Bengaluru: Founder of Al-Ameen Educational Society, Dr. Mumtaz Ahmed Khan died on May 27 evening leaving a vast legacy of institutions and activists who are engaged in promotion of modern education among the society’s underdogs, especially Muslims. He was 86 and devoted nearly 55 years of his life in building educational institutions. Though most of them are in the State of Karnataka, he inspired several like-minded people elsewhere in India to set up schools and colleges, many of them prefixed with ‘Al-Ameen’, a name he was fond of.
An institution builder
Dr. Mumtaz was trustee, chairman, honourary secretary or president of nearly 175 educational institutions during the end of his life. All these were founded by him and the Society in and around Bengaluru. However, the Al-Ameen campus opposite the Lalbagh Botanical Garden in the heart of the city bore a stamp of his personality and epitomizes his struggles during maiden years of journey towards becoming a builder of institutions. Besides the Al-Ameen Arts, Science and Commerce College which came up first in 1966, this campus today hosts a college of Law, Pharmacy, Management Studies, Teachers’ Training and Information Technology. Behind the impressive Al-Ameen Education Society building is located the Al-Ameen High School. A mosque towers over the campus. Not far from it, and along the same road is situated the Ghousia Girls’ Polytechnic and Ghousia ITI. The town of Ramanagram, about 45 kms south of Bengaluru, is Ghousia Engineering College and several other institutions. Around 30 km east of the City in Hosakote, is the 30-acre campus of Al-Ameen Residential School. Masjid e Mumtaz is at the centre of this campus. Dr. Mumtaz had wished that he be laid to rest beside the Masjid. He was buried there after the Friday congregation on May 28. However, due to lockdown restrictions and distance from the city, very few mourners could make it to the occasion. All these institutions were set up by Dr. Mumtaz and his team of activists under the aegis of Al-Ameen Education Society.
A non-practicing doctor
Dr. Mumtaz was an exceptionally gifted man whose parents, Y. Ismail Khan and Sadathunnisa were educated at the Aligarh Muslim University. They had been sent there in 1920s and 30s by his grandfather who owned vast estates in Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu. He lived in bungalow on a picturesque riverfront. The bungalow was purchased from a British Military Officer. The couple had returned from Aligarh inspired by vision of AMU founder Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.
Mumtaz Saheb was born in 1936 and attended Christian schools in Tiruchirapalli which is known for its Bishop Heber High School and St. Joseph’s College. Incidentally, Tiruchy used to have the Jamal Mohammed College established by Tamil speaking business tycoons M. Jamal Mohamed and Khawjamian Sahib due to which the city could boast of an educated Muslim elite. He earned his MBBS from the Stanley Medical College in Chennai, then Madras, in early 1960s. Having completed with distinction, he was employed as a lecturer in the same Medical College where he later joined Master of Surgery (MS) course which he discontinued due to marriage in a mercantile family of Bangalore (now Bengaluru) in 1965.
Migration to Bangalore brought in a paradigm shift in his life. The city had several mosques but no Muslim educational institutions worth the name. There was no place to discuss social, economic and educational issues facing the community and the mosques would not allow anything beyond worship. Mumtaz used to harbour a rankling sense of disenchantment at the plight of Muslims who were dependent upon institutions runs by Christians and other communities.
Interactions over several months led to the registration of Al-Ameen Educational Society in 1965. Begum Abbasiya Mecci was the first president of the Society. (She was nominated to the State’s Legislative Council several years later). The Society started the Al-Ameen College in 1967 in a bungalow hired in the city’s Kalasipalyam locality. This was located in the historic core the city near the fort and Tipu’s summer palace. The first year saw enrolment by 30 boys and girls. Next year the number jumped tenfold.
He could see the social mismatch
Dr. Mumtaz said there was a huge mismatch between revenue from the tuition fee and wages of the staff and operational expenses including the rent. Lecturers were insincere and money-minded and regular delays in payment of salaries would turn them rebellious against the management. They would not even shirk joining the opponents of his mission to set up modern educational institutions.
