Professor Zakia A. Siddiqi
Long before the transformation of Mohammadan Anglo Oriental (MAO) College into Aligarh Muslim University, struggle for women's education at Aligarh was started and the mission was led by, Shaikh Abdullah "Papa Mian" and in 1906, a Girls School was started in Aligarh which became Women' College in 1930 and was affiliated to Aligarh Muslim University during the tenure of Sir Ross Masood as Vice-Chancellor. Since then Women's College is an integral part of Aligarh Movement. There is a long list of prominent alumni who graduated from Women’s College and made a reputation in their respective walk of life. Begum Khatun Jahan, Mrs. Mumtaz Jahan Haider, Khursheed Jahan and Birjis Jahan (daughters of Shaikh Abdullah, Papa Mian) were among the early alumni of this college. Later the ranks were joined by literary giants like Ismat Chugtai and Dr. Salma Siddiqi, a prolific fiction writer, biographical sketcher and daughter of Prof. Rasheed Ahmad Siddiqi, famous painting artist based in United States of America, Zarina Hashm, Nayyar Sultana, a well know actress of Pakistan and well known Hindi and Sanskrit writer, Mrs. Kusum Ansal. Begum Abida Ahmad, wife of President of India, Mr. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, Mrs. Salma Ansari, wife of present Vice-president of India, Mr. Hamid Ansari also belongs to the same fraternity. Dr. Qudsia Tahseen, first female of Aligarh Muslim University to become a Fellow of Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore is a proud alumni of Women’s College of Aligarh Muslim University. The list also includes the name of its Principals, Mrs. Mumtaz Jahan Haider (1938-70), Dr. Razia Khan (1970-83), Prof. Miss A. Thomas (1983-87) and Prof. Zakia A. Siddiqi (1987-96).
My first personal encounter with Prof. Zakia A. Siddiqi (who had served as Principal of Women's College from 1987 to 1996) in her office in 1991 was not very pleasant but later on I came to know more about her and her contributions for the cause of women's education and her support to the mission of Shaikh Abdullah "Papa Mian" which made to change my opinion about her. I spoke to her in the recent past over the phone and came to know more about her work and support to the cause. During my recent visit to Aligarh I met her in the condolence meeting of (Late) Prof. Mukhtaruddin Arzoo sahab and personally expressed my gratitude for her association with Female Education Association and the work FEA is doing to promote education among women. This meeting prompted me to write about her on my website in the series of Aligarians.
Here is a brief biographical sketch of Prof. Zakia A. Siddiqi.
Professor Zakia A. Siddiqi (nee Adhami) was born on 16th April 1936 at Allahabad. She received her early education under the tutelage of her eldest sister, Ms Saeeda Faiz, former Principal Government Girls College, at various places in U.P. She passed her high school in 1950, and Intermediate in 1952 from U.P. Board. She joined the Women’s College in 1952 and obtained her B.A. degree in 1954, B. Ed. in 1955 and M. Ed. in 1956.
In July 1956 she was married to Dr Ather H. Siddiqi, then lecturer in Zoology at the Aligarh Muslim University. She proceeded to the USA to join her husband at Purdue University in January 1957 and took up higher studies in Education and obtained the M. S. Ed. degree in 1958. Her field of specialization is Guidance and Counselling and Women’s Education.
She is the daughter of an advocate, Late Md. Sulaiman Adhami, resident of Bansi, District Basti. He was a Nationalist and a freedom fighter, who was also a Member of the U. P. Legislative Assembly for several years.
She was appointed lecturer in Education in 1961, reader in 1977, Professor of Education and Principal of the Women’s College at Aligarh Muslim University in 1987. As Principal of the Women’s College, she was a permanent member of the Court, Executive and Academic Councils of the Aligarh Muslim University for nine years and Provost of Abdullah Hall for eight years.
During her tenure as Principal of the Women’s College, she was also Director, Career Planing Centre in the college and introduced courses for training in sewing, beauticians, besides other professional courses for girls. During her tenure she helped in starting new courses viz., Islamic Studies, philosophy, biochemistry, statistics and commerce for undergraduate students of the College. New labs were constructed for some these courses.
