Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Gandhian Scholar

Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338



Zakir Husain and Mahatma Gandhi


Dr. Zakir Husain was a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. He was a nationalist and educationist. Mahatma Gandhi nominated him as the chairman of education committee. He was founder and vice chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University. He was governor of Bihar from 1957 to 1962. He was elected Vice President of India and in 1967 he became President of India. Mahatma Gandhi wrote him many for guiding. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “In Principal Zakir Husain it has a learned Principal of liberal views and undoubted nationalism. The Principal is ably assisted by a chosen staff some of whom has travelled abroad and possesses foreign degrees. The institution has grown since its transfer to Delhi and if it is well supported, it promises rich results. There can be no doubt that it is the duty of those Hindus and Mussalmans who wish to honour the memory of Hakim Saheb, who believe in the constructive side of non-co- operation and who believe in Hindu-Muslim unity, to give as much financial assistance as is possible for them to give. Dr. Ansari, Sjt. Srinivasa Iyengar, Seth Jamnalal Bajaj and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru have already issued an appeal in this matter. I am now trying through Principal Zakir Husain to find out the exact condition and placing myself in correspondence with Dr. Ansari, and as soon as I have collected enough information, I hope to lay it before the readers. In the mean time I invite subscriptions so as not to lose time. The subscriptions received will not be handed to anyone unless a proper committee is formed and an absolutely correct administration of funds is assured. I do hope that Hindus and Mussalmans will vie with one another to well the subscription list.”1

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Lord Irwin’s letter makes it doubly useful to send the letter principally in accordance with the draft made by me. Of course it will require necessary changes. I hope you will send me copy of the letter that Dr. Ansari may finally write. I do not know whether Devdas has drawn your attention to the fact that the sanitary condition of the quarters requires careful attention. I would like you to ask Devdas to point out the defects he might have noticed. I hope you will lose no time in issuing invitations and following up the programme we jointly discussed and settled when you were at the Ashram.”2 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Which am I prizing for its absolute frankness? I would personally have preferred a declaration of emphatic non-co-operation; but I am not prepared to advise you to abandon the institution because you have a milder declaration. After all, it is not the declaration that so much matter as action when the testing time comes. The fate of the institution will depend ultimately not upon the trustees but upon the professors who are giving their all to it. I know your pecuniary difficulties. I am helpless. I discussed the thing with Dr. Ansari in Bombay and he told me that he hoped to send you some money from Bombay. I could not ask Jamnalalji to send you further advance unless everything was in order. I do not at all like the large body. Dr. Ansari has promised to come to Sabarmati immediately after Id. If he does, I shall re-discuss the thing with him.”3 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I have had a full chat with Dr. Zakir Husain. The position is certainly very precarious. The liabilities are accumulating and the money collected for the Jamia Millia Fund cannot be released till a proper trust-deed is made, which is the condition in the original announcement. The constitution framed is acceptable neither to Jamnalalji nor to me, nor is it in accordance with the terms we discussed when you were here. What is to be done in the circumstances? I feel that the new Committee should surrender all the powers to the professors who have pledged themselves to become life-workers, or the committee should become an active working body and take charge of the institution so far as the financial liabilities are concerned. But from what Dr. Zakir Husain tells me and from what I can see for myself, the Committee will not act swiftly and effectively.  I understand and appreciate what you say about the Jamia. But I fear that unless you give Dr. Zakir Husain a free hand, the Jamia will collapse. There are risks to be run either way. If you keep the unmanageable large committee of control, Dr. Zakir Husain and his associates must starve. If you give the control to a small body who can be easily approached and brought together by Dr. Zakir Husain and have not an equivocal constitution like the present one but an unequivocal emphatically non-co-operation constitution, there is just a chance of tiding over the difficulty. You will now decide between the two courses, or you may think of a third. The Ajmal Fund which after all is small enough cannot be parted with unless the Jamia is put upon a firm and on an acceptable footing.”4

