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Urdu portal ‘Rekhta’ promotes a book glorifying Islamist Ilmuddin, who killed Mahashay Rajpal in 1929 over ‘blasphemy’

The current edition of this book with Rekhta is made available by Jamia Hamdard in Delhi. The information surfaced as the annual three-day festival of the Urdu-promoting organisation - Jashn-E-Rekhta - is going on from 8th December to 10th December at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi.

Urdu literary web portal Rekhta operated by Sanjiv Saraf’s non-profit organisation Rekhta Foundation is promoting the biography of an Islamist killer who had killed a Hindu man for ‘blasphemy’ against the Prophet Muhammad. Rekhta portal displays a book in its list titled ‘Sawaneh Umri Ghazi Ilmuddin Shaheed’, which means ‘a biography of martyr Ilmuddin’. This book is written by Mohammad Afzal Hashmi. The 102-page Urdu book was originally published in 1930 by Munshi Azizuddin Tajiran-E-Kutub, Lahore.

The current edition of this book with Rekhta is made available by Jamia Hamdard in Delhi. The information surfaced as the annual three-day festival of the Urdu-promoting organisation – Jashn-E-Rekhta – is going on from 8th December to 10th December at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. Besides Mushaira and other talks in the Jashn-E-Rekhta program, the Rekhta Foundation also has various counters for selling books and other merchandise where many Urdu books are for sale. As the biography of Ilmuddin is listed on Rekhta’s website, it becomes necessary to understand what kind of Urdu literature it is promoting, who was Ilmuddin and what he had done.

Who was this Ilmuddin?

Ilmuddin killed author and publisher Mahashay Rajpal on 6th April 1929 in Lahore. Ilmuddin – a carpenter – was 19 years old at that time. stabbed Mahashay Rajpal in his chest eight times while he was seated on the outer verandah of his shop. Mahashay Rajpal did not survive the attack. The reason for this murder was alleged blasphemy. It was no different than what we see as death threats and beheading threats like ‘Sar Tan Se Juda’ for alleged blasphemy or alleged insult of the Islamic prophet in contemporary times.

Who was Mahashay Rajpal and why was he killed?

Mahashay Rajpal published a book named Rangeela Rasool. He was killed for publishing this so-called satire on Prophet Muhammad. Mahashay Rajpal’s book came in response to two provoking books by Muslims.

In fact, in 1923, Muslims published two books. One was named ‘Krishna, your Gita will have to be burnt’. In this, Muslims made indecent and obscene comments about Lord Krishna. The other book was ‘The Maharshi of the Nineteenth Century’. The book contained derogatory remarks on Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj.

In response to these books written by Islamic fundamentalists, Pandit Chamupati Lal, who was a good friend of Mahashay Rajpal, wrote a satire on Prophet Muhammad and asked Rajpal never to reveal the author of this book i.e. his name to anyone. Maybe he knew the consequences. The book was published without any name.

Mahashay Rajpal. Image Source: Bharat Kosh

Muslims were enraged by this book. MK Gandhi also wrote in his ‘Young India’ that this is a divisive book ignoring how Muslims first provoked Hindus. In 1924, the British banned the book. Several cases were registered against the book under Section 153 A of the IPC. In 1927, Mahashay Rajpal was let off by evidence that what was written in the book was based on facts, so it cannot be said that it increased hatred between the two groups.

When the court pronounced the verdict regarding this book, the Muslims were even more enraged and shaken. They started rioting and there was a demand to behead Mahashay Rajpal. The slogans described how the killing of Mahashay Rajpal is allowed in Islamic Sharia. After receiving death threats for years and surviving two attacks, Mahashay Rajpal was killed by Ilmuddin in 1929.

Jinnah appeared in court as an advocate for Ilmuddin

Mahashay Rajpal’s killer was represented in court by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who argued for his innocence. Ilmuddin was executed by hanging in Central Jail Mianwali on 31st October 1929. At his funeral, the poet Mohammad Iqbal, a favourite of Indian liberals today, eulogized the killer. Today his grave is a religious site in Pakistan and Pakistani textbooks eulogize him with the title of “Ghazi”. Many books are written on his ‘life’ and his ‘work’. His two biopics were made in Pakistan – one in 1978 and the other in 2002.

After the partition, Mahashay Rajpal’s family moved to Delhi from where “Rajpal and Sons” continues to operate today. Almost 70 years after his death, he was awarded the first “International Freedom to Publish Award” by then deputy PM LK Advani.

Rekhta Foundation is promoting the biography of Ilmuddin

As Ilmuddin has become a ‘Ghazi’ for Islamists, many people have written his biographies. One such biography is reproduced in the form of an eBook with contributions from Jamia Hamdard. It is promoted by the Rekhta Foundation of Sanjiv Saraf. There are many sponsors to the event the Jashn-E-Rekhta. Questions are also asked on social media about what exactly they are supporting.

X user ‘The Skin Doctor’ posted, “Rekhta is a non-profit org promoting Urdu literature & culture. Its flagship event ‘Jashn-e-Rekhta’ is a huge commercial success as evidenced by its list of sponsors. But in the guise of promoting Urdu, Rekhta is promoting extremist literature as well. “Umri Ghazi Ilmuddin Shaheed”. Ilmuddin was an extremist who killed Mahashe Rajpal in 1929 for alleged blasphemy after years of STSJ calls on the victim. I hope these sponsors know what they are supporting.”

Shockingly, the book hailing a murderer is being promoted and marketed at a time when killings in the name of ‘blasphemy’ against Islam and the Prophet Muhammad have dramatically increased. In 2019, two Islamists dressed as Hindus entered the Lucknow residence of Hindu Samaj leader Kamlesh Tiwari and murdered him in broad daylight for his remarks on Prophet Muhammad made in 2015. In 2022, a young man named Kishan Bharwad was at the receiving end of Islamist wrath when fundamentalists shot him dead for simply sharing a video on Prophet Muhammad that Muslims found offensive. Later in the same year, former BJP functionary Nupur Sharma faced death threats and Sar Tan Se Juda threats issued against her after Alt News cofounder Mohammed Zubair dog-whistled Islamists with a cropped video of Sharma responding to insults hurled at Hindu Gods. Kanhaiya Lal, a tailor from Udaipur, was beheaded by two Islamists for extending solidarity with beleaguered former BJP leader Nupur Sharma as Islamists across the country bayed for her blood.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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