For the first time, Mrs Siddiqi was instrumental in starting a yearly cultural event in the College and laid down the tradition of holding an Indo-Pak Mushaira, in which eminent poets from both countries participated. The famous poets included Sardar Jafri, Kaifi Azmi, Ahmad Faraz, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Parveen Shakir and many others. Beside these famous poets, she invited distinguished personalities to preside over the annual Founders’ Day function of the College (2nd February) . Most notable among those who visited the College were:
Ms Fatima Beevi, Chief Justice of India, Mrs Aruna Asif Ali, Mr Dharam Vir (ICS Begum Habibullah, Professor A. M. Khusro, Professor Moonis Raza, Mrs Najma Heptullah, Mrs Margaret Alva, Prof Gail Minault of the Univeristy of Texas at Austin, TX, Mrs Mohsina Kidwai, Mr Salman Haider (IFS), Mr Arjun Singh (the then HRD Minister, Govt. of India).
During her first few years as Principal she got the College recognised as a separate unit from the Aligarh Muslim University for purposes of UGC grants and funding. For young lady teachers who had small children, she got a crèche built on the college campus, where babies could be looked after while their mothers taught in the college.
During her 35 years of service as lecturer, reader, professor and principal, Mrs. Siddiqi actively participated in the academic, administrative, cultural and corporate life of the university and the Women’s College.
Mrs. Siddiqi was a delegate of a 3–member goodwill delegation of the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India to four Scandinavian countries in 1994. She was a delegate of a 5–member delegation of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Women and Child Development, Government of India and attended a seminar on “Women’s Position in India and the USSR” held in Tashkent in May 1998 and presented a paper on “Education, Professional Training and Skill Improvement for Women in India”.
Mrs. Siddiqi was a member of the Board of Management of the Baba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Lucknow for three years.
Recently the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India, had appointed her a member of the “National Literacy Mission”.
Mrs. Siddiqi is keenly interested in the welfare and upliftment of women. She is the Honorary Secretary of the Female Education Association , Aligarh since 1987. This Association was established by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1904. Under the aegis of this association she organised a seminar on “Muslim Women – Problems and Prospects” in 1992, another seminar on “Education and Empowerment of Women” in 1996 in the Women’s College. She also organized a National Seminar on “Women’s Education and Challenges of the 21st Century in 1998”.
In 2001, she organized a National Seminar on Sheikh Abdullah’s Contribution to Women’s Education and submitted a project for the establishment of a Centre for Women’s Studies at Aligarh. The UGC accepted the proposal and sanctioned a generous grant to start the Centre for Women’s Studies at Aligarh Muslim University in 2001. She was appointed founder–director and worked as Honorary Director, Centre for Women’s Studies, from June 2001 to November 2003. As Honorary Director of the Centre, She organized a Seminar on “VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND THE GIRL CHILD” in 2003.
During the Centenary celebrations of the Female Education Association , she organized a National Seminar in 2004. She organized yet another Seminar on the “BIRTH CENETENARY CELEBRATIONS OF DR RASHEED JAHAN” a famous doctor, fiction writer and social worker in 2005.
Besides Padma Bhushan Award to the best girl of the college, numerous other scholarships are awarded to meritorious students of the Women’s College every year on Founders’ Day by the FEA which also provides assistance to needy girl students in their educational advancement.
Mrs Siddiqi has also undertaken the task of publishing the numerous scattered articles of Sheikh Mohad Abdulla, a prolific writer on various subjects and topics of interest. So far four volumes of INTIKHAB MAZAMEEN SHEIKH MOHD ABDULLAH have been published by the FEA.
She has published a number of papers and books on different aspects of education and women’s problems. She also guided Ph.D. and M. Ed. research projects.
She has participated in a large number of Conferences and Seminars in India and abroad. She is a widely travelled person and has visited USA, UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Nigeria, Libya, USSR, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, China, and Malaysia.
Since 2006 she is overlooking the Aligarh Public School as Officer on Special Duty. This school was established by Professor A. M. Khusro, the then Vice Chancellor in 1977 under Sir Syed Society for Education.
She is currently an elected Member of the A.M.U. Court (2010-12), and a nominated member of a Committee of eminent persons constituted by the Vice-Chancellor for re-looking and reviewing the Aligarh Muslim University Act, 1981 and to make it in tune with the needs of coming generations. She is also a Member of the Women’s Complaint Cell to look into the cases of gender harassment at work in the University.
It can be seen from the above facts that though she retired from active service in 1996, she has re-mained deeply active in the educational, academic, social and cultural life of the Aligarh Muslim University campus and takes part in various ongoing activities.
She has 2 children, a son Sohail Azeem Siddiqi ,who works for British Petroleum and is located in Houston TX, and a daughter, Taab Agnes Siddiqi, who is a business woman and runs a company called Harvest Gold Food Products and is based in New Delhi. She lives at Sir Syed Nagar Aligarh and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at at her phone- 0571-2401756 and 9927206732.