Nestled in the concrete jungles of the old part of the Indian capital Delhi, a two-story yellow house reminds the Indian subcontinent’s contribution to Turkey’s War of Independence (1919-1923).
Exactly 100 years ago, India’s both Hindu and Muslims leaders had assembled in this house and decided to observe March 19 as Khilafat Day all over Indian subcontinent in protest against the Allied Forces’ occupation of Istanbul three days earlier.
The Khilafat Movement was launched by Muslims living under British India (current Pakistan, India and Bangladesh) and supported by Mahatma Gandhi to help the Ottoman Empire.
The semi-decrepit building, belonging to Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, a U.K.-educated doctor and leader of India’s Congress party, was not only the resting place for India’s freedom icon Mahatma Gandhi in Delhi but also a center for the movement to help the Ottoman Empire in critical times when colonial powers were bent on its fragmentation.
Ansari himself had led a medical mission to Istanbul to treat wounded Turkish soldiers during the Balkan Wars.
The fragmentation of the Ottoman was not a religious or sentimental issue for Hindus, as it was for Muslims, but it brought both communities together to show dissatisfaction with British rule.
On a busy street in old Delhi’s Daryaganj locality, the hub of book publishing, the house marked as number 1 Ansari Road has witnessed many twists and turns of Indian history. The road, which once had 24 palatial bungalows of five acres each, owned by rulers of provinces at that time has given way to way to a dense locality dotted with the shops of book publishers.
An ardent supporter of Turkey, Ansari lived at this palatial house and hosted meetings of leaders to devise ways to help the Ottomans.
The house, known as Darus Salam, is now owned by 70-year-old D.B. Jain, also a medical doctor by profession. His grandfather Lala Raj Kishan Jain, a close friend of Ansari, had purchased this house in 1948 from his adopted daughter, Johra Bai, paying a princely sum of $6,738.
“Our grandfather left five-acre land, and we, three brothers, still own over 50% of it. I own the main house and I have done all that is needed to keep it in its original form. I have a strong emotional attachment to the building, this is where I have lived a large part of my life, I like it the way it is,” said Dr. Jain, while speaking to Anadolu Agency.
For keeping the historical building in its original shape and for its upkeep, Jain has won several heritage awards.
The historic house retains old furniture
The house still retains some of the old furniture. Pointing out towards a grand sofa set in the large drawing-room, Jain said it belonged to Ansari. Many influential people like Mahatma Gandhi have used it.
In 1949, Lala Jain rented the building to a leading newspaper, which vacated it only in 1980, after the intervention of the Indian Supreme Court.
Presently, Dr. Jain runs a clinic, known as the Delhi Nursing Home from a nearby building, built on the courtyard and garden area of the house. Dr. Ansari also ran a clinic in the house, post-1910, upon his return from London, and treated rulers and princes.
Much before the house became Ansari’s residence, it used to house a library of Prince Dara Shikoh, eldest son of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, in the 17th century.
Experts believe that events in Turkey had served to bind the Hindu and Muslim communities together in India.
The mass drive known as the Khilafat movement was launched in 1919 by leaders like Shaukat Ali, Mohammad Ali Jauhar, Hakim Ajmal Khan, and India’s first Education Minister Abul Kalam Azad in protest against the sanctions placed on the Ottoman Empire after the First World War by the Armistice of Mudros.
Dr. Ansari was instrumental in collecting funds for the Turkish relief fund. He had also formed a mission of five doctors to help Turkey and sailed from Bombay (now Mumbai). This mission rendered service to the needy. The first Provincial Khilafat Conference was held at the Calcutta (now Kolkata) Town Hall on Feb. 28, 1920.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.