A forgotten Hero of Assam and East Bengal rooted Muslim political graph

” A forgotten Hero of Assam and East Bengal rooted Mia Muslim political graph ” the article is trying to find out the reality of Assam and Muslim presence pre independent era and now.If you are in puzzle to find out the hero ! The obviously he was none of except Sir Syed Muhammad Saadulla who was one of the foremost political leaders of modern Assam and the first Premier (also referred to as Prime Minister or Chief Minister) of the Assam province, one of the major eight provinces of British India.The family of Saadulla hails from Sibsagar and claims to be the descendant of the famous Muslim preacher Azan Pir, who came to Assam in the early 17th century to spread the message of Islam.

Syed Md. Tayebbullah, the father of Saadulla, moved to Gauhati where he served as a teacher of Arabic and Persian in Cotton Collegiate High School at Gauhati town. Saadulla was born in Gauhati on May 21, 1885. He got his early school education at Sonaram High School at Gauhati. He then joined the Cotton College, Gauhati, and took his Post-Graduation degree in Chemistry from the Presidency College, Calcutta, in 1906. Subsequently he took the Bachelor’s Degree in Law from the Earle Law College at Gauhati in 1907. Besides Assamese and Bengali he was also fluent in Arabic, Persian and Urdu.

1. EARLY LIFE OF SYED MUHAMMAD SAADULLA :-

Before Saadulla started his legal profession at Gauhati Bar, he served for a short stint as Assistant Lecturer in Chemistry at the Cotton College in 1908. He practiced at the Calcutta High Court. Within a short time, he became an eminent lawyer.

2. POLITICAL MILEAGE OF SYED MUHAMMAD SAADULLA :-

Then he joined politics and became the member of the first Legislative Council in 1913. He was re-elected in 1923. Under the system of Diarchy, he served as Minister of Education and Agriculture from 1924-29. In recognition of his public services, the British government knighted Saadulla in 1928. He, as a member of the Executive Council of the Governor of Assam, also became Minister for Law and Order and PWD from 1929-30, and again served as Minister for Finance and Law and Order from 1930-1934. He was also the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee from 1933 to 1934.The Government of India Act, 1935 was adopted by the British Parliament on 2nd August, 1935 and was implemented in 1937. The Government of India Act 1935 made provisions for a Legislative Assembly in each province. In 1937 Assam Legislative Assembly election was held. In the same year Saadulla formally joined the Muslim League in response to MA Jinnah’s appeal.

3. SYED MUHAMMAD SAADULLA’S CONTRIBUTION TO ASSAM :-

Saadaulla was elected to the Assam Legislative Assembly from Kamrup South and served as Premier of a coalition government from April 1, 1937 to Sept. 19, 1938. A Congress government led by Gopinath Bordoloi succeeded from Sept. 19, 1938 to Nov. 17, 1939. Saadulla was again re-elected as Premier from Nov. 17, 1939 to Dec. 24, 1941. He, for the third time, became the Premier from Aug. 25, 1942 to Feb. 11, 1946. From 1937-1946 there were 34 Muslim members in the Assam Legislative Assembly, out of the total 108 members (For the list of names see Appendix I).

Saadulla was closely associated with the All India Muslim League. He attended the 10th session of the League at Calcutta in Dec. 1917, and served as a member of the Committee which negotiated the Lucknow Accord between the Muslim League and the Congress. In 1946, he attended demand for Pakistan and favoured Assam’s inclusion in Pakistan. He renounced the knighthood in response to the call of the All-India Muslim League in connection with the “Direct Action” call to achieve Pakistan. However, on partition, when Assam opted out of Pakistan, he stayed in Assam and did not migrate to Pakistan.

4.  SYED MUHAMMAD SAADULLA’S LINE SYSTEM:-

In spite of his impressive political accomplishments Saadulla today remains the least remembered political figure of the state as he was associated with Jinnah’s All India Muslim League and supported two-nation theory. He was and still today often charged with deliberate settlement of Bengali Muslims in Assam through the scheme, introduced by him, known as the Line System. Thereby, the contributions that he had made in building a modern Assam in his capacity as Premier of Assam is today not acknowledged by the Assamese.

5. WHY SYED MUHAMMAD SAADULLA IS FORGOTTEN:-

An article in Muslim India (Jan. 1987) sums up the contributions of Saadulla thus: “He was an able parliamentarian, an eloquent speaker, an experienced administrator, moderate and liberal in his approach. Saadulla is regarded as one of the makers of modern Assam. As head of the Assam Government, he took particular interest in planning and development, in rural uplift, in eradication of unemployment, in land reform and in promotion of cottage industries. For the development of the low-lying regions of the Brahmaputra and Barak valleys, he favoured and encouraged immigration of peasants from Bengal and should be given credit for the agricultural development of Assam, particularly the introduction of jute in the Assam valley. His critics charge him with deliberate settlement of Bengali Muslims in Assam.”In another write-up in The Milli Gazette (16-30 Sept. 2002) Saadulla was described thus: “Saadulla was well-known for his generosity, honesty and ability. He was a matured, widely respected and accepted political leader of his time. He was a friend and guide of the tribal people of North-east India. In his first cabinet itself, he included a tribal leader, J.J.M. Nichols Roy as one of his ministers. He was regarded as an outstanding personality both on account of his experience, ability and honesty… he was in a class different from any other politician in Assam.”