He faced hostile forces
The nascent and financially beleaguered institution was merely hobbling from one crisis to another. By 1967 some Wakf land opposite the Lalbagh was allotted by the State Wakf Board. This belonged to two mausoleums of the Hyder-Tipu era of Mysore rule. It had been encroached by dwellers of nearly 2,000 hutments. They were sent away to alternative sites. A temporary building was put up around a courtyard. But one morning, he found it to his horror and surprise that some anti-social elements who were hands-in gloves with some influential members of the society had put up their huts in the middle of the courtyard. Dr. Mumtaz had told this scribe in a long chat in 2016 that he was determined to vacate the illegal structures and was helped by Dr. Rahmatullah Khan, a retired government official and the slum women who had been given alternative sites in uprooting the illegal structure. But the goons were able to launch an FIR against him and he faced the cases till 1980 when the State Government got them vacated.
There was no end to his miseries. Funds were not easy to be found. He told me that the elite of the town identified him more as a donation-collector rather than the founder of an institution during those years. Few among them were ready to loosen their purse strings. The college’s application for affiliation to the Bangalore University was rejected in 1968 as the Rs. 2,000 cheque enclosed towards the fee bounced due to insufficient funds in the college’s bank account. It was a serious setback. Next year, the preparations were more meticulous and the college became an affiliated unit of the University. By 1970, the College was sanctioned 75 percent grant towards the salaries of the lecturers.
Sale of ancestral property
Dr. Mumtaz could now breathe a bit easily. Yet the financial troubles had not ended. At one time the college was running out of funds. And he told this scribe, he and a colleague approached film actor Mahmood (who used to live in his Farmhouse in Yelahanka Satellite town) for donation as college account had no funds to disburse the salaries. He was thrilled to know that a Muslim college has come up in Bangalore. He placed the entire amount that he needed for one month’s salaries with a promise to donate further amounts in subsequent months. Dr. Mumtaz even sold his ancestral property in Trichy and diverted the money for the college infrastructure.
Dr. Mumtaz disclosed to this scribe in another meeting that teaching staff was not cooperative. They used to collude with hostile elements to defeat his mission. Undeterred, he continued his networking among those who shared his vision and the philanthropists. Some leading businessmen such as Haji Abdul Latif Tayub (HALT), a vanaspati manufacturer; K. Rahman Khan, chartered accountant; Azam Jan of Janson Carpets; Mohd. Hassan Sait; Usman Asad, editor of Weekly Nasheman; social workers such as Ibrahim Khalilullah Khan, Maqsood Ali Khan (MP, Rajya Sabha), etc banded together to come to his aid. Al-Ameen gradually turned into a vibrant organization.
It began to grow out of Bangalore. Businessman Nabi Shariff donated land at Ramanagram town, 45 km from Bangalore, to set up the Ghousia Engineering college and in the city to set up Ghousia Girls’ Polytechnic and the ITI. A string of schools came up under the apex institution of Al-Ameen Degree College in Kolar, a town 70 km east of Bangalore. Al-Ameen institutions sprouted in Bidar and Humnabad in northern parts of Karnataka too. Under the chief ministership of Mr. Ramakrishna Hegde, the group was sanctioned Al-Ameen Medical College in far off Bijapur which today has a dental, nursing, and pharmacy colleges. Bangalore campus witnessed addition of several institutes imparting courses in Law, Management, Pharmacy, Information Sciences, Teachers Training etc. Al-Ameen Hospital came up under the Al-Ameen Medical and Charitable Trust in the heart of the city. Al-Ameen Residential School was set up in Hosakote, 30 km east of the city on the road to Kolar.
However, Al-Ameen’s ventures into the fields of finance and banking did not meet with a similar measure of success. Amanath Coop. Bank was set up in 1977. It celebrated its silver jubilee with a lot of fanfare. However, under mounting NPAs due to non-return of debts, it was placed under moratorium by the RBI. It suffered a serious dent into its image. Today it is a pale shadow of its former self. Al-Ameen Islamic Financial Investment Corporation had to be liquidated after embezzlement of funds. Dr. Mumtaz had commented that inexperience proved to be their undoing.
Dr. Mumtaz has left a rich legacy of social service and he inspired several generations of youth to work tirelessly to promote modern education among Muslims even while caring for moral and religious ethos. In his death the Muslims in India have lost a selfless leader who by action proved that communities need not be led necessarily by politicians. Education that teaches modern skills and civilized behavior can alone be the route to salvation.
M A Siraj is Bengaluru based seasoned journalist who writes for a variety of newspapers including The Hindu, and news portals.