Skip to main content

Sheikh Matlub Ali, symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity in crowded columns of power corridors

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*

Amidst the names of politicians crowded the columns of power corridors in history but in contemporary political and cultural firmaments of India, nobody can match Sheikh Matlub Ali of Odisha. He was born on December 16, 1942 in a village called Dharoshyam Sundarpur, Sukleswar (Mahanga) in Cuttack district and studied in the famous Ravenshaw College, Odisha. His life was a praxis of Gandhian principles with Nehruvian outlooks. He was an incomparable icon of Hindu Muslim unity in Odisha.
In his untimely death, Odisha lost one of her greatest sons and Odias lost their voice of reason. His death has created a void in the social, political, cultural and literary world of Odisha. He has led a meaningful life both in the field of politics and literature.
Sheikh Matlub Ali was a very proud Odia, a Muslim and an Indian nationalist. There was no conflict between his three different identities. He wears these three identities with equal pride. He represented the composite culture in Odisha, which resolved the differences. He was a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity in the state.
He knew Hindu religion as much as he knew Islam. He studied different religions in depth and practiced secular politics in his everyday life. He contributed immensely in popularising Jagannath culture. He was a fine polemical speaker of interfaith dialogues, excelling in colloquial Odia irony and humour.
He popularised composite Odia culture and practiced it in his everyday life. He led a life of Hindu- Muslim unity and brotherhood. He was a leader of Hindus, Muslims, and all socially and economically marginalised communities in Odisha. His house was always open to all.
Sheikh Matlub Ali was a leading luminary in shaping the democratic, secular and progressive politics and literature in Odisha. He was widely accepted by all sections of Odia society irrespective of political differences and party lines. His integrity, tenacity, and compassion are rare qualities in Indian politics.
He was a consummated politician but the politics of power could not destroy his humanly qualities. He moved beyond the arithmetic of electoral politics. He was defeated in electoral politics based on propaganda and corporate media management. But he never ceased to work for the people for a day even after electoral debacles. For him, election was a mean to do social work for people. 
He stood with people during their everyday crisis, whether it was floods and cyclones in coastal belt or drought in southern Odisha, he was always there to ensure relief and rehabilitation work. He worked with both international and national NGO’s to expand his social work among lower caste and working-class people in the state.
He was dedicated, committed, generous, principled and influential far beyond his native Mahanga constituency in Odisha. He was popular in the state both for his commitment to politics and literature focusing on empowering people and their welfare. His politics was shaped by Gandhian ideals of peace, secularism and democracy.
As a Gandhian, he stayed with the Congress Party till his last breath. He was elected four times to the Odisha Assembly and contributed immensely for the growth of irrigation infrastructure, rural development and education in the state as a minister. He was a lifelong champion of rural poor and other causes he believed in, argued for his ideas resolutely but briefly with all clarity and backed by detailed study. His gentle manner is rare in politics today.
He knew Hindu religion as much as he knew Islam. He studied different religions in depth and practiced secular politics in everyday life
Personally, I lost a father like friend and going to miss his guidance on life and career. I had many memorable meetings with him over twenty years. One meeting is imprinted vividly in my memory lane, which defines my relationship with him. It also reveals Sheikh Matlub Ali as a person.
Before leaving for Britain for my doctoral research, I met him in his Bhubaneswar house in September 2003. He was immensely happy and concerned as if I am one of his own family members. He was worried about my financial condition, health and weather in Britain. He introduced me to his friend Prafulla Mohanty, an internationally acclaimed Odia painter, who lives in London.
He called him and asked him to look after me. He discussed my research topic and asked me not to fall into European outlooks while analysing Indian context. He advised me to look after my health and not to forget our Odia roots. In the hurly-burly of life, I regret that I was not in touch with him regularly but every meeting was full of warmth, love and care.
He was a Congressman in letter and spirit. I am a communist. We used to discuss, debate and disagree passionately but there was never an emotional and social breaking point because of his ability to assimilate himself with differences without losing his own ideological position in life. During one of our meetings, he discussed about the cultural and social problems of Marxism in Indian context.
He argued that Indian society is a diverse society and no single philosophical outlook can analyse and be a single alternative in India. His outlined it further by arguing that vile of property-based caste order and religious reactionaries are twin dangers to class struggle and progressive politics.
Therefore, he argued for secular, liberal and democratic politics for a slow transition towards socialism in India. He was insightful in his analysis and open to self-reflective criticisms. His personality reflects in his political ideals, organisational style and writings.
Sheikh Matlub Ali’s death is an irreversible loss to Indian and Odia politics. His political, social, cultural and literary legacies will dazzle and dazzle as luminous stars to guide troublesome Indian political sky towards peace and prosperity. It is important to uphold his contributions and celebrate his life to ensure harmony and happiness in Odisha, he loved the most.
---
*Coventry University, UK

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

World Bank proved right, Narmada is already a destructive project: Medha Patkar

By Rajiv Shah  Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar has said that the World Bank’s independent review mission, which brought out the Morse Commission report , has been proved right: The Sardar Sarovar dam has not only failed to live up to the loud promises made for irrigating large arid areas of Saurashtra and Kutch in Gujarat, those who were displaced and resettled in Gujarat are getting increasingly restive as many of them are unable to get the promised water for irrigation and some for drinking water too. While 50,000 families have been resettled in three states and 20,000 have received land rights as land or cash, the authorities have not calculated what should be done with 15,000 families, whose houses are acquired for Sardar Sarovar but following changing backwater levels of the Sardar Sarovar dam, they are denied rehabilitation, Patkar tells Counterview in an interview (part1*): *** Q: What is the latest position in your view as far as the Sardar Sarovar dam is concerned?