6.  PRE INDEPENDENT MUSLIM MLA’S OF ASSAM:-

Appendix-I
Muslim members of Assam Legislative Assembly – 1937-46

No.
Name of Member
Constituency
1.
Sir Syed Muhammad Saadulla
Kamrup (South)
2.
Shams-ul-Ulama Maulana Abu Nasr Muhammad Waheed
Sylhet Sadr (Central)
3
Abdul Aziz
South Syhlet (Central)
4.
Abdul Bari Chaudhury
Sunamganj(Smlth) Muhammadan
5
Abdul Hamid Khan
Dhubri (South)
6
Khan Bahadur Hazi Abdul Majid Chaudhury
Karimganj (Central)Muhammadan.
7
Abdul Matin Choudhury
Sylhet Sadar (East)
8
Abdur Rahman
Habiganj (South-East)
9
Sayed Abdul Rouf
Barpeta, Muhammadan
10
Md. Abdus Salam
Sylhet Sadar (North)
11
Dewan Muhammad Ahbab Choudhury
Sunamganj (East)
12
Dawan Ali Raja
Habiganj (North-West)
13.
Mohammad Amjad Ali
Goalpara (East)
14
Mohammad Amiruddin
Nowgong Mohhemedan (East)
15.
Ashrafuddin Md. Choudhury
Habiganj (South East)
16
Badaruddin Ahmed
Darrang Muhammedan
17.
Khan Bahadur Dewan Eclimur Roza Choudhury
Sylhet Sadar (West)
18
Fakaruddin Ali Ahmed
Kamrup North
19
Ghyasuddin Ahmed
Dhubri (West)
20
Jhanuddin Ahmed
Dhubri (North Muhammadan)
21
Khan Bahadur Keramet Ali
Sibsagar, Muhammadan
22
Matior Rahman Mia
Goalpara (West)
23.
Muhammad Maqbul Hussain Choudhury
Sunamganj (West)
24.
Khan Bahadur Maulavi Mahamud Ali
Sibsagar Muhammadan
25
Mabarak Ali
Karimganj (West) Muhammadan
26
Mudabbir Hussain Choudhury.
Habiganj (North East)
27
Khan Bahadur Maulavi Mafizur Rahman
Sylhet Sadar (South)
28
Munawwar Ali
Sunamganj (Central) Muhammadan
29
Muzarrof Ali Laskar
Hailakandi Muhammadan
30
Aanwar Ali Barbhuiya
Silchar Muhammadan
31
Naziruddin Ahmed
South Sylhet (West)
32
Sheik Osman Ali Sadagar
Sadagor Muhammadan Constituency. Nowgong.
33
Khan Sahib Maulavi Sayidur Rahman
Lakhipur Muhammadan.
34
Muhammad Ali Haidar Khan
South-Sylhet (east)
Source: assamassembly.gov.in/mla-1937-46.html

Appendix-II
Muslim Members of Assam Legislative Assembly – 1946-1952

No.
Name of Member
Constituency
1
Muhammad Abdullah
Habiganj(South-East)
2
Khan Bahadur Abdul Majid Ziaosh Shams
Dhubri (West)
3
Muhammad Abdul Kasham
Dhubri (South)
4
Abdul Bari Choudhury
Sunamganj (South)
5
Dewan Abdul Basith
South Sylhet (Central)
6
Abdul Hai
Kamrup (North)
7
Abdul Hamid
Sylhet Sadar (Central)
8
Abdul Khaleque Ahmed
Sunamganj (West)
9
Abdul Kuddus Khan
Goalpara (East)
10
Md. Abdul Latif
Karimganj (Central)
11
Abdul Matin Chaudhuri
Darrang
12
Abdul Matlib Mazumdar
Halakandi
13
Abdur Rasheed
Sylhet Sadar (East)
14
Dewan Abdur Rob Choudhury
Sylhet Sadar (South)
15
Syed Abdur Rouf
Barpeta
16
Afazuddin Ahmed
Nowgong (East)
17
Md. Ali Haidar Khan
South Sylhet (East)
18
Emran Hussain Chaudhury
Sibsagar
19
Maulana Ibrahim Ali
Sylhet, Sadar (North)
20
M. Idris Ali
Karimganj (West)
21
Md. Mafiz Choudhury
Sunamganj (West)
22
Makabbir Ali Mazumdar
Silchar
23
Mayeenud Din Ahamed Choudhury
South Sylhet (East)
24
Md. Mased Ali
Dhubri (North)
25
Khan Sahib Maulavi Mudabbir Hussain Choudhuri
Habiganj, (South- West)
26
Mumtazul Muhaddisin Moulana Md. Mufazzal Hussain
Karimganj (South)
27
Munawwar Ali
Sunamganj (Central)
28
Nasir-ud-Din Ahmed
Habiganj (South-West)
29
Md. Nazmal Haque
Goalpara (West)
30
Khan Sahib Nurul Hussain Khan
Habiganj (South-West)
31
Khan Bahadur Muhammad Roufique.
Nowgong (West).
32
Sir Syed Muhammad Saadulla
Kamrup (South)
33
Khan Bahadur Sayidur Rahman
Lakhimpur
34
Dewan Taimur Raza Choudhury
Sylhet Sadar (West)


