Remembering Sir Syed Muhammad Saadulla, the first Premier of Assam

Kolkata, WEST BENGAL / ASSAM :

Sir Syed Muhammad Saadulla 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.

SirSaadulla01MPOsSept2017

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.

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.

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.

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, 6th from left (standing) and his daughter Betty (extreme left, sitting) attending a wedding at Shillong in the 1930s.[Photo courtesy: www.motijan-hazarika-rahman.com]
Saadulla, 6th from left (standing) and his daughter Betty (extreme left, sitting) attending a wedding at Shillong in the 1930s.[Photo courtesy: www.motijan-hazarika-rahman.com]
In 1946, he was re-elected to the Legislative Assembly from Kamrup South constituency and became leader of the Muslim League in the house (See Appendix-II for the list of Muslim members of Assam Legislative Assembly). He became a member of the Constituent Drafting Committee. As a member of the committee he helped in giving special financial assistance for Assam. He also took keen interest in protecting the rights of the minority communities. After the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly or the Provincial Parliament, he retired from public life and settled down in Gauhati. Later, the family of Saadulla moved to Kacharihat and established the Syedbari tea estate that is still run by his descendants.

Saadulla died on Jan. 8, 1955 at the age of 70.

In his later political life, 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.

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.

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.”

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

source: http://www.twocircles.net / TwoCircles.net / Home> Articles> Indian Muslim / by Dr. Syed Ahmed for TwoCircles.net / October 10th, 2011

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *