Brother Delegates, Ladies & Gentlemen
Let me tell you frankly that I am not yet satisfied that your Secretary performed any good service when he invited me to preside over this conference. As I wrote to the Secretary, my public life has been confined in doing what I am asked to do, in executing the orders and the decisions of our leaders and public workers. I have always left the task of guidance and leadership to greater men. To ask such a person to guide the deliberations of this important conference is certainly no good service to this conference.
I have always had very great affection for my Muslim brethren of Bhatkal and wished to make myself useful to them in any manner that I can. Believe me, gentlemen, ever since I was a very young man, I had very high regard for the culture, the learning, and the very honest and straight forward dealings of my Bhatkal friends; and now that this community seems to be resiling from their eminent position in the commerce of the West Coast I thought it my duty to grasp this opportunity to call the attention of the leaders of the community to the sad plight that has befallen the Bhatkal people on the West Coast.
I can remember a time when the piecegoods business on the Malabar Coast was almost the monopoly of the Bhatkal merchants. A great decline has overtaken your people and the time has come when you have seriously to consider the present position and the reasons that led to it and devise remedial measures. To me the reasons for this decline are the same as those which have caused the economic decline of all the Muslim people on the West Coast. Let me remind you that our forefathers came to this beautiful land of ours as traders and until recently we held a prominent place as traders on this coast.
But that position is completely lost to us now. In looking for the reasons that led to this disastrous result I can do no better than quote the masterful survey of the present situation made by the Sultan Abdul Rahman Ali Raja in his welcome address which he read at the 3rd session of the Kerala Muslim Conference held recntly at Cannanore. He says:
"A great many causes emanating from our neglect of modern education and our forgetfulness of Islamic traditions conspired to bring about the beak down of our economical edifice. The traditional instinct for commerce, which was our invaluable heritage and which gave us a position of vantage in a world in which other communities were comparatively unenterprising, could not by itself serve us at the present day when other communities are progressing with electric rapidity in their economic life. Our old methods of trade were well and good for an old world when there was not the present competition in the commercial field and when scientific and political developments had not attained their present influence in the commercial plane. You were indifferent to the potential forces acting on the commercial world and your commercial conservatism fighting shy of education and its influence would not allow any deflection from your ancestral methods. Your narrow vision lacking in cultural perspective would not let you consider the efficacy of co-operation and fraternity in trade. Unless we revise our methods of business in the light of modern conditions, unless we give financial encouragement on cooperative basis to dexterous hands, unless stagnant wealth ventures into industrial enterprises, ... unless we rise to the high ideals of Islamic brother-hood, we as a community, may vanish altogether from the business world."
Gentlemen, I need not emphasise that this is a grave situation and deserves all the serious attention that you can bestow upon it.
This leads me to the need of Thanzeem and Islah in the community. Unless we organise ourselves into a well-knit and disciplined community, we cannot hope to prosper in this world of keen competition. The holding of such conferences as this is a good means of getting together the best brains and the selfless workers of the community for the purpose of devising ways and means to achieve these objects. The strengthening of the existing association for Thanzeem and Islah should be the first duty of the community and I am very glad that in our energetic Secretary Janab J. H. Shamshuddin Saheb, you have a gentleman from whom you have every reason to expect very useful service in this direction.
Gentlemen, I do not know much about the conditions obtaining among the Muslims in Karnatak in regard to unnecessary expences on ceremonial occasions. This is an item which has spelt ruin to the whole of the Muslim community in India. What atrocities are not committed on such occasions in the name of "saving of faces" or of "adding lustre to the glory of our forefathers"! As if, the glory of our fathers is increased by mortgaging our resources and wasting them away in a night's revels!
Gentlemen, the spread of education is the only remedy for all these evils. But, that education has to be of the right type. For, do we not find even well educated people countenancing this sort of wasteful extravagance and acting as slaves to unreasonable social customs?
Still, modern education cannot be undervalued, as it is the only available means of uplifting our community.
I do not think that the need for the spread of education in our community can be overemphasised. I am one of those who believe that the system of education which is in vogue in this country has to be completely overhauled to make it suit the requirements of our community. But till that happy consummation is reached, we must certainly take full advantage of the existing system to keep us abreast of other communities. We in this conference, have a great duty to perform. We have to examine the present condition of primary education in our community and devise means for having a network of schools all over the districts of Karnatak to spread a useful system of primary education in the community; so that within a given period no one in our community is left illiterate. This needs a strong band of selfless young men who are prepared to sacrifice their immediate prospects for the future of the community. May I venture to look to the members of the Majlis-e-Islah-o-Thanzeem to take up this great work in all seriousness for, the spread of education among the masses is the foundation for all beneficent activities.
