She was a sym­bol of em­pow­er­ment

Her life will con­tinue to in­spire us all!

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Front Page - DR. AM­RITA DASS

Begum Hamida Habibul­lah was elected MLA from Haider­garh in 1969 and served as state min­is­ter of so­cial wel­fare, na­tional in­te­gra­tion and civil de­fence from 1971–73 and tourism min­is­ter from 1971­74. She was also a so­cial worker who worked for ed­u­ca­tion and em­pow­er­ment of women. The city fondly re­mem­bers her for her multi­faceted per­son­al­ity and con­tri­bu­tions

In the pass­ing on of Begum Habibul­lah, the pride of Luc­know, our coun­try has lost a great per­son­al­ity who has left be­hind an in­deli­ble legacy. She was the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of all those qual­i­ties that make a per­son great – what Aris­to­tle de­scribed as “mag­nif­i­cence and mag­na­nim­ity” and Alexan­der Har­vard as “vir­tu­ous lead­er­ship”. Above all, she was com­pas­sion­ate and made it a point to help those in need.

From a young age, she demon­strated the courage to fol­low her heart. Born and brought up in Hy­der­abad, she used to visit Luc­know with her mother dur­ing the free­dom move­ment. In a con­ver­sa­tion, she re­called that “Ma­hatma Gandhi was very ac­tive in Luc­know and was ad­vo­cat­ing the burn­ing of ev­ery­thing that was for­eign. There was my grand­fa­ther (a judge of the High Court) on the one hand who wouldn’t hear any­thing against the Bri­tish while on the other, my fa­ther (a lawyer and judge qual­i­fied from Eng­land) and I were ar­dent fol­low­ers of Gand­hiji!”

Her hus­band, Gen­eral Enaith Habibul­lah, had the dis­tinc­tion of found­ing the Na­tional De­fence Academy in Khadak­wasla. They were from con­trast­ing fam­ily back­grounds – he from an ul­tra­mod­ern An­glophile fam­ily and she from an os­ten­si­bly con­ser­va­tive but highly ed­u­cated and for­ward-look­ing one with a strong sense of ground re­al­ity. Both were ide­al­ists and she never hes­i­tated to say that “it was a won­der­ful mar­riage”.

As an Army wife, her con­tri­bu­tion to the wel­fare cen­tres was much ap­pre­ci­ated and is still re­called with nos­tal­gia by the fam­i­lies of the erst­while jawans.

Begum Habibul­lah’s list of ac­com­plish­ments is in­deed com­mend­able. She was a bril­liant stu­dent, an MA and gold medal­list from Os­ma­nia Univer­sity and a de­gree holder from Put­ney Col- lege in Eng­land. She used the lat­ter op­por­tu­nity to travel around Europe with her mother and friends be­fore re­turn­ing to In­dia to marry her fu­ture hus­band .

She was a mem­ber of the UP Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly from 1969–74, min­is­ter of state, gov­ern­ment of UP from 1971–73 and mem­ber of the Ra­jya Sabha from 1976–82. Soon af­ter her hus­band’s death, she served as sec­re­tary gen­eral and then pres­i­dent of the In­dian Coun­cil for Child Wel­fare. In this ca­pac­ity, she cared for the wel­fare of street chil­dren and im­proved the work­ing con­di­tions of the adop­tion homes. All the while, she never lost touch with the vil­lages she had vis­ited dur­ing her po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

As a chair­per­son of SEWA, Begum Habibul­lah along with Runa Ban­nerji and Se­hba Hus­sain did won­ders for the up­lift­ment of women and the re­vival of the art of Chikankari. She mo­ti­vated and em­pow­ered thou­sands of women as the pres­i­dent of the Avadh Girls’ De­gree Col­lege and the Tal­im­gah-e- Niswan, a school for Mus­lim girls founded by her late mother-in-law and her sis­ter (which was the first of its kind for Mus­lim girls in pur­dah). It started with three girls and now, as an In­ter Col­lege, has over 3,000 stu­dents – many of whom fol­lowed ca­reers of their choice.

Gen and Begum Habibul­lah’s chil­dren have done re­mark­ably well. Wa­ja­hat Habibul­lah joined the IAS and had an il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer. Na­zli Sid­diqui is a com­mit­ted med­i­cal pro­fes­sional. Late Ru­manna Hus­sain was a gifted artist and re­mem­bered with high re­gard by the artist com­mu­nity.

Begum Hamida’s gra­cious hos­pi­tal­ity was leg­endary. The “open house” dur­ing Eid at her res­i­dence, the Habibul­lah fam­ily home that brought to­gether all sec­tions of so­ci­ety, was al­ways a mem­o­rable event.

At the glo­ri­ous age of 101 years, she was per­haps the youngest of us all – pos­i­tive, en­er­getic, and full of fun. Her dress sense, cou­pled with grace, el­e­gance and charm, was un­par­al­leled. Be­gun Hamida Habibul­lah’s ex­em­plary life will con­tinue to in­spire us all!


▪ Begum Hamida Habibul­lah with for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Indira Gandhi.


▪ (Clock­wise from top) Begum Hamida Habibul­lah in her ear­lier days; with fam­ily and her hus­band Gen­eral Enaith Habibul­lah; with her great grand­sons; Begum’s griev­ing son Wa­ja­hat Habibul­lah; rel­a­tives and friends pay­ing trib­ute to the de­parted soul; her body be­ing brought to Habibul­lah Es­tate in Luc­know and an ear­lier pic­ture of Begum Hamida Habibul­lah at her house.

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