On a research trip last summer, I found a previously unidentified thirteenth-century manuscript in a library in Poznan, Poland, and recognized that it contains the writings of a late twelfth-century monk named Engelhard of Langheim. One of the Latin texts in this manuscript is the saintly biography of a religious woman named Mechtilde of Diessen.
On December 8, 2011, newspapers in Zimbabwe – and Zimbabwe’s diasporas – reported that an unmarked tree in the middle of a busy street in the capital, Harare, had been accidentally knocked down by a city council van.
During the partition, however, as Amin’s story reveals, Aligarh became a site of suspicion; Muslims were targeted as potential traitors to the state, and Aligarh was especially vulnerable because many students had been active in calling for independent Muslim statehood.
During our interview Professor Amin was suffering from allergies and his nose was running constantly. He also had several attacks of sneezing. But he was patient and generous enough to continue speaking with me despite it all.
Professor Hasan was also one of only a few students of the 1940s who was willing to speak about his involvement with the Muslim League in the 1945-46 elections. He frequently made sure that I understood that he regretted his involvement with the League and chalked it up to youthful enthusiasm, a desire for adventure, and naivete.
Interviewed by Amber Abbas Sir Syed Nagar, Aligarh (May 1, 2009) Transcript Biographical Notes: Professor Masood ul Hasan was born in Moradabad in 1928. He completed high school from Hewat Muslim High School. His father was an employee of the Municipal Board. He completed his F.A. (Intermediate) from Government Inter-College, Moradabad. He studied in the Aligarh […]
Irfan Habib is an Emeritus Professor of the Dept of History but he still appears daily in the department where he sits in the office of Professor Shireen Moosvi and interacts with all of the students, other professors, Communist party activists and others who move in and out of the office throughout the day. Irfan Habib always provides hospitality to these guest, endless cups of tea and biscuits.
It was some time before I could convince him to sit down with me for a formal interview about his experiences during the 1930s and 1940s in Aligarh. He was very skeptical of the methodology of my research, being as he is, a historian of medieval India and deeply invested in the investigation of documentary sources. Interviews, he reminded me, would only catch a person’s “bias,” and not “The Truth.”
S.M. Mehdi was surprised to see me, but agreed to answer my questions though he cautioned he could not be considered an expert on Aligarh. He told me, instead, of his experiences during partition as a Communist in Bombay. He worked for thirty years in the Soviet Embassy in New Delhi and has been a lifelong Communist.
In 2009, I spent five months living at the Aligarh Muslim University in the town of Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, India. I was there to research the role and experience of Aligarh students in the movement for Pakistan during the 1940s. As part of this research, I actively sought out university employees and former students of the university from that period. I was referred to S.M. Mehdi through a chance encounter with a university official and arrived at his home without an appointment.