Dr. Mumtaz Ahmed Khan became a legend in his lifetime mainly due to the undiluted focus on modern education. He was an inveterate believer that the Muslim community must pursue attainment of modern education and skills single mindedly without ignoring the moral and religious ethos. He personified the vision in his own life and practiced it with devotion it deserved.
Around 1989, during the tenure of Mr. S. R. Bommai as the Chief Minister of the State, he was offered a nominated seat in the State’s Legislative Council. He declined it as he believed that it would interfere with his work as the promoter of education. He would rather help his colleagues to get into politics or occupy positions within the government, but would stay at a distance from power and positions. His close colleague K. Rehman Khan was member of the Karnataka Legislative Council for three terms and had a similar tenure in the Rajya Sabha. Yet another colleague from the Al-Ameen team was a member of the Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC). MLA for several tenures and former minister Roshan Baig too was part of the Al-Ameen team for several years.
This distance from trappings of official position won him wide respect as a selfless social worker. He also made it a point to set up institutions and entrust them under the care of one of his lieutenants to nurture them and take it forward. He thus groomed several young men and women as leaders who could independently oversee running of the institutions he would help set up. Rehman Khan, former Union Minister was one such leader who emerged from the ranks of people around him in the early stages. Khan Saheb being a chartered accountant looked after the Amanath Coop Bank for nearly three decades. Mr. Abdul Azeem stewarded the polytechnic and the ITI. Saifullah nursed the Hosakote campus. Atheeq saheb set up Majlis e Millia which oversaw a small school growing up to a degree college for women in the basement of the City’s Jama Masjid. He was ably aided by former Imam of the Masjid Maulana Riazur Rahman who died after Hajj pilgrimage in Makkah a few years ago. This group set up a residential school at Banikoppa, nearly 30 km west of the city on the highway to Mysore. In some cases this experiment of leaving the institutions under the independent control of individuals even backfired and led to setbacks. Yet this quality of him earned him respect of the community.
He found able associates in Majeed Khan of Jamaat-e-Islami in Bidar who helped him take the Al-Ameen movement to small towns of Bidar district and set up a string of institutions. He inspired Ibrahim Lala, a driver in the KSRTC (state road transport) to set up several institutions in Humnabad. Lala was father of 11 children. He donated Rs. 4,000 he had saved for his daughter’s marriage to hire a place and set up a school. Lala was later helped by several Bangalore based philanthropists to materialize his dream of a high school in the town. When last heard, Ibrahim Lala’s school building had emerged on a 20,000 sq. ft. plot of land and he was presiding over half a dozen institutions imparting education up to Pre-University level. At his behest, Safdar Hussain, a tobacco merchant of Sira in Tumkur district, not only built a school but also took upon himself the operational cost and the wages of the teachers. Nabi Shariff, a landlord and hotelier from Ramanagram donated vast tracts of land at Ramanagram to set up Ghousia Engineering College and expensive plots in Bangalore city for the Ghousia Polytechnic and the ITI.
Legions of such accounts are available about the life and work of Dr. Mumtaz with those who worked in close association with him. With his dynamism showing no signs of sagging he continued to set up educational and welfare institutions till the turn of the century, a period of about 35 years.
His engagement with various educational and welfare projects would often lead to his absence at important family functions. But in his scheme of things the community interest would find precedence over personal affairs. Every institution that he set up bears a story of extreme sacrifice, consistent struggle and considerable investment of resources and personal energy.
He wielded considerable influence with the city’s elite and the clergy. In the terminal days of 1986, the Students Islamic Organisation was holding its all India conference in the Bangalore’s Palace Grounds. Thousands of students from across India had gathered under the temporary sheds put up for the purpose. Dr. Mumtaz and Maulana Abdul Aziz of Jamaat-e-Islami Hindi from Hyderabad had been invited as the guests of honour. A sudden thunderstorm blew away the shamianas and toppled the temporary sheds. While Abdul Aziz saheb continued to exhort the youth over the microphone to hold fast the posts of the canopy, Dr. Mumtaz immediately sent word to all the Imams of the 600 mosques in the city to open their portals to accommodate the youth who otherwise would have no shelter for the night. Entire 6,000 youths were thus accommodated in the mosques across the city. This scribe who lives just across the Palace Grounds was an eyewitness to the event of horrendous proportions. These speak of his quality and the respect he had commanded within the City.
Dr. Mumtaz had the remarkable capacity to blend strategy, valour and intelligence in order to achieve progress for his projects. He would strike at the opportune time and suitable persons to approach when an issue needed to be resolved. He had abundant faith in God and would never depend on mere material resources while launching projects. He had once told a biographer that he has pursued six principles in his life while working for the community: 1-To be selfless and leave the results in the hands of God, 2-Extreme patience, 3-Firm determination, 4-Consistent struggle, 5-Keeping company of the courageous and maintaining distance from cowards, and, 6-Ignore unhealthy criticism. He would exhort the youth and the students to inculcate the sense of service to the humanity; earn livelihood through legitimate means; develop self-confidence; be self-dependant, never expect from others but be ready to help others. These gems of wisdom from Dr. Mumtaz would remain with the community as the precious legacy of the man who strode as a colossus on the firmament of Bangalore and has enriched the community with institutions that would continue to produce people worthy of respect, value and service to the community, nation and the humanity at large.
M A Siraj is Bengaluru based seasoned journalist who writes for a variety of newspapers including The Hindu, and news portals.