Reaching a Milestone, Moving Forward
By Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
Time is the original paradox. Twenty years is a substantial period in an individual human life span, but shorter than a small moment in the life of a society or nation. The two-day celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Institute of Objective Studies (IOS) on April 6 and 7 was marked as much by a mood of jubilation as of stock-taking. It was also a time to set new goals and establish new benchmarks.
Back in 1986, when we set out on the way that has led us here, we had the Islam-inspired vision to work tirelessly for the establishment of a humane society where fair play, equality and justice prevailed.
Since then a lot has changed. New technologies, a new world-economic order and a new world-political order have emerged. The IOS has tried to keep pace by studying trends, making future projections, increasing research and documentation activities all the time.
Over the years the IOS has grown in influence as has been evident in the form of regular appearance of important intellectuals, academics and political leaders from India and abroad in its Programmes (a detailed account of which is available in the attached Welcome Address of IOS General Secretary Prof. Z.M Khan at the 20th anniversary celebrations).
Time and again, over the last 20 years, we have spoken up for unity and harmony despite all the challenges that we have faced. The adverse situations have not weakened our resolve, nor have they made us forget our religious and cultural values.
We feel empowered by the opportunities that the 21st century is creating for us all; we are convinced that the future lies in sharing our resources and working together towards a humane society. Our philosophical vision is derived from the teachings of Islam and our work exemplifies the true spirit of equality, justice and brotherhood that our religion specifies and demands from all of us.
IOS has the advantage of being rooted in India and upholding the democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution of India. The Constitution of India gives us our strength and shows us the path to move ahead, despite threats that divisive forces may pose for us.
India is not just the world’s largest democracy; it is also a 5000-year-old civilisation where the social fabric between religions and communities is the strongest. Our multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society has demonstrated, and is demonstrating, its resilience and strength.
This is India’s advantage; this is also the Asian advantage which IOS is able to reflect, in a small but very certain way. Over the last two decades, our research and programmes have been focused on issues concerning Muslims and minority rights in India in the larger context of social and economic justice as enshrined in our constituting ethos, embracing all disadvantaged sections of society.
We have been able to successfully operate and work within the framework of the Indian Constitution while creating platforms for the development of the Muslim Ummah. Our achievement has been in aligning the Constitutional, regional and religious agendas with the changing global scenario. Once again, I would say, this is the advantage we have of being rooted in India and its glorious social, political and cultural traditions.
A notable achievement of the IOS is to have provided a common and much-needed platform where a cross-section of the Muslim elite in the country "university-educated academics and professionals, ulama and activists" could come together, share their commitments, concerns and aspirations, and work towards common goals.
The IOS has made sustained efforts" with some success" to sensitise the educated sections of the community to the significance and relevance of the Islamic ethos and to persuade them to engage themselves with the concerns of the community.
Pervasive disunity and dissension" sectarian, denominational, social and political" are the bane of Muslims in India and elsewhere. It has sapped our energies and resources and has been a stumbling block in the empowerment of the community.
The IOS has been deeply anguished over the debilitating consequences of communitarian disunity and has endeavoured to overcome it by emphasising the value and necessity of unity and consensus and by soliciting involvement and cooperation of all segments of the community.
The IOS has sought to build bridges between Muslims and the wider society by facilitating communication and interaction between the community on the one hand and government agencies, NGOs, media and academics and professionals from amongst non-Muslims, on the other.
The purpose of this exercise is to remove misconceptions about Muslims, to project a positive image of the community, to highlight their legitimate aspirations and grievances, to solicit the good will, support and cooperation of the wider society in the empowerment of the community, and to create a conducive atmosphere for national cohesion and harmony.
At IOS, we have consistently rallied against the Western paradigm of development and domination. The entire 20th century has been witness to the unbridled growth of technology and science that has created, in its wake, growing inequality, poverty and racist bias.
The 21st century is shaping up to be the ‘Century of Asia’. Historians are commenting that after almost 300 years, Asia is once again becoming the power-house for the world. India, through its people and their value-based education, will be best poised to optimise on these future developments; IOS, I pray, will continue to play an important role as a catalyst in this growth for the present and future generations.
On our part, we are formalising the IOS plans for the establishment of a paramedical university at Palwal, Haryana. It is hoped that this institute will fulfill the growing need for paramedics in India and throughout the world. I am proud to say that this programme would be taken up under the able guidance of Justice A M Ahmadi, former Chief Justice of India, and Dr. A R Kidwai, Governor of Haryana.
There are plans underway to create a corpus of Rs 1 crore for IOS Scholarship Fund. This scholarship will be given in the field of social sciences, humanities, law, management and journalism. At this august gathering today, I wish to make an appeal to each one of you to make a contribution worthy of your status for this Scholarship Fund. My colleagues at the registration desk will guide you as you make this contribution and get a formal receipt from IOS for your contribution that will go a long way in helping us reach the target we have set. g