Mushirul Hasan

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A brief biography

Avijit Ghosh, Mushirul Hasan, who stood up to religious stereotypes, no more, December 11, 2018: The Times of India

Historian Mushirul Hasan's works enabled a more nuanced understanding of the role of Muslims in the freedom struggle and who boldly stood up to religious conservatives as the pro-vice-chancellor of Jamia Milia University in the early 1990s.

Modern India historian Mridula Mukherjee said that Hasan represented the secular stream of historians. “He wrote on a wide range of subjects: the role of Muslims in the freedom struggle, Nehru, Islam, even wit and humour in colonial India,” she said.

Rizwan Qaiser, who teaches history in Jamia Milia, said Hasan sought to change stereotypes of Muslims and their role in national politics. “Many saw Muslims as a monolithic community. Hasan brought a more multi-layered understanding of their mind and political position.”

The Calcutta-born historian faced his toughest test for saying that while Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses hurt Muslim sentiments, banning the book was no solution. He was assaulted and stopped from attending his office as Jamia’s pro-vice-chancellor for four years. “One paid the price but it also helped promote the liberal cause,” he told this reporter in an interview in 2005.

Hasan saw himself as a liberal historian who broadly subscribed to the Nehruvian vision of the world. His communist father, Mohibul Hasan, taught in the department of Islamic history at Calcutta University. When he was eight, his father moved to Aligarh. The university’s famous Kennedy House, he recalled, was different those days. “You could hear Beethoven and Mozart wafting in from one of its rooms. There was qawwali and nautanki. And there were English plays, where Naseeruddin Shah was the star,” he said in the interview. He later went to Cambridge for higher studies and also served as Jamia’s VC from 2004-09.

In November 2014, Hasan had survived a life-threatening head injury after a road accident on his way to Mewat. “He was mostly bedridden after that. He was also undergoing dialysis for kidney problems," former secretary to Jamia vice-chancellor Zafar Nawaz Hashmi told PTI.

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