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “It is a great idea to have the foundation of the Jamia laid by its youngest child. My congratulations are on the originality of the conception. I know that the Jamia has a great future. Through it I expect the seed of Hindu-Muslim union to grow into a majestic tree. I therefore wish every success to the enterprise. I hope that the appeal for funds made by Dr. Ansari will meet with the success it deserves. You have every right to expect me to do whatever is in my power. Jamnalalji is coming today. I shall share your letter with him.”5 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I know he had interrupted his journey to Europe. My pleading for the journey was in vain. He had run to me without my asking. And he had gathered round him all the best doctors he knew. It was almost worth fasting to have that extraordinary demonstration of love. It might be taken in another light. One might well say it was folly to fast if it was to cost the precious time of so many first-class physicians who during those three weeks deprived their many patients of the assistance they badly needed. Who knows how such demonstrations should really be taken? We can but obey, in all humility, the will as we can know it of Him who is the Controller-General of every second of our life. This long paragraph shows you the state of mind I am in. Not that I have time enough and to spare here from the daily tasks. But I am in the position of poor Zohra. If I had not the peremptory call of duty from moment to moment, I should be as distracted as she is. For the last three days I have been framing in my mind a letter to you alone and then I thought of Shwaib, then Khwaja and then quite forgetfully of Sherwani, not just then realizing that the big man was also no more in the flesh with us. There are other Muslims I know. But for this moment these were the names vividly before me. But I know that none of you can become the infallible guide Dr. Ansari had grown to be. It is not a question of merits. It is a question of faith. As I am writing this I feel I must confine myself to you. The question I wanted to ask was and I still want to ask is, will you be to me what the Doctor was on the Hindu-Muslim question? What distracts me is not the absence of the warmth of a gentleman-friend, of a God-believing and god-fearing doctor. It is the absence of an unfailing guide in the matter of Hindu-Muslim unity. My silence at the present time on this question is not a sign of my apathy; it is a sign of an ever-deepening conviction that the unity has got to come. Then I ask, will you take Dr. Ansari’s place? In answer, do not think of your status in society. If you have self-confidence, you must say ‘Yes’. If you have not, you must say ‘No’. I shall not misunderstand you. I know and love you too well to misunderstand you. Whether you become my guide or not, please answer the question I asked, among others, Dr. Ansari in my last letter. Is this step the Frontier Government has taken, that of practically refusing the grant to Sikh Hindu girls’ schools that teach through Hindi and Gurumukhi right? I have been asked for months to express my opinion. I have resisted the invitation till now. But the question is one of principle and bears in its womb great consequences. I have approached Sahibzada Sir Abdul Qayum in the matter. He has sent me what is a painful reply. You can have a copy if you want it, before expressing your opinion. I do not know whether you share the opinion Mujeeb expressed in his letter to me on Hindi-Hindustani question. I would like you, him, Aqil and other friends to read my two articles in Harijan and if they do not give satisfaction, I would like you all to argue the thing out with me, if you like through Harijan or privately. I see no cause for difference of opinion. But if there is, we must try to remove it.”6  

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I therefore sent a wire to Rajendra Babu asking him to attend the Conference and seek out Maulvi Abdul Haq Saheb. It is tragic that Nagpur should have so upset him. I have not yet traced the reason for his displeasure. I am glad you have sent Mujeeb to Patna. You will please tell me what happens there.”7 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I wanted to dictate these days ago but could not manage it. The work you did during the two days in Wardha was very good. When you next meet I would like you to give a course of studies for seven years. Without that your report would be incomplete. You should also say how much space would be required and the nature of buildings or building needed for the school, its cost and the material of which the construction is to be made. This need not be elaborate, but should be the groundwork of elaboration. I was sorry not to be with you when you were in Wardha. I specially wanted to meet Khwaja Ghulam Saiyidain. How I wish I would be with you when you come again when you finish your report. I expect to leave here on Wednesday if my work is for the moment finished.”8

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I opened at Haripura the conversation about Hindu-Muslim unity. You were to have talked to me about it the next day if we could meet again. Unfortunately, I was unable to spare the time. I would like you, if you will, to put down your thoughts in writing and let me hear from you.”9 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “As for co-education, the Zakir Husain Committee has not made it compulsory. Where there is a demand for a separate school for girls, the State will have to make provision. The question of co-education has been left open. It will regulate itself according to the time-spirit. So far as I am aware the members of the Committee were not all of one mind. Personally I have an open mind. I think that there are just as valid reasons for as against co-education. And I would not oppose the experiment wherever it is made.”10

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Dr. Zakir Husain was here with me for a few days. He has prepared a memorandum on the Hindu-Muslim question. I send you the portion concerned with U. P. I like the suggestions he makes. Please go through it and implement what it is possible to implement. If you wish, you may write direct to Dr. Zakir Husain. I have known him for many years. He is a good man.”11 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Zakir Husain was with me for four or five days. In the course of our conversations I learnt that the aid that was given to the Jamia Millia by Bhopal had been stopped. Is there any reason for the stoppage except the pressure on the purse? If there is not, I would like you to think of some retrenchment for the sake of the Jamia. It seems to supply a felt want. It seems to be the only institution manned by Muslims which has self-sacrificing workers who are staunch Muslims and equally staunch nationalists.”12 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The friends you sent will give you full report of the doings here. Tell me of your reactions to the talks with the Quaid-e-Azam. What do you think of my extension of the meaning of Nayee Talim? You ought to take an active interest in the Kasturba Trust. Bapa and others were complaining that you had not attended a single meeting.”13

Mahatma Gandhi discussed on education, which will be suitable for India “ZAKIR HUSAIN: In the morning session we heard the reports from the provinces. The budget was sanctioned and the question of how much aid we should seek from the Government was discussed.

