November 9, 1992


Under bright blue skies, Mowlana Hazar Imam descended the steps of his aircraft onto a red carpet at Bombay's Santa Cruz Airport on Monday, November 9th, 1992 at the start of a 15 day visit to India as a guest of the Government of India. Warm sunlight favoured the scene as Hazar Imam was officially received by Professor Javed Khan, then Minister for Protocol and Housing in the Government of Maharashtra and other State Government officials. Jamati leaders, resplendent in their gold pagris and red jabbas, respectfully welcomed Mowlana Hazar Imam on behalf of the India jamat. In keeping with the protocol which was maintained throughout the visit, Mowlana Hazar Imam was driven in an official motorcade to the Raj Bhavan in Bombay where he was staying as a State guest. The same afternoon, he paid a courtesy call on Shri C. Subramaniam, the then Governor of the State of Maharashtra. Later that evening, Hazar Imam was the guest of honour at a dinner hosted by the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Shri Sudhakarrao Naik and Shrimati Sumantai Naik at "Varsha", their official residence on Bombay's Malabar Hill.

Over the following three days, Mowlana Hazar Imam met with jamats from Gujarat in Surat, Malia Hatina and Bombay. In Surat, jamats had gathered from distant and neighbouring villages in Northern and Eastern Gujarat. With characteristic zeal and enthusiasm, legions of volunteers had erected a shamiana and organized hospitality to accommodate jamats who had travelled from afar for the mulaquat. In similar spirit, local residents and jamati volunteers from across Junagadh District had converted an open field into "Karimnagar" a temporary complex of shamiana, catering and accommodation facilities for the jamats from rural Saurashtra who had converged on Malia Hatina in a variety of conveyances - three-wheeled scooter-truck, cars and buses; many came on foot. Sheltered under the shamianas, unperturbed by the heat and humidity, the jamats assembled in Surat and Malia Hatina in a sea of colours typical of Gujarat - traditional gleaming white outfits and turbans set off by brilliant mirror-flecked fabrics in vivid hues of pink, red, yellow, green and violet.

After a day in Bombay meeting jamats from various parts of Gujarat, Mowlana Hazar Imam flew to New Delhi. He was received on his arrival in New Delhi by Shri R.L. Bhatia, India's Minister of State for External Affairs, and driven in an official motorcade to Rashtrapati Bhavan, his residence throughout his two days in New Delhi. On Friday, November 13, Mowlana Hazar Imam, in quiet, dignified ceremonies, laid wreaths and paid his respects at the "Samadhis" of Mahatma Gandhi (Rajghat), Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri (Vijayghat), Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (Shantivan), Shrimati Indira Gandhi (Shaktisthal) and Shri Rajiv Gandhi (Veer Bhoomi). Thereafter, Mowlana Hazar Imam called on the Vice President of India, Shri K.R. Narayanan, and attended a private lunch hosted by the Prime Minister of India, Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao. Later the same day, Mowlana Hazar Imam had separate meetings with the Minister of Finance, Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Balram Jakhar, the Minister of State for External Affairs, Shri R.L. Bhatia and with Dr. I.G. Patel, the Chairman of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, India. Mowlana Hazar Imam also paid a courtesy call on Shrimati Sonia Gandhi, the widow of the late Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi. In the evening, Mowlana Hazar Imam had a mulaquat with the jamat assembled in New Delhi.

On Saturday, November 14, Mowlana Hazar Imam met with India's Minister of Home Affairs, Shri S.B. Chavan. Arrayed before the imposing grandeur of Rashtrapati Bhavan's rust granite columns, smartly beturbanned regimental guards, pennants fluttering on their lances, greeted Mowlana Hazar Imam upon his arrival to meet the President of India, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma. Mowlana Hazar Imam was the guest of honour at a luncheon hosted by the President of India, and attended by senior Cabinet Ministers. In the afternoon, Hazar Imam was a distinguished guest at the presentation of the 1991 Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding to the renowned Indian freedom-fighter and outstanding social worker, Shrimati Aruna Asaf Ali. The ceremony, which took place in Rashtrapati Bhavan's splendidly ornate Ashoka Hall, was followed by a reception which Mowlana Hazar Imam attended.

Later the same evening, Hazar Imam attended a banquet at Hyderabad House hosted in his honour by the Vice President of India, Shri K.R. Narayanan.

At the banquet, the Vice President, in a welcoming address, paid warm tribute to Mowlana Hazar Imam and acknowledged his contribution to the improvement of the quality of human life, both in India and in other parts of the world. In his reply, Hazar Imam expressed the hope that, within the spirit of enlarged co-operation and partnership, the Aga Khan Development Network and the Government of India, working together, would be able to enhance and accelerate their contribution to India's development.

Mowlana Hazar Imam spoke of India standing at the threshold of a new world order and offering important opportunities for private and public sector cooperation and development. Referring to the consequences of the end of the Cold War and worldwide economic uncertainty, he said that many changes had occurred "causing us to reflect on the horizons of our future".

