The Pakistani Spectator

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Raja Raam Mohan Roa — A Lost Hero

By Guest Blogger • Aug 9th, 2012 • Category: Misc • No Responses

While the state is busy in eulogizing Bin Qasim, Ghaznavis, Gohari, Lodhis, Khiljis, and Tuglughs, nobody talks about this honest intellectual who vehemently opposed idol worship and remained an honest servant of the Mughal court through out his life. Perhaps, in our part of the world, the sword of a solider is mightier than the pen of an [honest] intellectual.

Pakistan’s history suffered the most during the military reign of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq. The education ministry was handed over to the Jammat-e-Islami, allowing them to tinker with the national curriculum on the behalf of the military ruler.

Tinkering with history is universal process. The BJP’s — A fundamentalist Hindu party — government in India truncated the Mughal achievements from school books. These details were simply categorized as Nebensache, i.e. things which don’t require much consideration. The secular character of India did suffer from such an act. The United States never talks about the brutal massacre the colonizers did in the Americas. Millions of Red Indians were killed, yet school textbooks don’t underscore this horrendous event. The Chinese government tries to hide the details about the massacre they carried out against the peaceful protesters who were raising voice for democracy at the Tiananmen Square. In fact, in their effort to hide reality, they even changed the name of the city from Peking to Beijing. The Turks never talk about the brutal massacre they carried out against the ethnic Armenians living on Turkish lands. The Britishers never talk about there policy of forceful cultivation of Tea leaves in Africa.

In brief, history — as Dr. Mubarak Ali says — is not truth, it is a perception that the highest echelons in power try to enforce on the general public. It is the duty of the honest intellectuals to fight against these perceptions and rewrite history from the point of view of a common person. Discrimination on the basis of religious, linguistic, and ethnic classes should be reduced, while the role of the middle class should be emphasised.

In Zia’s Era, history was interpreted through the lenses of religious discrimination. One irreversible loss such interpretation does on the national psyche is to develop heroes not on the basis of their achievements, but rather, on the basis of their religion. Therefore, non-Muslim heroes gradually fade into the oblivion, never to return again at least in this part of the world.


One such hero is Raja Raam Mohan Roa.

Raja Raam Mohen Roa was born on the 24th of May 1774 in the state of Bihar. His family had close relationships with the Mughal government for the last five generations.

Raja shaib was one of the greatest intellectuals of his times. He got his initial education in Persian and Arabic, as per the traditions of Mughal India. For higher education he went to Patna where he received education in relation to Quran, Islamic jurisprudence and Daniyat. He perfected himself in Aristotelian logic and read about the might discourse that took place between the Asharites and Mutazillas during the Abbasids caliphate. It was this educational background which made him write his first Persian book by the title of Tahafatul Mohadessen. He was just 16 years of age when he wrote it.

Raja shaib was also the editor of the first Persian newspaper in the sub-continent. It was called “Maar-ul-Akhbaar’. The purpose of the magazine was to bring the day to day affairs of the British Raj to the common folk who couldn’t read English. In should be noted that the publisher of the first Persian newspaper was a Hindu. Similarly, the editor of the first Urdu newspaper, Jaam e Jahan Numa was Munshi Saada Suukh. Both these facts are lost due to brutal state intervention in writing down history.

Raam Mohan Roa vehemently opposed the British rule, but he foresaw that it was only through Western education that the Indian nation can acquire freedom from their colonial rulers. He rightly stated that western knowledge will allow human emancipation as “the Sanskrit literature was 2000 years old and speak nothing more than mundane realities”. He tried to pursue the Britishers to setup English schools on the same pattern as that in England, in order to allow the common Indian to think as a confident individual. His prophesy was fulfilled when two young trained British lawyers — M.A. Jinnah and M.K. Gandhi — led a freedom struggle against the British. It was not through spiritualism or Mughal education that the people of India achieved freedom.

After retiring from the British job, he organized a movement named Bharhama Samaj. The movement vehemently opposed class discrimination, Idol worship, and worked for the upbringing of the societal values.

Raja Raam Mohan was a true enlightened of his days. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was highly inspired by the personality of this great man. He wrote in a letter:
“Raja Raam Mohan Roa is a very humble intellectual with conspicuous candour. He came to Delhi and the King bestowed the title of “Raja” onto him, and consequently he was send to London as the King’s lawyer. I saw him many times at the King’s court and the people of Delhi assumed that he has intuitive liking for the religion of Islam”
While the state is busy in eulogizing Bin Qasim, Ghaznavis, Gohari, Lodhis, Khiljis, and Tuglughs, nobody talks about this honest intellectual who vehemently opposed idol worship and remained an honest servant of the Mughal court through out his life. Perhaps, in our part of the world, the sword of a solider is mightier than the pen of an [honest] intellectual.

The following epitaph is inscribed on his cenotaph in Bristol, England:
“Beneath this stone rest the remains of Raja Rammohun Roy Bahadur, a conscientious and steadfast believer in the unity of Godhead, he consecrated his life with entire devotion to the worship of the Devine Spirit alone. To great natural talents, he united through mastery of many languages and distinguished himself as one of the greatest scholars of his day. His unwearied labour to promote the social, moral and physical condition of the people of India, his earnest endeavours to suppress idolatry and the rite of suttie and his constant zealous advocacy of whatever tended to advance the glory of God and the welfare of man live in the grateful remembrance of his countrymen.”

Information about Raja Raam Mohan Roa is taken from Sabt-e-Hasan’s book Naveed-e-Fikr.

Author: Kumail Ahmed

Originally posted on my blog:

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