The tomb of secularism.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is circled by the sounds of Shahjahanabadâ€™s beggars, pavement vendors, shopkeepers, shoppers, goats, and amateur cricketers. Yet, the garden-tomb of Abul Kalam Muhiyuddin Ahmed, aka Maulana Azad, remains tranquil.
A freedom fighter, Azad, like millions of his fellow Muslims, chose not to migrate to Pakistan following the Indian Partition. The first education minister of a free India, he died in 1958. His resting place lies close to the dargah of his beloved sufi saint, Sarmad Shahid; it also looks to the eastern gateway of the Jama Masjid.
It was on the stairs of this mosque in October 1947 that Azad famously exhorted the Muslims to â€śpledge that this country is ours, we belong to it and any fundamental decisions about its destiny will remain incomplete without our consentâ€ť.
In 1940, he had delivered a memorable speech on secularism in which he emphasized the necessity of the Muslim in the idea of India, saying:
“I am part of the indivisible unity that is Indian nationality. I am indispensable to this noble edifice and without me this splendid structure is incomplete. I am an essential element, which has gone to build India. I can never surrender this claim.”
Designed by architect Habib Rahman, Azadâ€™s memorial is respectful to the Islamic architecture of the Mughal-era city. The tomb is marked by a white marble canopy. According to the book The Modern Architecture of New Delhi, the cross-barrel vault structure was derived from the central arch of the Jama Masjid.
There are pools on three sides of the garden-tomb. They are dry. The grass is watered daily. The views of the Jama Masjid spring out from above the trees. Grass grows on the grave.
At the memorialâ€™s entrance, an inscription briefly describes Azadâ€™s life. One phrase stands out:
“Maulana Azad opposed the Partition of Indiaâ€¦ “
Where Near Meena Bazaar Time 9 am to 5 pm Nearest Metro Station Chandni Chowk/Chawri Bazaar
Here lies Azad’s dream