Students are the most energetic and enthusiastic segment of a society. These young, lively, active, dynamic and vigorous men and women have high ambition and goals, and are also blessed with the energy to fulfil their dreams. Almost all the great revolutions of the modern world have the youth or student factor in common. The creation of Pakistan too had many contributors who played a vital role in the Freedom Movement but the role of students, unquestionably, had been remarkable throughout.
There is no denying the fact that the credit for introducing the educational reforms, and awakening the Muslims of the Subcontinent, mostly goes to the great Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. He was so impressive in his efforts that political stalwarts of the Subcontinent acknowledged his efforts. For instance, Allama Iqbal said:
“The real greatness of the man (Sir Syed) consists in the fact that he was the first Indian Muslim who felt the need of a fresh orientation of Islam and worked for it.”
When there was the introduction of new education system in India, the Muslims, unlike the Hindus, rejected this modern system. They resisted change and remained stuck to their own traditional studies. The War of Independence of 1857 proved to be a seminal event in the history of India, and a watershed moment for the reformers like Sir Syed. The War had huge impact on the region in political, economic, social and academic fields and also changed the Muslims’ viewpoint towards education. At this critical juncture in the history of Indian Muslims, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan realized that the miseries of the Muslims could only be curtailed by achieving modern education. Sir Syed clearly foresaw the imperative need for the Muslims to acquire proficiency in the English language and modern sciences if the community were to maintain its social and political identity, particularly in Northern India. With this vision in mind, he founded the Aligarh Madarasa, in 1875, which was later given the status of Mohammeden Anglo Oriental (MAO) College, in 1877. The students of this institution were strikingly different from the rest; and this change marked the emergence of a new trend in the lives of the Muslims of the Subcontinent, who were destined to play a significant role in the Freedom Movement. Maulvi Abdul Haq rightly said:
‘People say Sir Syed Ahmed Khan set up a college; nay. He made a nation’.
This was a period of tumult in the Subcontinent as the rift between the Hindus and the Muslims was continuously widening and all the initiatives taken for the unity between the two communities remained futile. It was only the stubbornness of the Congress that led to the formation of a separate political platform for the Indian Muslims. Similarly, the biasness of the All-India Student Federation (AISF), which was also known as ‘Baby of the Congress’, resulted in the creation of All-India Muslim Students Federation (AIMSF) that was formed on January 17, 1936, with Mohammad Wasiq as its General Secretary and Mohammad Noman as Organising Secretary. The constitution of this organisation was presented on December 29, 1937, in a conference held in Calcutta which focused on uniting and organising the Muslim students nationwide, to arouse political consciousness amongst them, to work for the betterment and advancement of the social and economic condition of Muslims, to popularise Islamic culture and faith, to have friendly relations amongst different communities of India and to promote cooperation between the Muslim students of India and rest of the world.
The biasness of the All-India Student Federation (AISF), which was also known as ‘Baby of the Congress’, resulted in the creation of All-India Muslim Students Federation (AIMSF) that was formed on January 17, 1936, with Mohammad Wasiq as its General Secretary and Mohammad Noman as Organising Secretary.
Despite facing various issues in initial years, such as lack of skilled individuals, shortage of funds and absence of strong leadership, the students stood up for the rights of Muslims of the Subcontinent. Muslim students of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Bengal, Assam, Bombay, Bihar, Central Provinces (CP), Delhi, Madras, Orissa, United Province (UP) and Banglore had their own Muslim Student Federations (MSF) who worked day in and day out for the struggle of Pakistan Movement. It was noteworthy to witness both Muslim men and women participating in this great effort.
Muslim Girls’ Student Federation was set up with Begum Ikramullah, appointed as its convener. Regardless of the cultural barrier, many female students worked enthusiastically and helped in arousing political consciousness among Muslim women.
The Freedom Movement gained momentum in the early 40’s and so did the students’ activities. Muslim students worked socially, intellectually, journalistically and politically to serve the national goal. Their enthusiasm reflects in the titles they used before their names such as Khadim-e-Pakistan and Mujahid-e-Pakistan. They also interacted with the common people of different villages and towns, giving them political awareness. A Pakistan rural propaganda committee was set up by the Punjab MSF to carry the League’s message to the villagers. Summer schools were held in various colleges and universities to enlighten the students regarding the political situation. Fund—raising was also an important activity carried out by the students to financially help Muslim League in the upcoming elections of 1945. The students not only worked in their respective areas but also helped their brothers in other provinces, forming an inter-province cooperation. One such incident was when the students from different provinces went to join the civil disobedience movement in Punjab. The students of Bihar were engaged in the relief operation and organised rehabilitation of the riot-affected people suffering from disastrous communal riots in the province, during October 1946. A Red Crescent hospital was set up as well, by the Madras MSF, in 1946, which besides providing the treatment to the injured also gave first-aid training. The students used intellectual front as a significant source for propagating Quaid’s vision, for which various conferences, camps, symposia, literacy campaign, elocution contests, cultural and educational activities and study circles were organised by MSF, which turned out to be very helpful.
The journals and pamphlets, published by different MSFs, also played a key role in this regard. The AIMSF decided to publish a quarterly journal, shortly after their first session in 1937. The journal was titled ‘Awakening,’ and its Urdu version, ‘Bedari,’ was edited by Hasan Ahmad Razi. Another official journal was published by Surat MSF in 1942 named ‘The Crescent,’ which was available in three languages: English, Urdu and Gujrati. ‘Souvenir’ and ‘Muslim Times’ were published by the CP and Berar MSF from Nagpur. The UP MSF brought about the ‘Spirit of Youth’ in 1942. All these journals promoted the objectives of Muslim League and its leaders and this effort of the students was no doubt an important contribution to the national cause.
The political role of Muslim students was a valuable contribution towards the independence of Pakistan. As the time drew closer for the elections of 1945-46, the activities of the students grew faster. Hundreds of trained volunteers were appointed for different duties in the election campaign, as well as for the election day. This time, too, they had to face enormous difficulties in the form of police and official interference. Furthermore, they had a tough time in Hindu-majority areas too where they were abused and stoned. But, nothing could distract them from achieving their goal and ultimately their struggles, effort, sincerity and hard work resulted in the creation of Pakistan.
The students were supported, trusted and guided by the Quaid-i-Azam throughout the Movement. He believed and proved that youth is a Pakistan asset which, if handled properly, can be of great advantage to the nation.
The prevailing situation in our country is quite tragic as the leaders are mishandling and manipulating the youth for their personal or party interest, whereas Quaid-i-Azam utilised this great asset particularly for the national interest. He once said: ‘I insist you to strive. Work, work and only work for satisfaction with patience, humbleness and serve thy nation’. We have in this quotation a solution to transform our youth from a liability to an asset, as AllamaIqbal said:
Nahi hai na-umeed Iqbal apni kisht-e-veera’n se
Zara num ho to yeh mitti buhat zarkhez hai saqi!