The tomb of secularism.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is circled by the sounds of Shahjahanabad’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 “pledge that this country is ours, we belong to it and any fundamental decisions about its destiny will remain incomplete without our consent”.
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, Azad’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 memorial’s entrance, an inscription briefly describes Azad’s life. One phrase stands out:
“Maulana Azad opposed the Partition of India… “
Where Near Meena Bazaar Time 9 am to 5 pm Nearest Metro Station Chandni Chowk/Chawri Bazaar
Here lies Azad’s dream