 GANDHIJI: The Government would be prepared to give us as much as we ask for. But the very move to seek Government aid would mean the end of Nayee Talim.

 ZAKIR HUSAIN: No, the question was only regarding the students’ fees. The point under discussion was how many students we should admit. If we take more students it will naturally help us in meeting the expenses but then we would be ruining our cause.

 GANDHIJI: Of course, that is obvious. We should take only as many students as we want—not more. I have quite a few things to say about the budget. I would like Ashadevi and Aryanayakam to sit and discuss it with me and make whatever alterations they possibly can in it. After three years nothing should be expected either from me or from anyone else. If we fail to achieve this, Nayee Talim will not work. If you want to make it self-supporting you should prepare you budget accordingly. And if at the end of three years we do not succeed we will have to declare our bankruptcy before the country. We should not keep silent lest we lose the credit we have earned. True credit lies in success.

 ZAKIR HUSAIN: We have received a request from Madras that the Talimi Sangh should run a school there. The Government is prepared to bear its expenses. They have asked for Ramachandran to take up the responsibility of conducting Nayee Talim under the Ministry.

GANDHIJI: Ramachandran hasn’t come, has he? I shall have to talk with him about this. As regards the school we should take up the task only if we are capable of fulfilling it, otherwise we shall be putting the Government in a fix. Today we have our ministries and crores of rupees have come into our hands. We can spend the amount any way we like. If our own conscience does not question it, perhaps no one else would. This can work for a year or two. But in the absence of any concrete achievement it is not going to last long. I would, therefore, advise you to accept this responsibility only if you feel you are competent enough to shoulder, it. If we are not, we ought to admit that we can teach Nayee Talim only at our centre and that the provinces are beyond our reach. Instructors from Madras are welcome to come and have a look at the work going on at Sevagram. Our system of education has three aspects. It leads to the development of the mind, the body and the soul. The ordinary system cares only for the development of the mind. Our system, I claim, purifies the mind and is conducive to its harmonious development. Moreover, it provides nourishment to the soul as well. What does it matter if we do not impart religious instruction? Religious teaching that again from books—is not indispensable for the soul. Through practice we shall teach the boys the noble principles from all the religions. Nayee Talim is not confined to teaching spinning and sweeping. Though indispensable, these in themselves are not sufficient for our purpose. We shall have to give them up unless they promote the development of the soul. Here I am engaged in other tasks. But Nayee Talim has never been out of my mind. The charkha occupied an important place much before Nayee Talim was even conceived of. I knew almost nothing about the charkha when I first referred to it in South Africa in 1908. It was only later on that I learnt more about it. Afterwards came the days of civil disobedience and the Ali Brothers, and the charkha continued to hold an important place. Yesterday in my prayer meeting I had drawn before you the picture of khadi as I visualize it. Khadi of my conception is that which can take the place of all mill-cloth. I would not insist on including khadi in Nayee Talim, if you could suggest some other means for the eradication of poverty. In that case I would gladly admit my mistake. I had discussed this point with Vinoba, Krishnadas and Narandas. To me it is a simple calculation. I feel that if everyone spins for an hour daily all would be able to have the cloth required. If, however, it would require six hours a day from everybody to achieve this, khadi was bound to perish. For people have to do other work also. They have to produce food and do some intellectual work as well. Moreover, Nayee Talim would lose its meaning if one was ever to toil like a bullock under it. An hour spent in spinning is an hour of self-development for the spinner. When Saiyidain Saheb said that at least in the post-basic stage the mechanical processes in the mills would have to be taught, I could not accept it. I hold that if khadi is sound as a foundation for basic education, it ought to be further developed during the post-basic stage. Yesterday Dev Prakash showed me an article which he had written on the takli and the broom. He has done some work under Nayee Talim. If all that he writes is true, a lot of knowledge— including the knowledge of higher engineering can be gained through Nayee Talim. But only when we have assimilated all this knowledge can we impart it to others. We have not evolved the science of these essential crafts. The British cloth mills evolved out of our takli and loom. They planned the mills because they wanted to exploit us. We do not want to exploit anyone. We do not, therefore, need mills, but we must build up the science of the takli and the loom. If India were to copy Europe in this matter, it would mean destruction for India and the world. Of course, if you are in favour of mills then let us talk about them.

