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Jamia loses an illustrious son Akhlaqur Rahman Kidwai

Akhlaqur Rahman Kidwai needs no introduction. He was an old alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia who lived in Zakir Bagh with his family. He died today at Escort Hospital at the age 96.

For a long time his movements were restricted due to old age suffering.

Akhlaqur Rahman KidwaiDr Akhlaq Ur Rahman Kidwai was just eight years old when Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) took him into its fold. And now, 93 years later, the Padma Vibhushan awardee, who is currently president of the Zaheer Science Foundation, says he owes it all to the university.

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Sipping green tea at his modest Zakir Bagh flat, Dr Kidwai, who has served as governor of Bihar, Haryana and West Bengal and was a member of the Rajya Sabha from 2000 to 2004, ambled down memory lane to narrate the Jamia saga.

In those days, says Dr Kidwai, academics at Jamia was closely enmeshed with instilling in the students a love for their country. “But it began with caring for our immediate neighbourhood. The emphasis then was as much on academic excellence as on building character, and ethics entered into every facet of our lives, right from the classroom to the playground and beyond.”

And he is happy, he says, to find that Jamia has not strayed from its ethical and patriotic moorings.

Dr Kidwai was born on July 1, 1920 in Baragaon village of Barabanki district in Uttar Pradesh. After graduating in science studies in 1940 he went to the University of Illinois, US, for higher studies. His candidature was endorsed by none other than Jawaharlal Nehru, who gave him a handwritten letter to ensure that he would have no trouble adjusting in the unfamiliar environment. Nehru had immediately recognised the boy’s commitment to upholding moral values, which never dimmed at any point of his eventful life.

Indeed, after he returned from the US Dr Kidwai devoted the prime chunk of his time to working for the welfare of the nation and community.

Dr Kidwai, who came from an influential political family, was a keen participant in the the freedom movement, and during his JMI days bonded big-time with the late Zakir Hussain, who was then Vice-Chancellor of the university, and later became India’s President. Back then, the medium of instruction there was Urdu but the standard of English teaching was on par with the best.

Dr Kidwai says he learnt to stay fit from his English teacher Professor Kailat, who also used to teach the boys PT. “In our days PT was compulsory. I was a champion in Delhi state in the 400 and 100 meter race and played hockey well,” he tells you. He was part of the team that was pitched against the legendary Dhyanchandra and his men. It is thus not surprising that as chairman of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) from 1974 to 1977 and Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh from 1983 to 1992 Dr Kidwai never failed to ensure that academics and sports got equal attention. Today, despite his advanced age, Dr Kidwai continues to live an active life, meeting visitors every day. What is age, he asks. What counts is the spirit and where you let it take you.

(This write-up on Dr Kidwai was penned three years ago for Jamia Year Book, first of its kind coffee table book providing a glimpse into the lives of fifty Jamia stars)

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