Not Bookish Scholarship
Mirza didn’t think of himself as an erudite scholar in polity. He was not too interested in the science of politics nor just theory. What he wanted was peace and contentment of the common people. He left the bookish knowledge to others.
Mirza gave consent to the federal system within which the Mysore State would become a part of the Indian Union. The then Government of India had designed a blueprint for a federal system and had sent it to the Mysore State for approval. Mirza called for a meeting of a few select individuals to discuss the proposal and if necessary suggest corrections and changes before sending it back to the Government of India. The people in that meeting included the Diwan himself (i.e. Mirza Ismail), S P Rajagopalacharya, Justice Madhava Rau, and a few others. After the meeting concluded, Rajagopalacharya called me and said, “Before you leave, come and meet me in my chambers.” When I went to his room, he said, “The blueprint that we just discussed and finalized has a major flaw. In the case of the judiciary, there is ambiguity with regard to whether the Mysore State would join the Indian Union or not. When I informed Mirza about this, he merely said, ‘Is that such an important matter? We can deal with it later!’ Now, can we afford to go wrong in such an important matter? Meet Mirza immediately and discuss this with him.”
As per his instructions, I went to Mirza’s office and brought up the matter related to the judiciary. He said, “Is it that important? Rajagopalacharya too brought this up during our discussion. Is it such a big deal?”
“Yes, it is indeed important!” said I.
“Have you read the treatise?”
I said, “Yes I have!” and opened the relevant sections of the treatise of law and placed it in front of him.
He smiled and said, “If you have studied it, then that’s fine. Let us include this point.”
Mirza was not a bookish man. But he never denied the importance of theoretical learning either. Bookish erudition is extremely important and it is definitely needed for us. But others can do that; I’m not cut out for that!” was his considered opinion.
Patronage to Learning
Whenever difficult questions would arise—related to finance, taxes, judiciary, technical details related to construction of civil amenities—if he thought it was out of the range of his expertise, he sent such folders to trusted experts for their comments and explanations. Brajendra Nath Seal, K S Chandrashekhara Aiyer, K R Srinivasa Iyengar, M N Krishna Rao, and others were in this close circle. Files and details related to a few extremely important matters would be sent to more than one expert, their comments would be collated, and on the basis of all their comments, decisions were taken, with a holistic perspective.
Mirza Ismail had formed two committees to discuss and thoroughly review all questions related to how the Mysore State should progress and how the country should move forward. One of them was called the ‘Political Affairs Committee.’ I don’t remember the name of the other. However, the committees weren’t successful. They were dissolved after a few months.
Probably there is none who has been able to completely avoid the notoriety that arises from distributing contracts related to government work! An administrator invariably belonged to a certain religion, caste, or community. If people hailing from that social group progress, it is not rare that the administrator is accused of favouring his kinsmen.
Mirza also had to face such allegations.
In sum, I don’t feel that Mirza unjustly favoured Muslims. I can’t say that he was deliberately unjust towards any of them, be it Muslims, Hindus, or Christians. He used a mixed policy when it came to distributing government contracts and subsidies. No community should feel left out and at the same time nobody should get more than he expects. If on one occasion a certain group would get a contract, the next time another group would get it; if in a certain field one group was the beneficiary, in another field a different group would benefit. Overall there should be some notion of equality. This was his opinion.
Such a policy would invariably lead to the dissatisfaction of one group or the other. As impossible as it is for a judge to give a judgment favouring both parties, the distribution of such contracts and subsidies too can never make everyone happy. A certain type of work can be assigned to one party, not two. Thus from the administrator’s perspective, both fame and notoriety is guaranteed. No amount of discussion and debate would lead to any meaningful solution. If Mirza or someone else was accused as biased, the only answer that can be given is: let them find satisfactory answers for such things from their own conscience.
There were situations that regularly placed Mirza in moral dilemmas. One such topic was cow protection. The Hindus demanded that the Mysore State should support a cow protection law. The Muslims argued that such a thing shouldn’t be dealt with by the State; if so it would lead to curtailment of one of the rights that have been around for a long time.
Is there any solution amicable to both the parties in this matter? A committee was formed by the government in 1926 to cogitate over this and Sir Puttanna Shetty was appointed as its President. The committee brought in many witnesses and after investigation recommended that cow protection was very much needed and suggested other solutions that didn’t involve the State or the Judiciary.
Mirza being a Muslim and the Mahārāja being a devout Hindu, no party got the upper hand and the affairs were handled with the vision of equality.
A weird incident took place early in Mirza’s tenure as Dewan, circa 1926–27. C M Garudacharya, the son of Mirza’s teacher Prof. C M Vijayaraghavacharya, started a bus service in Bangalore. Mirza was instrumental in providing support from the government’s side. The people who rode tongas (jaṭaka) suffered losses due to this new mode of transportation. They held Mirza responsible for their plight. They shouted slogans and held a strike. All the tonga owners in the city brought their tongas and parked them in front of the Bangalore Palace. I had been there to see it. The place was filled with horse dung and people were screaming on the top of their voices. Many Muslims were shouting slogans like: “How is Mirza a Muslim? He doesn’t even sport a beard!”
Muslims accused him of being favourable to Hindus, while Hindus accused him to be biased towards Muslims!
One who adheres to dharma should be indifferent to both the parties and conduct himself in an impartial manner. He must undertake that which will lead to the welfare of all the people, adhering to his conscience. It is difficult for one to possess such a firm mind. But if one doesn’t have that fortitude, the accomplishment of justice becomes difficult.
Mirza was an unequivocal opponent of the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. His desire was to leave no stone unturned when it comes to achieving unity among Hindus and Muslims and also infuse a strong sense of Indianness (Bhāratīyatā) among Christians and members of all religions.