Bhopal, June 16: Zahid Hussain is a Pakistani with a love of India that carries over from the pre-Partition days.
A former director of the State Bank of Pakistan, Hussain, 75, has decided to keep the relation going by donating money to Mahaban gaushala (cowshed) in Mathura.
Hussain has “very pleasant memories” of “pre-Partition days at Aligarh Muslim University” when “I used to visit Mahaban, the birthplace of Lord Krishna” — one reason he cited for his donation.
On a personal visit to Bhopal currently, Hussain, a historian now, will donate the income from his latest book, Tarikh-e-Hind: Pasmanzar Wa Pesh Manzar (History of India: Past and Future), to the cowshed.
The Urdu book, which has been transcribed into Hindi, lauds Dara Shikoh, Raja Rammohun Roy, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of Aligarh Muslim University, and Gopal Krishna Gokhale as the four people who understood the subcontinent’s collective psyche.
The book goes on to forecast normalisation of India-Pakistan relations, greater autonomy for the provinces in both countries and closer people-to-people contact.
Hussain said the donation gesture is personal and can also be attributed to his perception of the cow as a useful, humble and lovable animal.
He has never eaten beef as a result and claimed 80 per cent of the upper-class people in Pakistan, too, have given up eating beef.
“It is not due to religion, but (due to) health consciousness. What the great Mughals could not achieve — awareness regarding the negative aspects of red-meat consumption — has (now) been achieved,” Hussain said.
According to the historian, several Mughals such as Babar, Akbar, Jahangir and Shahjahan had prohibited public slaughter of cows.
Aziz Qureshi, chairman of the Madhya Pradesh Urdu Academy, has been deputed to collect the book earnings and hand them over to the cowshed authorities. Aziz, a former state minister, is Hussain’s friend.
Hussain said he could not do the formalities himself as he did not have the visa authorisation to visit Mahaban and Vrindavan. “You see, coming to India is difficult these days. I have to shell out Rs 36,000 instead of the earlier fare of Rs 10,000 as I have to come via Dubai.”
When asked, Hussain expressed full awareness of the cow-protection row in Madhya Pradesh, headed to the polls in November.
He said he knew all about the war of words between chief minister Digvijay Singh and BJP chief ministerial candidate Uma Bharti. Both have claimed to be rightful protectors of cows. “Most of my relatives, including my brother, are in Bhopal. So I keep a close tab on political developments in the state.”
Hussain’s other books on Indian history are Rationale of Partition and Demography and Partition of India, both in English, and Dude Chirag-e-Mahfil and Taqseem Ki Bunyad in Urdu.
His latest book incorporates Hindi and English equivalents of difficult Urdu words.
Welcoming “Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s insistence on talk and peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues”, Hussain said it is a pity most Indians and Pakistanis have failed to understand Partition.
“It was very much like the TV serials or real-life situations when two brothers, after getting married, start having family quarrels. What do they do' They divide and run separate kitchens. But that does not mean complete breakdown of relations,” he said.
“We, the Indians and the Pakistanis, can be a lot more civil in dealing with one another.”
Disapproving of the current cultural and sport barriers, he cited Dara Shikoh’s attempts to bridge the Hindu-Muslim divide by translating the Ramayana into Persian.
Raja Rammohun Roy emphasised the virtues of Islam in a bid to reform Hindu religion. Seeking to provide universal education, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan underlined the need for Hindu-Muslim unity, Hussain said. Gokhale, a visionary, promoted two of his best pupils, Gandhi and Jinnah.
Hussain quoted Jinnah’s speech of August 11, 1947, where he said Hindus and Muslims would cease to be two separate political entities after the Partition. “Alas, it did not happen.”