Recalling India's position as a founder member of the non-aligned movement and a forerunner of the independence movements of countries in Asia and Africa, Mowlana Hazar Imam said "India brings to the world a deep experience of the vicissitudes of development in an increasingly technology-oriented world of globally inter-linked economies". Hailing India's strong democratic tradition and the Government's initiatives in liberalising the economy, Hazar Imam noted that the Government's courageous steps in this direction bore witness to its recognition of the need for an enabling environment. Mowlana Hazar Imam expressed his conviction that, as the possibilities increased for unleashing India's vast energies for the betterment of its population, this enabling environment would "continue to reflect the spirit of tolerance and understanding among peoples of all faiths and opinions that has been a constant goal for India's actions nationally and internationally".

Following his departure from New Delhi, Mowlana Hazar Imam spent about a week in Nagpur and Hyderabad during which he had mulaquats with jamats from Central, Eastern and Southern India. Near the commercial centre of Nagpur, the winter seat of Maharashtra's State legislature, a shamiana as well as hospitality arrangements had been organized for an exuberant but disciplined jamat, many of whose members had travelled long distances for a mulaquat. Mowlana Hazar Imam arrived in Hyderabad on Tuesday, November 17 under a heavy downpour which did little to dampen the jamat's spirits. Bright, varied and imaginative floral designs diffusing delightful fragrances greeted Mowlana Hazar Imam each time he alighted from his car at Hyderabad's new jamatkhana for mulaquats with jamats over the next four days.

Whilst in Hyderabad, Mowlana Hazar Imam attended a dinner in his honour hosted by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Shri Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy and attended by the Governor of Andhra Pradesh, Shri Krishan Kant, in the high-ceilinged and historic Jubilee Hall where, in days gone by, the Nizam held court. The trees lining the driveway to Hyderabad's Raj Bhavan were lit with dozens of brightly coloured lights as government and civic dignitaries arrived for a second dinner function two evenings later, this time, hosted by Governor Krishan Kant. Also, at Raj Bhavan, Hyderabad, Mowlana Hazar Imam received the Governor of the State of Karnataka, Shri Khurshid Alam Khan who had come from Bangalore to pay a courtesy call on him.

From Hyderabad, Mowlana Hazar Imam returned to Bombay for the last leg of his visit, during which he had mulaquats with Bombay and other regional jamats at various jamatkhanas. In Bombay, the then Governor of Maharashtra, Shri C. Subramaniam and Shrimati Sakuntala Subramaniam hosted a dinner in Mowlana Hazar Imam's honour on the manicured lawns of Raj Bhavan overlooking the sea at Malabar Point to the spirited musical accompaniment of a regimental band.

On the night of Monday, November 23, the eve of his departure from India, Mowlana Hazar Imam was the guest of honour at a banquet hosted by the National Council for India at The Leela Kempinski in Bombay. The banquet was attended by Shri Ramrao Adik, Maharashtra's Minister for Finance and Planning deputizing for the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, dignitaries from the State Government and prominent citizens of Bombay, as well as various jamati leaders and executives of the Aga Khan Development Network institutions in India. At the banquet, Mowlana Hazar Imam expressed his sincere gratitude to the State Governments of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh and to the Government and the people of India for the warmth and hospitality accorded him during the visit.

In each centre visited by Mowlana Hazar Imam, jamats gathered in large numbers in shamianas or jamatkhana compounds for festive celebration late into the night in a common sharing of joy and happiness, whatever their surroundings or circumstances - whether amidst the bustle of Bombay's residential suburbs, in dusty fields in Surat and Malia Hatina, in Nagpur's busy city centre, or under refreshing showers in Hyderabad.

During this extremely busy visit, Mowlana Hazar Imam was informed of the approvals granted by the Government of India to enable the Aga Khan Foundation to expand and diversify the scope of its activities in India. Mowlana Hazar Imam also had mulaquats with jamats from across the country and was able to discuss with the jamati leadership, the progress that the jamat and institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network had made since his last visit to India in February 1989.

This progress and the outlook for the future was reviewed in the light of the important global geo-political changes that have occurred since that last visit and the recent initiatives that the Government of India has taken towards liberalisation of the economy. The jamat was able to note what these changed world circumstances would mean for it in India.

Among the lessons of the Cold War that these changed circumstances had highlighted for the jamat were the increasing importance of continuing education in a meritocratic society, the cost of conflict, be it ethnic, linguistic or religious in origin, and the need to establish permanent, peaceful and happy relations with peoples of all faiths and backgrounds.

Mowlana Hazar Imam's mulaquats with murids from so many different places during this visit to India also enabled the jamat to reflect upon its global diversity and the strength of that diversity.

As Mowlana Hazar Imam departed for Europe on Tuesday, November 24, the jamat reflected thoughtfully on these sentiments for the future and on its warm memories of this visit - the unity shared by murids from across the country and from all walks of life, the inspiration that each murid drew from a mulaquat with the Imam and the dignity of the various State functions honouring Mowlana Hazar Imam's presence in India.

Source: Ismaili India

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