It is a pity that the passing away of Ahsan Raza Khan has been widely reported in the context of his supposedly being a teacher of President Hamid Karzai. He deserves to be mourned and remembered for other reasons. First, to set the record straight. Khan was not the teacher of Karzai who was a student of Political Science at Shimla. Khan was a kind of mentor to Karzai who gave emotional support and provided intellectual growth to a lonely Pakhtun boy from Kandahar.
Ahsan Raza Khan, born in Rampur in 1939 joined AMU in 1960 after passing B.A from the Government Raza Degree College in his native place. He passed M.A (History) from Aligarh in 1962 and joined as a Research Scholar in the History Department to work on Chieftains under Akbar. He was awarded PhD degree in 1971 which was published by the Institute of Advanced Studies, Simla in 1977 as "Chieftains under the Mughals during the reign of Akbar" and is now regarded as a seminal work. He joined as Lecturer Department of History in Rajasthan University in 1966 from where he moved to the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies Shimla a few years later and joined the Himachal Pradesh University in 1976 soon after its establishment and remained with the University for the rest of his career developing a fine center for education and research in Medieval History of the region. Lack of access to original source material impeded his personal research career but he turned out to be an inspiring teacher and research guide to scores of students from Punjab, Himachal and Haryana. He was the presiding deity of the Coffee House at Shimla which was the hub of the intellectuals of the place and where he made Hamid Karzai learn his own historical context - Khan had firm grasp over the history of 'Kabul Subah' during the Mughal empire.
A leader among Historians, he was for long a Member of the Council of the Indian Council of Historical Research. He played a very constructive role in updating History curriculum in school and was in the forefront of the efforts to communalize historiography. His other well known work, "The Ayodhya Syndrome" is a telling evidence of his commitment to the cause of non partisan historiography. It is a pity that his location at a 'marginal location' kept him away from the limelight though the prestigious Central University did him the honour of appointing him as an Honorary Professor there.
An obituary note is not the place to mention full facts, it may suffice to note that his non appointment as a teacher in Aligarh is in itself an instructive accounts and depicts the way in which extraneous considerations have always played a part in faculty appointments in the institution.
*Mr. Naved Masood is an AMU Alum and a senior Civil Servant in Govt. of India and he is based in New Delhi. He can be reached at email@example.com