I am glad, gentlemen, that our young men are coming out of Universities and Colleges in large numbers and, if only they engage themselves in trades and commerce, agriculture and industries instead of all of them making a rush for government jobs, the spread of education can be of very great advantage to our community. Permit me to quote here the wise words of Hon'ble Mr. Hussain Imam Saheb, President of the Kerala Muslim Conference recently held in Cannanore. He says:
"The dire results and evil consequences that have followed this system of education in other parts of India ought to be an eye opener and save you from pitfalls. Your salvation does not lie in acquiring such an education as will add so many names to the already much inflated list of the educated unemployed. Your salvation lies in craftsmanship and technological acquirements. You will be well adviced to lose no time in organising yourselves into local committees for this purpose with a central board of executives to watch over, guide and advice the local workers".
Brother Delegates! The question of our representation in the public services is becoming very acute, because a good number of our young men are now coming out of the Universities and Colleges. As long as we were indifferent to modern education this question did not at all arise. Our sister communities had practically the monopoly of these services. But the time has come when we must demand our due share in these services for our young men. It is our right to expect our sister communities to help us to obtain this legitimate share of ours. I understand that the question of unemployment among the educated Muslims in Karnatak, as elsewhere, is reaching alarming proportions and our young men look to you, gentlemen, to devise effective means to obtain for them such employments as their education has made them fit for. The doors of the government and the Railway systems have to be knocked -- and that too very loudly and persistently, because they are the two agencies which can absorb a good number of our educated young men.
Gentlemen, we are meeting at a time when feverish activities are going on everywhere in the country for the inauguration of the reforms in the provinces. I do not think it worthwhile to go into a critical survey of the Reform Scheme because, the provincial part of the scheme is generally going to be worked in the country for what it is worth. I personally believe that there is pretty little that can be achieved by us even under the provincial autonomy that is granted by this scheme and that is said to give the fullest freedom to the ministers to carry on beneficent programmes in nation building departments. For, I foresee that the necessary funds for the nation building departments will never be forth coming except through fresh taxation which our poor overtaxed country can no more bear. The Reform Scheme, therefore, is going to be a costly toy and it is likely to prove to be costly in more ways than one. I am referring to the coming elections to the provincial legislatures. In this connection, I can do no better than quote the wise words of the Raja Saheb of Cannanore from his welcome address to the Kerala Muslim Conference. He says:
"Elections, as you all know, have been notorious for reviving forgotten animosities between individuals and parties and for giving birth to new disruptive forces in the community. A good portion of the wealth of the community which may have lent itself for noble purposes has also been often drained by election war-fare".
He goes on to suggest a very good remedy for this evil and I heartily endorse everyone of his words. He says:
"To save the community from the evils of election contests, one may suggest the formation of an Election Board under the auspices of this Conference. This Board may very well be affiliated to the All India organisation proposed to be started by the All India Muslim League under the able guidance of our great leader Mr. Mohamed Ali Jinnah".
I earnestly commend this suggestion to this Conference because the objects to aim at should be: (1) to ensure that the best person from the candidates should be elected; (2) to eliminate all possibility of division in the community; (3) to prevent waste of money and energy which can be put to better uses for the community. I can only make this suggestion for your earnest consideration. It is for you to accept it or to reject it as the exigencies of your local politics dictate.
Gentlemen, organisation and consolidation should be our watch-words in the coming years. We have to collect our scattered forces and organise our community into a solid whole. To achieve this purpose, this Conference should set up a strong executive body which will include all the important leaders of the community in Karnatak, representing all shades of opinion pledged to do their all for the advancement of the community. The need for unity in the ranks of the Mussalmans is more urgent now than ever before. While we work for the upliftment of our community in this part of India, we have to keep an eye on the efforts that are being made by our people in other parts of the country for the consolidation and political reorganisation of the Mussalmans of India. We have to consider how best we can direct our political activities in co-ordination with the rest of Muslim India. In order to do so, we must be able to put behind us the petty differences existing among ourselves and bring all our energies into use to achieve a united Muslim community, ready to work in co-operation and harmony with the sister communities for the greater glory of our motherland.
Gentlemen, this ancient country of ours is now pulsating with the new life that is struggling to express itself in so many directions. We have to take note of what is happening around us and decide our course of action after deep communion among ourselves. Our relations with the sister communities will have far reaching effects on the destiny of this country. I am thankful to observe that in this part of the country the relations between the major communities is cordial and friendly. We have no grave communal questions disturbing the peace and the tranquility of the land. While we are thankful to our Hindu fellow citizens for their unfailing courtesy and regard for our feelings, we yet have a right to claim their help and co-operation in our endeavours for the uplift of our community; for, it is on the uniform advancement of all the communities that the salvation of our country depends. I earnestly appeal to my Hindu brethren to remember this truth when they find us demanding our rights and privileges and o help us by conceding to us what is only our due share. My friends, it is a great privilege and, at the same time a great duty to be the children of this great mother country of ours an while we fight for our due share of the privileges we cannot forget our duties to this country which gave to our forefathers such a beautiful home. We have to develop a sense of "give and take" and while we ask for much we must be prepared to give a good deal. In this spirit, working hand in hand, the different communities of India can win such a future for our country that all the past glories of India will fade before it.
"Ankh jo kuch dekhti hae lab pe a sakta nahi;
Mahve herat hoon ke dunya Kya se Kya ho jaigi". (Iqbal)