 ZAKIR HUSAIN: The difficulty is that the boys who graduate from our schools look to the mills for employment.

 GANDHIJI: The boys that will come out of the school of my conception will not look to the mills for employment. As a matter of fact mill-cloth should not sell side by side with khadi. Our mills may export their manufactures. In Lancashire you do not get the cloth manufactured there. The whole of it is exported. But perhaps our mills may not be able to sell their product for long even in foreign markets. You are right when you say that you cannot help it if the whole atmosphere around is surcharged with the idea of mill-cloth, and even our own ministers are interested in opening mills. The way for us is to die in living up to our faith. If we believe in the truth of khadi we must spread it and convince the ministers that we are doing the right thing and will continue to do so. We are not going to accept defeat. The Congress created the Talimi Sangh but never took any interest in it. Similarly the Congress was instrumental in setting up the Charkha Sangh but it never adopted its programme. Who cares for these institutions today? When Congressmen had a little money and some experience they paid some attention to the constructive work. No doubt, they did some constructive work too. Today, however, the entire Government has come into their hands. They have not yet digested the power it has brought. They will take time to do so.

 ZAKIR HUSAIN: We are faced with a great difficulty. To run a school under Nayee Talim means bringing about a new order. Moreover, all the power is in the hands of the ministers who do not fully share our views.

GANDHIJI: No doubt about it. After all schools in the cities cannot be created out of nothing.

 ZAKIR HUSAIN: Either you help to co-ordinate the activities of the Government and the Sangh or let us be on our own.

 GANDHIJI: I confess I no longer command the same influence as I used to. I do not blame the Government for this. They have inherited set machinery which they have to work. If I had been a minister, perhaps, I too would have acted similarly. Still, I am talking things over with Jawaharlal and others. I have to talk and convince them about the work of the Talimi Sangh, haven’t I? I pray to God either to call me to Him or endow my words with such power that they are able to carry conviction to the people and their representatives. You should give up Nayee Talim if you do not believe that it is full of potentialities. Some people come to tell me that now my work is over. So far ahimsa was followed but now the time has come for me to leave. They are not going to listen to me anymore.

 ZAKIR HUSAIN: But Bapuji, the Congress ought to have explained its policy regarding the Talimi Sangh to the ministers. It never did. I met Maulana Saheb before coming here. He had expressed sympathy and said that he would like to meet the Sangh. The Sangh has now decided to see him.

 GANDHIJI: They should have invited you before this. Let Mr. Sargeant work but he should work under your guidance. In fact I have advised them to invite Zakir Husain Saheb and suggested that only after discussing things with him should they plan their work.

 ZAKIR HUSAIN: We feel that with a little effort it could have been done but we never did make that effort.

 GANDHIJI: Today the whole machinery of the Congress is crumbling into pieces. Everyone does not realize it but I do.

 ZAKIR HUSAIN: In my view facilities should be provided and time apportioned for religious education in our schools, so as to enable those well versed in religion to come and teach there. If the Government decides to undertake more than this it would only increase misunderstanding and friction. Supposing Maulana Saheb prepares the curriculum, not everyone will be prepared to accept it.

 GANDHIJI: Please prepare a draft in Hindustani and have it in both the scripts so that it is understood by all. Clearly state the boy’s qualifications in it. Supposing we mention that our boy is more qualified than a matriculate, we have to be specific about it. The name should correspond with the qualification certified therein. Giving a thing a high-sounding name when it’s worth does not correspond to it reflects no credit on the giver.

 ZAKIR HUSAIN: We may certify that the boy has completed a full course of basic education.

 GANDHIJI: I would rather have a precise word for it just as the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan has precise names for its different diplomas.

 ZAKIR HUSAIN: The Sangh has not made co-education obligatory for the training schools.

 GANDHIJI: Your (Avinashilingam’s) arguments, I am afraid, fail to convince me. Even if my children have a tendency to go astray, I would let them run the risk. We shall have to rid ourselves one day of this sex mentality. We should not seek examples from the West. Even in the training schools if the teachers are competent, pure and filled with the spirit of Nayee Talim there is no danger. If, unfortunately, some accidents do take place, we should not be frightened. They are bound to be.

