The Academy of International Studies Jamia Millia Islamia hosted the Book Launch of Dr. Hilal Ahmad’s “Muslim Political Discourse in Post Colonial India: Monuments, Memory and Contestation” (Routledge, 2014) on August 20, 2014 in the Ho Chi Minh Conference Hall of the Academy. The event was chaired by Prof Shri Prakash, Director of the Academy of International Studies and the panelists on the occasion included Prof. Sudipta Kaviraj, Columbia University USA, Prof. Shail Mayaram, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies New Delhi and Dr. Mujibur Rehman, K.R Narayanan Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies JMI. [Buy the Book on Flipkart]
In his introductory address, Dr. Hilal Ahmad, Assistant Professor at CSDS, spoke of his book as “nothing but an introduction…reframing of an issue which we all know”. He said the book was an effort to try and find relevant points to collect his story of what a monument is, what the status of a monument and mosque is, locating the idea of a monument and its’ place in the post-colonial legal sphere, the construction of a memory of ‘Royal Muslim Past’ and an exploration into Muslim political discourse “which we assume we know but actually don’t know at all”. Dr. Ahmad didn’t shy away from also pointing out the limitations of his own book. “The limitations of my story are that it hasn’t covered South India and I also haven’t looked at the question of representation, particularly formal”, he said.
The first panelist to speak, Prof. Shail Mayaram expressed her happiness about the publication of the book that she described as having “carved out a field which is at the juncture of history and heritage, politics and architecture, monument and memory.” Commenting specifically about the chapter on ‘Babri Masjid and Muslim Politics on Right to Heritage’ in the book, Prof. Mayaram said, “Hilal’s discussion attempts to suggest the Muslim protest against the Babri demolition was an attempt to create a unified coalition, a unified Muslim community”. She went on to speak about how the idea of monumentalization has been invoked, how it was linked to the colonial concept of a single Muslim community and also questioned the author about the kind of ‘demonumentalization’ that’s taking place and on the need to emphasize more on orientalism.
Next to speak, Dr. Mujibur Rehman appreciated the author for having come out with a unique and unprecedented approach to understanding Muslim politics in India, an area inadequately researched or written about. “The first question one could ask is, if there something called Muslim Political Discourse in post-colonial India, what should it mean? Is there something called a non-Muslim Political Discourse and is there something called a Hindutva discourse in post-colonial India? Hilal has tried to link official history, law and political action”, Dr. Rehman said. He further spoke of the absence of a commentary on Muslim Adjustment Thesis in the book, while also expressing that the book provided a wonderful insight into the 1971 war and how it affected Muslim thinking.
The final panelist, Prof. Sudipta Kaviraj couldn’t hide his joy on witnessing the happy occasion of the success of his student Dr. Hilal Ahmad expressing how special the event meant for him as a teacher. Prof. Kaviraj said, “The sections in the book on monumentalization, engaging with the nature of memory, the question of relation between monuments and imagination and the distinction between memory and history are remarkable”, adding that “the question of history and memory needs to be looked further into, beyond a simple binary distinction”. He also highlighted the connection between legality and politics that the author has looked into and the evolution of colonial law and its’ extension in the post-colonial period. Prof. Kaviraj appreciated Dr. Ahmad on the use of visual elements in the book.
The panel discussion was followed by a question and answer session.
Buy the book on Flipkart here: “Muslim Political Discourse in Post Colonial India: Monuments, Memory and Contestation” By Dr. Hilal Ahmad.