By Syed Ali Mujtaba
I am awestruck seeing the obituary coverage of Sadia Dehalvi, a Delhi socialite in the media. Her multifaceted personality is brought out in all the media reports that points how important a Sadia Appa was in the Delhi social circle.
Reading about Sadia Appa my memory compelled me to unburden my thoughts with a obit on here sitting here in Chennai where I am currently based. I knew Sadia Dehalvi in the year 1985 – 86 when I was 22 years and now I am 58.
We were a bunch of AMU students who had come to Delhi with the ambition to crack the Civil Services exam. We discovered India Islamic Cultural Center (IICC) on the Lodi Road that provided us free accommodation and a library to pursue our civil services dream.
Every weekend there was a pep talk by some “big gun” organized at the IIICC for us the civil services aspirants under the meet the celebrity programme.
It was in one of those meetings Madam Sadia Dehalvi had come to give a talk on socially relevant issues in India. I was floored by Sadia Appa’s grace, elegance, élan and sophistication of her personality. She seems to be a well-read person and talked to us quite knowledgeable on several social issues. Her vibrancy and enthusiasm in engaging us in conversation made us demand her again and again and soon she became a regular visitor to the IICC.
It was in one such meeting, we had engaged Sadia Appa in a discussion on the Muslim problems in India. I found she had some original thoughts on this issue. She hailed said educational reformers in the country and showered praises on them for uplifting the community from ignorance.
She then came to her original idea and said the primary goal should be social activism to transform the community. She told us that only social activism can take the community forward. Such activism has to be done at an All India level and should be in parallel to the administrative structure of the country.
She wanted the Muslim community to organize into Self Help Groups at the Panchayat- Blocks – Subdivision and districts levels all over country just like how the administrative division exists in the country.
What she meant was Muslims should form an advocacy group and even coined the term IMYM or Indian Muslim Youth Movement. She said Muslims should not look towards the government for the development of community development but they should organize themselves under a strong platform that they can help, guide and prepare the community to stand up on its feet.
Sadia Appa’s ideas touch an emotional chord among many of us and generated lot of positive energy for such a futuristic vision for the uplifting of the marginalized Muslim community.
The idea of IMYM was very refreshing. It was beyond Madrasas and minority institutions or even technical learning schools. It was a call for a new social movement that was unheard and un-talked in India. Many of us present there were impressed by her fresh thinking towards addressing the Muslim problems in the country. Her thought to organize the Muslim community under an umbrella organization was a grand vision for the development of the community.
Unfortunately her idea of IMYM could never take off. This was because there was a need for many dedicated persons resources and other such organizational requirements to take it forward and to be made into a movement.
I moved to JNU for my civil services mission and lost contact with Sadia Delvi. Nonetheless, I followed her in the media and it appeared to me that she too had other things to do and she remained busy in them.
Now when everyone is talking about her, I thought I may also enrich my reader a different personality of Sadia Dehalvi. I knew Sadia Appa was not taken seriously because her life style did not match someone who can be accepted for the development of the Muslim community.
It was such a rejection that the vision of IMYM went into oblivion. It was also because such an idea came from a lady who did not look like a female version of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, (beard and cap).
This is not to denigrate anyone’s contribution to the progress of the community but to underline the point that Muslim women too can take up the role of the leadership of the community. I am writing this because I cherish those memories of Sadia Dehalvi. Having come to know her from close quarters, I can say with some conviction that she was a faithful Muslim.
Her concern for the development of the Muslim community was no less than Muslim clergy and narrow, parochial and patriarchy rooted types of Muslims in India.
When I heard the news of the passing away of Sadia Appa, a stream of thoughts jogged down my memory lane. I felt compelled to unburden myself to narrate this anecdote that can have a transformative impact on the Muslim community. A change that is what is needed in the Muslim community and that was the vision of Sadia Appa. She wanted this to happen through IMYM.
Through this obituary note I like to say I am proud to have met such a visionary personality in my lifetime. I end this; Sadia Appa rest in peace, it was nice knowing you and I joined many others in a silent prayer saying ‘Rest in Peace’ Appa. RIP…
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org