 ZAKIR HUSAIN: We are not familiar with the conditions prevailing in Madras. If you feel that the atmosphere there is not favourable for co-education you should wait till it changes in its favour. For the time being you can send your girls to Sevagram.”14


Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “There were some workers, who were worried at the paradox free India Government presented. The Congress had sworn adherence to the constructive programme for years, while it was in the wilderness. But having come into power, it showed signs of giving it the go-by. Was not the remedy for those who had faith in the constructive work to enter the Government and use it for the purpose of building up a non-violent social order? Gandhiji was opposed to it, but he held that the purpose could be achieved if the various organizations which he had founded for carrying on constructive work came up to the standard which he had set for them. And as a preparatory step to the discharge of that role, he recommended the unification and co-ordination of those organizations into one body. He placed the onus of the transformation on the shoulders of the Hindustani Talimi Sangh. It should be easy for them to do that if Nayee Talim was what he had envisaged it to be. What he had proposed was only a part of adult education. The Nayee Talim is today on its trial. It has either to transform the prevailing atmosphere, or perish in the attempt. There is one section in the country today in our midst which holds that the Hindus and Muslims cannot coexist, that either the Muslims should get out of Hindustan or they should live here as the vassals of the Hindus. And similarly, in Pakistan, only the Muslims should remain. It is a poisonous doctrine and in it lies the root of Pakistan. Pakistan has come into being; their dream has vanished but the virus has remained. I have pledged myself to resist this doctrine and to do or die in the attempt. But to correct the wrong psychology of the people is the function of Nayee Talim. Dr. Zakir Husain said that while in principle what Gandhiji had stated was unexceptionable, still there was need to hasten slowly. Things had changed considerably after independence. Everybody felt the urge and impatience to make new and daring experiments and the need for an absolutely free hand. If the merger resulted in maladjustment, it might retard, instead of helping progress. A suggestion was then made that they might function as the separate branches of a tree that have sprung from a common trunk and a reference was made in that connection to the Gandhi Seva Sangh which was described as functioning as the parent trunk, at one time. But Gandhiji smelt danger in that. He did not want the constructive workers’ organizations to be drawn into power politics and become a rival to the Congress or the Government in the contest for political power. Gandhi Seva Sangh is no longer there. Nor did it attempt to rally all constructive workers under one organization. It did once make a short-lived attempt to enter into and purify the politics of the country but had to admit defeat.

 DR. ZAKIR HUSAIN: Various organizations were created separately as ad hoc bodies to perform certain specific functions. If they are united into one body, it will not be possible to keep power politics out of it. If the united constructive workers’ sangh tried to go into power politics, it would spell its ruin. Or else why should I myself not have gone into politics and tried to run the Government my way? Those who are holding the reins of power today, would easily have stepped aside and made room for me, but whilst they are in charge, they can carry on only according to their own lights. But I do not want to take power into my hands. By abjuring power and by devoting ourselves to pure and selfless service of the voters, we can guide and influence them. It would give us far more real power than we shall have by going into the Government. But a stage may come, when the people themselves may feel and say that they want us and no one else to wield the power. The question could then be considered. I shall most probably be not alive then. But when that time comes, the Sanghs will produce from amongst them someone who will take over the reins of administration. By that time, India shall have become an ideal state.

 DR. ZAKIR HUSAIN: Shall not we need ideal men in order to inaugurate and run the ideal State? We can send men of our choice, without going into the Government ourselves. Today, everybody in the Congress is running after power. That presages grave danger. Let us not be in the same cry as the power-seekers. Today, many Congressmen say: “Pandit Jawaharlal is getting so much salary, and why should not we?” They forget that a person of Jawaharlal’s talents could any day have commanded a far greater emolument than he is getting today. If an ordinary humble worker like me, who neither needs nor has the capacity to earn independently, say, Rs. 3,000 per month, draws that much amount as salary, it is a deplorable thing. It is my firm view that we should keep altogether aloof from power politics and its contagion.”15



  1. Young India, 5-1-1928
  2.   LETTER TO ZAKIR HUSAIN, March 20, 1928
  3.   LETTER TO ZAKIR HUSAIN, May 23, 1928
  4. LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, July 6, 1928
  5. LETTER TO ZAKIR HUSAIN, February 20, 1935
  6.   LETTER TO ZAKIR HUSAIN, May 25, 1936
  7. LETTER TO ZAKIR HUSAIN, August 27, 1937
  8.   LETTER TO ZAKIR HUSAIN, November 14, 1937
  9.   LETTER TO ZAKIR HUSAIN, February 27, 1938
  10. Harijan, 16-7-1938
  11. LETTER TO SAMPURNANAND, January 1, 1939
  12. LETTER TO SHUAIB QURESHI, January 5, 1939
  13.   LETTER TO ZAKIR HUSAIN, October 4, 1944
  14.   Harijan Sevak, 9-11-1947



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