People's Mission to the Ottoman Empire
Oxford University Press, 2014
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In the body of scholarship on Ottoman and Indian pan-Islamism and its influence on the 1919 Khilafat Movement in India, the 1912-1913 Indian Medical Mission is understudied as a manifestation of late19th-early 20th century pan-Islamist political institutionalism and internationalism. During the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 the people of India mobilized to despatch three medical teams to treat woundedOttoman Soldiers. Among them the one organized by Mohammad Ali Jauhar and directed by Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari caught the limelight thanks to the regular reports sent home by the director of the Mission and published at the weekly Comrade Journal. Comrade was closed down shortly after and the letters of Dr. Ansari remained under-researched ever since. The book provides a study of the letters by the director of the Mission and the political and ideational context of the period in a bid to provide the first full narrative history of the Medical Mission, detailing its simultaneously humanitarian and political purposes and activities in Turkey.
The Indian Medical Mission reached Istanbul on the last day of1912 and stayed continuously in Turkey until late June 1913. In the process, the Medical Mission established two field hospitals and conducted other humanitarian and political work in support of the Ottomans. Their political activities revolved mainly around the work on the establishment of a Muslim university under the name of Medina University and an International Muslim Cooperative League, with one million shares to be sold to the Muslims of Turkey, India, Egypt, Morocco, Persia, and other Muslim countries. The object of this cooperative society would be to foster Muslim industries and to encourage industrial development in Turkey. The Indian Medical Mission also devoted significant attention and effort to the humanitarian project mainly to address the woes of the Balkan refugees. The emphasis that the team laid in the resettlementof the Balkan refugees was a direct consequence of the plight of the refugees directly observed by the Indian team as they arrived in Turkey. They listened to their stories which detailed how masses of Turkish civilians were killed, maimed, raped, and expelled from their homes, forced into a long march to safety in the remaining Ottoman territories. Towards the end of the first phase of the Balkan Wars, when the two hospitals transitioned from treating those wounded in battles to providing care to thesick, the work on resettling the refugees from the Balkans was pursued as a priority.
The book thus provides an account of an early example of religious internationalism, and humanitarianism, different from traditional notions of Islamic unity and current violent streak that has hijacked the debate. The book suggests that the pan-Islamism of the age was employed by the Ottomans as a public diplomacy instrument and as an element of deterrence against the imperial European powers bent on dismembering the Ottoman state, imperial Britain in particular.
The Mission's primary achievement was to help protect the self-image of the embattled Indian Muslims and contribute to the gathering independence movement in India. However, the Muslim world has found its pride not through pan-Islamism but rather in the form of the democratic and secular Turkish Republic founded Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
The book is the first ever full account of the Indian Medical Mission to the Ottoman Empire which re-enacts the Mission and its period through the words of its director and contextualizes the Mission and the popular support behind it back in India by integrating European/Balkan, Ottoman Turkish and Indian historiographies, while studying the evolution of the concept of pan-Islamism as well as Muslim humanitarianism.
Researching and writing People's Mission was a delightful experience.
I launched the book with a lecture at St. Anthony's College, Oxford University. Here is the link to its podcast:
I take pride in having been invited to deliver the 2016 Annual Azad Memorial Lecture at the Indian Council for Historical Research. The Lecture was entitled "Connected Histories of Humanitarianisms" and based on my research for this book.
Having taken stage as author at the Jaipur Literary Festival was also something to remember.
You can visit my academic profile at academia.edu: