Prof. Rizwan Qaiser: My teacher friend and mentor (1960-2021)
He was not only my teacher but mentor, guide, and one of my great admirers, for what I have been doing after finishing my study? That was his personality, he was never hesitant to give respect and dignity, no matter who are you? What kind of relationship is with him? My personal connection with him was far before I meet him personally, I am basically from rural India, where I studied till my graduation, we had kind of serious news reading habit in our family, and my father also guided us to read the editorial pages including writing on social or political issues. Those days, Rizwan Sb, used to write for Hindustan, Hindi, since, I was a regular reader, that was interesting for me to understand the social-political aspect of the marginalized social group on which he usually writes.
When I got admission in MA- History in 2003 at Jamia Millia Islamia, that was transformative and dream comes true for me to study at Central University, at the same time I was very nervous in the Capital of India, for me this was not only cultural shock but difficult to cope up with new phenomena being a student of the prestigious university.
Then one of our acquaintances, help me to meet Prof. Rizwan Qaiser at his residence, I was thoroughly nervous at the same time excited to meet someone, whose articles I have been reading and admiring his writing and ideas. He did not ask for anything, after some time tea and snakes were there. Then, I introduced myself and explain, why I am here to meet you? I confidently said, I don't need anything from you but of course your guidance and blessing. And, then we started discussing the various personal and social issues. One of his advice, I still remembered, "Don't compromise with your dignity, always remembered your root and there is no shortcut of hard work", meeting with him was kind of facilitate my mind and heart to process my anxiousness and tried to find some solution, since then he was kind of always with me, even after I left the Jamia.
He always encouraged students to study and also facilitate participation on the social issues to learn larger issues of our concerns, that were used to be on social, political, or global development. I still remembered, I one day I went to see him after finishing my classes, that I always used to go to him for discussing my personal, subject, or social issues, and he always navigated my curiosity with the logical end. But, that particular day, he said, "Sabri, there is an important conference going to happen, if you are interested to join, I will recommend your name along with some more students of the Jamia". That was The Second National Convention of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) November 2004. I thanked, him for this opportunity, that exposure was required for people like me, who never visited any other city than my own in Bihar to Delhi, and this event will be going to give me chance to go to Jaipur, this event was kind of the first experience for me meet many students, scholars, activists from across the county, our visit was planned with the students of Ramjas college Delhi University. For me, this was great learning and exposure to a new city and me to meet many new people, who have been associated with the social change in India and elsewhere in the world.
I cannot stop myself to share Rizwan sb hospitality on EiD, during my student days, every year, it was compulsory for me to go to his place for Eid, he was a great host to serve delicious food along with love to guests, for me these were great opportunities to interact with many of his friends and colleagues, to understand the current social and political discourses.
He always encourages us for attending conferences and lectures, which was a great help for me to shape our ideas/knowledge, the best part of those conferees at our University, Rizwan sb, always ask students to go first to have food, with a great smile and humility, because the food was used to be an important part of those conference for students, staying away from home, and during those conferences, one can have good food.
In August 2017, Rizwan sir, organized a symposium along with his friends and colleagues at Jamia, on the topic of Citizenship in Secular Democracy" he messaged me about this event, he was very happy to see me at the event, where renowned scholars and activists were shared their inputs and comment on the current political and social issues, related to the Citizenship in our democratic country. Then during tea time, he introduced me to a few scholars and activists as usual, at the end we had a brief exchange on the importance of these kinds of the symposium for students and community, we had consensus about to doing these kinds of event regularly.
My last physical meeting with him was at the Gandhi Peace Foundation, where Rizwan Sb was there for giving a lecture on "Idea of India and Maulana Azad", I went there to listen and to meet him, for me always to listen to his thought on the idea of India was like hope for the future of our country, despite all odds, he was confident through scholarly works and action for a better world, he not only contributed through the academics work, he was also active with various social action groups for the developing and sharing his idea to the larger community for social change, his contributions were always remembered by the people of Jamia Nagar, when he contributed for building citizens group, one particular in the post-Babri demolition, when there was need to build solidarity among the citizens, I had heard from many people, how that citizen group was active in the area, People like Prof Romila Thapar and Advocate Anil Noria were also part of this initiative.
Rizwan Sir had been relentlessly contributed towards the progress of many individuals like me and the larger community through his vast knowledge and based on own his experiences associated with the social movements in contemporary India. His scholarship on the Indian freedom movement, secularism, and the most important his ways to discovered Maulana Azad's contribution on the freedom struggle and aftermath, through his Book Resisting Colonialism and Communalism: Maulana Azad and the Making of Indian Nation, one of the path-breaking work for understanding Mulan Azad's vision and acumen.
The world cannot forget Prof. Rizwan Qaiser, it must not, he died due to covid catastrophic on 1st May 2021, I am still not able to reconcile myself, he is no more with us, we need people like him more than ever before because as county, we are passing through a difficult phase and the surge of Far-Right is a new reality not only in India but everywhere in the globe, where Rizwan sb's thoughts and guide were needed, the way he defined understanding on the secularism, Citizenship, and Rights & Dignity for all, not only in the prism of theoretical space but his collective actions throughout of his life is an example, for people to follow.