Remembering Agha Ashraf Ali

Agha Sahib during his student days at SP Srinagar college was attracted to student activism and formed the Muslim Bloc with the late Mir Qasim (former Chief Minister) as General Secretary in 1941. However, the progressive leadership of political forces in Kashmir forced him to abandon the idea. He admired the British system of constitutional government for the civil liberties it granted to the people.

The educated class after independence largely followed the political leadership in supporting the British constitutional system. For them, it had the potential to promote the liberal spirit and liberate the people from the tyranny of the Rajas and Maharajas.

Jawaharlal Nehru, Zakir Hussein, Maulana Azad and Prof. Mujeeb were the biggest influences on Agha Ashraf, shaping his national and global outlook. He viewed Islam as a liberating force and believed that there was no conflict between Islam, democracy and rational thought.

In one of his lectures at the University of Kashmir, he said: “Islam has always come to the aid of Muslims, but Muslims have never come to the aid of Islam”. Agha Sahib often quoted Rabindernath Tagore whenever and wherever he spotted enemies of open society:

Where the mind is fearless and the head held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been divided into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where the bright stream of reason has not lost its way in the dull sand desert of dead habit in that sky of freedom, Father, let my country wake up.

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