Source: assamassembly.gov.in/mla-1946-52.html

7.  PRESENCE OF MUSLIM MLA’S SHOWING MESSAGES:-

The number of MLA’s is a clear indication that pre independent Assam and present Assam is same but a few self styled organisation want to say that Muslims are coming from foreign country.First, that illegal immigration of Bengali Muslim peasants from neighbouring Bangladesh into Assam has been continuing unabated, leading to skewed demographic profiles of Assam’s districts bordering Bangladesh and thereafter, turning several adjoining districts of Assam to Muslim majority.
Second, that these illegal Bengali Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh have rapaciously encroached upon and occupied land belonging to the native communities, thereby creating a volatile situation for potential violence and lethal clashes between illegal immigrants and natives.Third, that the ethnic clash that began between the native Bodos (‘Hindu’ Bodos, as emphatically pointed out by the Election Commissioner Shri H. S. Brahma who hails from the community) and illegal Muslim immigrants settled in Kokrajhar was a result of aggression and attack by the latter on the Bodos, emboldened by their growing numerical strength, or in the least, was a spontaneous reaction of Bodos to the growing aggression of the immigrants and progressive usurpation of native land and resources by them.The above perceptions are, however, far from accurate. In order to understand why, it would be important to carefully re-examine how they have emerged, the inherent flaws in the assumptions and what the reality actually is.
‘Migration’ rather than ‘illegal immigration’ is largely responsible for demographic transformation.
The migration of Bengali Muslim peasants from East Bengal into Assam has certainly transformed the demography of the latter, more noticeably in some districts, but to claim all of it happened due to illegal immigration from Bangladesh is not only historically incorrect, but wilful distortion of facts.

Source:  Nilim Dutta

8. REALITY OF EAST ROOTED MUSLIM IN ASSAM:-

The migration of Bengali Muslim peasants from erstwhile East Bengal began in the 1800s after the British annexed Assam in 1826, with the Treaty of Yandaboo after defeating the Burmese in the First Anglo Burmese War. ‘Malevolent’ colonial policies of the British in Bengal, such as the Permanent Settlement, had already wreaked Bengal’s economy and pauperized its artisans and peasantry. Severe exploitation under its zamindari system added to the woes of the peasantry. In the geographically contiguous province of Assam, population density was low, land was abundant and there was no zamindari system. It was just a matter of time before an impoverished and harassed Bengali Muslim peasantry began migrating in a trickle which became a deluge, encouraged by the British. It served their purpose to settle large numbers of Bengalis on vacant land to increase land revenue, as well as have readily available cheap labour in a labour-deficient province. Initially, the immigrants were welcomed by even the Assamese landed gentry for the cheap labour.By the second decade of the 20th century, however, this incessant influx became a cause for alarm and a ‘Line System’ was introduced in the affected districts of Nagaon and Kamrup in 1920, restricting immigrants from settling beyond certain limits on land over which natives claimed rights. That is how vast tracts of land in the then undivided Nagaon, Kamrup and Goalpara districts came to be settled by immigrant Bengali Muslim peasants in the decades before Partition, and independence.With each successive group of immigrants, and with restrictions imposed barring their indiscriminate spread, the quality of land they found to settle themselves on, became progressively degraded. Many were left to settle on marshy wastelands and the shifting sandbars of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries called chars or chaporis in the vast floodplains of the valley. This is where a substantial percentage of their descendents still live after nearly a century. At the mercy of annual floods, shifting of the chars regularly and incessant erosion of their lands by the Brahmaputra and its tributaries, a large percentage of the Muslim population of immigrant origin in these districts is rendered homeless regularly. To eke out a living, they often migrate to the towns and cities as construction labourers, vegetable vendors or rickshaw pullers, living in ghettoized shanty towns, raising the spectre of illegal Bangladeshis in minds of a hostile urban elite with little sympathy or insight into realities of life about the areas they have migrated from. Source:  Nilim Dutta

Editor’s Note:-

Dr Syed Ahmed is an Indian politician and author. Dr Syed obtained his masters from Lucknow University and his PhD from Bombay University. He has written an autobiography, Pagdandi se Shahar Tak. His other works authored include Maktal se Manzil, Kafas se Chaman and Jange-Azaadi Me Urdu Shayari.Catch him at his official website