By Hafeez Naumani
Published in daily Avadhnama, Lucknow, on 19 July 2013
I still remember when many years ago, Hajj pilgrims from Uttar Pradesh before leaving for Mumbai, used to camp at Lucknow Railway station for several days as almost all of them used to travel by ships and these ships used to sail from Mumbai. Outside the Railway station Hajj banners used to be put up and dozens of religious and practicing Muslims from Lucknow used to cater to the needs of these pilgrims and helped them embark on the trains. One philanthropist Muslim had built a Musafirkhana in front of Aminabad powerhouse. Hajj pilgrims were welcome there and were not charged any rent. This activity related to the Muslims and therefore the government did not feel any obligation to pay attention to it.
A Muslim secretary realised that Muslim women pilgrims in particular faced great difficulties who had to keep their burqas on for days and nights and had to do their chores while clad in burqas. He brought this to the notice of Bahuguna Joshi and [her father and then Chief Minister] Bahuguna ji helped in the construction of a Muslim Musafirkhana near Charbagh for which Waqf Board, Hajj Committee and the government contributed equal amounts of money and Musafirkhana was thus built. The purpose of the Musafirkhana was to provide facilities to Hajj pilgrims, from the districts from where there were no direct trains to Mumbai, to come to Lucknow and stay there free of cost for as many days as they needed to arrange their things.
What followed afterwards, I feel ashamed of describing. Once the Musafirkhana was built all those benevolent and practicing Muslims who used to set up camps at the Railway station and used to serve the pilgrims day and nights, were forced to keep away and those who were bent upon making the Musafirkhana a source of income, through their contacts and influences took it into their control. Each Muslim Musafirkhana that was built with the sole purpose of providing the facility of staying to Hajj pilgrims instead started to be used for acts that one feels ashamed even to mention. A facility built solely with a religious spirit first became the cause of a tussle between the grabbers of occupation and was then used for all such illegal acts that are committed in hotels of bad repute. Then also came a time when it was being used by more Hindu travellers who stayed there with all sorts of indulgences and nefarious activities while Muslims with rustic and poor appearances were kept away saying there was no room. Worse still was the fact that Hajj pilgrims were excused from being given accommodation at all.
I have never kept any association with this Musafirkhana but have always kept myself abreast with its affairs thanks to some friends who had been fighting its case and were even willing to take up physical fight for it. They were even willing to sacrifice their lives to save this from remaining in the wrong hands. They were not prepared to tolerate to see a place built for religious purposes being defiled by debauch elements for wining and womanising. Then Almighty helped them and they won the case, a receiver was appointed and one Allah-fearing person, with a religious zeal and spirit, was appointed in charge who refused to give a room to any such person in whose bag he could see a wine bottle even from a distance.
It pains me to write that those people because of whom the Musafirkhana was closed did not even bother to think for a while that this was the only rest house of its kind where a mosque had also been built for prayers to be offered. This was one such a respectable place where once a meeting of the consultative committee of Darul Uloom Deoband had also been organised and who knows how many public meetings of the community and religious festivities had also taken place there. What I am trying to emphasise is the fact that this building was built as a Musafirkhana solely for Muslims. Many years ago, a benevolent caring Muslim, Sarfaraz Ali, after serving it for so many years, owing to his ill-health, excused himself from continuing to serve it. Then by the will of Almighty I became housebound too and for the last few years I have been unaware of the situation there.
It was about a month ago when I read in a newspaper that on the orders of Azam Khan Saheb Musafirkhana’s officer Saeed Khan had been arrested. I have been in the field of journalism for the last 50 years and have performed duties of various kinds in Allah knows, how many newspapers. During this period I have never had to print a story of someone being arrested on someone’s orders. Yes we did carry the news of someone being arrested for taking bribe, embezzlement, or for running a brothel. I did not have to print that someone had been held on Guptaji’s orders. After reading the news I felt as if Azam Khan was the Uttar Pradesh’s Raja, dictator or an absolute dictator. In fact it gave the impression that it is him who is the real ruler while Akhilesh Yadav and Shiv Pal are just showpieces.
I have known Saeed Khan since the days when he used to be a clean-shaven man. Then he came close to a religious group and grew a beard larger than mine. And then I continued to hear that he was serving the Hajj Pilgrims, Hajj Committee and the Musafirkhana day and nights. If any of our acquaintances was going for Hajj we used to send him to Saeed Khan to be looked after so well that he would be all praise and well-wishing for him all the way to his destination. It was only after his arrest that we came to know that he was alleged of embezzlement while as far as we had heard the fact was that Saeed Khan had broken the record of the Musafirkhana’s earning. How can we believe that without having his beard shaved he would have digested such a huge sum illegally? And now today we have heard that in order to save his skin he has left the city and has moved somewhere else. Perhaps Khan Saheb has ordered the police to enquire from his neighbours and acquaintances about his character. And it has also been reported that in compliance to this order police inspectors have been busy in digging proofs of Saeed Khan’s bad character.
Almighty has blessed Azam Khan Saheb with immense powers. If he is pleased with someone he favours the person by giving him, his wife and even his brother-in-law jobs in the Hajj Committee. However, if he gets displeased then he would not hesitate to bulldoze the sources of income of hundreds of poor Muslim hawkers at Samarak Park. In his love for the shopkeepers in Mohan Market he does not even look at the pavement and the whole road being blocked by the illegal vendors. The shopkeepers of this market challenge and dare anyone to have the road cleared. But this challenge does not reach to the ears of Khan Saheb.
We would only like to tell the ruler of our time Mohammad Azam Khan that if he is blessed with high post then it is incumbent on him to pray to the Almighty to grant him humility of behaviour and a kind heart as well because a real ruler is the one who is remembered for his good deeds even when he is out of power.