Upholding labour rights, Nehruvian scientific temper, Rajni Patel opposed Emergency

By Harsh Thakor*  Rajni Patel, who died 40 years ago, whatever his flaws, had one great quality: his human touch to offer selfless service and ability to galvanise or influence human beings from all walks of life. Few people would ever go out of the way to help someone or serve as selflessly without aim of personal gain. Rajni championed Nehruvian secular ideas and scientific temper. As a master in public relations he revealed utmost humility. As a barrister, he never appeared against the trade unions or workers. A Fabien Socialist he opposed liberal capitalism and radical socialism. Unlike most lawyers, he did not succumb to the lure of amassing wealth. Rajni was born in Sirsa, in Gujarat, on the very day Gandhi set foot on Indian soil, on 9th January, 1915. He gained his baptism through one of Gandhi's speeches calling for the boycott of foreign goods, which was the virtual turning point of his life. Rajni toed Gandhi to organise boycott of foreign goods. Rajni was able to cros

Vadodara violence: Fine Arts Faculty alumni raise fingers at Varsity's political appointee

Hasmukh Vaghela with PM Counterview Desk  In a statement, alumni of the Faculty of Fine Arts (FoFA), Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda, Gujarat, referring to the “violence” by right-wing groups for displaying “objectionable” paintings that “hurt religious sentiments” at the one of India’s top fine arts institute May 5, have taken strong exception to “the assault and rustication” of one of the students, and lack of action taken against those who “violated” the institution and committed the act. Floated as an online petition seeking wider support, the FoFA alumni, in their statement, addressed to the vice chancellor, MSU, said, there should be “thorough” investigation in the whole incident and “immediate action” should be taken against syndicate member Hasmukh Vaghela, MSU, who sparked the assault, and “other co-conspirators” for breaching “university code of conduct and unlawful activities committed in broad daylight”. While the alumni statement doesn't say so, Vaghela

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

UK leader cites Indian farmers' struggle one of top global fights against neoliberal order

Counterview Desk  Jeremy Corbyn, member of the UK Parliament, former leader of the UK Labour Party and founder of the  Peace and Justice Project , in his  inaugural speech to the  Progressive International’s  Summit at the End of the World on May 12, 2022, has said, what is happening across globe suggests that "image of apocalypse -- bombs and raids, oil spills and wildfires, disease and contagion -- is a reality for people across the planet." In an adaptation of his speech, distributed by  Globetrotter , Corbyn, however, said, there are fresh examples action, too -- by Indian farmers forcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw three neo-liberal laws;  by workers, communities and activists against the top giant multinational Amazon's "greed and exploitation"; and by Latin American people's struggle to say "no more to the domination by imperialism, the destruction of their communities and the abuse of their environments." Stating that this is n

Welfare? Govt of India spends just 19% of manual scavengers' rehabilitation budget

By Bharat Dogra*  While the Dalit community has been always known for higher levels of poverty as well as social discrimination, even within the Dalits there is a sub-section known for even worse levels of poverty as well as social discrimination. This is the section which was traditionally involved in manual scavenging. The shocking injustice they have suffered from over the years has been widely recognized leading to a ban on manual scavenging. At the same time there is urgent need for the rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging. Hence a self-employment scheme for the rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging was drawn up. The allocations and the expenditure for this scheme for the last eight years are shown in the Table below: Union Budget for Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of  Manual Scavengers (in Rs crore) By Budget Estimate we mean the original allocation made when the budget is presented. It is clear from this table that the actual expenditure

This Maoist justified US, western Europe's anti-Soviet stance, even Bhindranwale

By Harsh Thakor*  A glaring example of the extent to which those seeking to identify themselves as revolutionaries can go in making odd compromises with those normally considered as “class enemies” in Marxist jargon is late Kondapalli Seetharamiah. Few know that this Maoist organiser two decades ago was so enamoured by the Chinese three worlds theory that he called for a united front with the United States and other western countries against what he considered Soviet social imperialism! This wasn’t the only “compromise” Seetharamiah made during his career as a revolutionary. On Punjab he took a most eclectical stand of supporting Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, thus soft-pedalling the terrorist Khalistani movement. Among his other opportunist alliances, about which few are aware of, include support to the Akalis in Punjab, on one hand, and the NTR Telugu Desam regime in Andhra Pradesh, on the other – all part of his anti-Congress thrust. Also known as KS, this Maoist started his career as

Why is NIOH-ICMR 'official' making false claims on silicosis?: Health rights NGO

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi, Dr Jagdish Parikh, trustee, health rights NGO People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), Vadodara, and Jagdish Patel, director, PTRC, have said that the claim being made for the use of biomarker for detection of silicosis raises concern about scientific tenacity of the diagnosis of the deadly occupational disease. The letter also objects to the reported claim by a top health official that it is possible to detect silicosis at the sub-radiological stage. It asks, “What is this subradiological stage of silicosis? We have not heard any such scientific term being used. Again, the report is using a term which is not found in any scientific literature so far. Is this term acceptable by ICMR? Is ICMR thinking of any explanation?” Text : This is with reference to our letter dated November 28, 2021. In our communication we had raised our concern about the scientific tena

Custodial death of Muslim youth: Govt of India told to ratify UN convention on torture

Counterview Desk  Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and national convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), Hooghly, West Bengal, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), has drawn to the custodial death of a Muslim youth following his torture in police custody after registering a "false case" based on manufactured records. Seeking "proper investigation" the whole incident, Roy in his plea insists, the incident legitimizes his organisations' long-standing demand "for immediate ratification of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment." Text : Here I want to draw your kind attention to one incident of custodial torture by the Deganga police personnel and the subsequent custodial death of one Muslim man from the Other Backward Class community in Dum Dum Central Correctional Home. The name o