owes to God and his moral sympathy which he owes to his fellow-being. Hence leave God's share to God and concern yourself with the share that is yours.

Gentlemen, just as many reputed people professing Hindu faith came to this country, so we also came here. The Hindus forgot the country from which they had come; they could not remember their migration from one land to another and came to consider India as their homeland, believing that their country lies between the Himalayas and the Vindhiyachal.t Hundreds of years have lapsed since we, in our turn, left the lands of our origin. We remember neither the climate nor the natural beauty of those lands, neither the freshness of the harvests nor the deliciousness of the fruits, nor even do we remember the blessings of the holy deserts. We also came to consider India as our homeland and we settled down here like the earlier immigrants. Thus India is the home of both of us. We both breathe the air of India and take the water of the holy Ganges and the Jamuna. We both consume the products of the Indian soil. We are living and dying together. By living so long in India, the blood of both have changed. The colour of both have become similar. The faces of both, having changed, have become similar. The Muslims have acquired hundreds of customs from the Hindus and the Hindus have also learned hundreds of things from the Mussulmans. We mixed with each other so much that we produced a new language—Urdu, which was neither our language nor theirs. Thus if we ignore that aspect of ours which we owe to God, both of us, on the basis of being common inhabitants of India, actually constitute one nation; and the progress of this country and that of both of us is possible through mutual cooperation, sympathy and love. We shall only destroy ourselves by mutual disunity and animosity and ill-will to each other. It is pitiable to see those who do not understand this point and create feeling of disunity among these two nations and fail to see that they themselves will be the victims of such a situation, and inflict injury to themselves. My friends, I have repeatedly said and say it again that India is like a bride which has got two beautiful and lustrous eyes—Hindus and Mussulmans. If they quarrel against each other that beautiful bride will become ugly and if one destroys the other, she will lose one eye. Therefore, people of Hindustan you have now the right to make this bride either squint eyed or one eyed.

Undoubtedly, what to say of Hindus and Mussulmans, a quarrel among human beings is a natural phenomenon. Within the ranks of the Hindus or Mussulmans themselves, or even between brothers as also between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters there are dissensions. But to make it perennial is a symptom of decay of the family, the country, and of the nation. How blessed are those who repent, and step forward to untie the knot which has by chance, marred their mutual relations and do not allow it to get disrupted. 0! God, let the people of India change to this way of thinking.

(Makers of Modern India, Edited & Introduced by Ramachandra Guha, 2010, p.68-70)

_____________________________________________ [1]* Mohammad, editor. Writings and Speeches, pp. 159-60. t The Vindhya mountains, running east to west in the middle of the peninsula, are generally said to divide north from south India. It is interesting that Syed Ahmad Khan leaves the area south of the Vindhyas out of his purview, this despite the fact that it was home to millions of Hindus as well as Muslims. This may have been because the Mughals (his frame of reference) had never really penetrated into this region.

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