Role of Akram Hussain Saikia in the freedom struggle of India

Remembering the nationalist Muslim leader on the completion of the Birth Centenary Celebration

By Nurur Rahim Majumdar,

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The role played by the Muslim nationalist leaders of Assam in the freedom struggle of India cannot be ignored. These Muslim nationalist leaders whether they are from Assam Valley or from Barak Valley have equally played their vital role in India’s struggle for freedom. Every movement whether it is Khilafat Movement or it is Quit India Movement (Bharat Chhodo Andolon or August Kranti) which was started as a Civil Disobedience movement in India in response to Mahatma Gandhi’s call for immediate Independence, the Muslim nationalist leaders of Assam equally responded to the call of Mahatma Gandhiji.

But unfortunately, the role played by the Muslim nationalist leaders of Assam in the freedom movement of India appears to be a forgotten part of Indian History today.

Akram Hussain Saikia 1914-1979
Akram Hussain Saikia (file photo)

The nationalist Muslims of Assam came under the umbrella of the Assam Provincial Congress Committee, Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, Jamiatul Ansar, National Muslim Convention of Cachar, Socialist Congress and Communist Party of India etc., and worked under the leadership of nationalist minded Muslims such as – Maulana Abdul Jalil Choudhury, Maulana Ibrahim Ali Chautali, Maulana Mushahid Ali, Maulana Yakub Ali, Hurmat Ali Barlaskar , Abdul Matlib Mazumdar , Gulam Sabir Khan, Sikandar Ahmad Gazi , Akram Hussain Saikia, Fakaruddin Ali Ahmed, Mohammad Tayabullah, Mohibuddin Ahmed and many others unsung heroes of freedom struggle.

On the other hand, the communalist Muslims of Assam belonged to the Assam Provincial Muslim League, Jamiat Ulama Islam, Anjumane Ulama of Bengal and Assam. They were guided by communal leaders such as Munawar Ali, Abdul Matin Choudhury, Dewan Mohammad Azraf, Moinul Haque Choudhury, Maulana Sahul Usmani, Maulana Sakawatul Ambia, Sir Syed Mohammad Saadullah, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Basani and others.

1946 Cabinet Mission to India: The United Kingdom Cabinet Mission of 1946 to India aimed to discuss and plan for the transfer of power from the British Government to Indian leadership providing India with independence. The Cabinet Mission had prolonged discussion with Indian leaders of all parties and groups. But as the Congress and the League could not come to any amicable agreement on the fundamental issue of the unity or partition of India, the Mission put forward its own plan which was issued on May 16, 1946.

Akram Hussain Saikia along with Fakaruddin Ali Ahmed, Abdul Matlib Mazumder, Mohd. Tayabullah and many other prominent Muslim nationalist leaders of Assam vehemently objected the two nation theory and the criminal conspiracy to merge Assam with Pakistan. The full autonomy of the provinces and the provisions for grouping were meant to give the Muslim League the substance of Pakistan. The nationalist group stood vehemently against the drastic conspiracy of the communalist forces. Akram Hussain Saikia, Fakaruddin Ali Ahmed, Abdul Matlib Mazumdar, M Tayabullah , Maulana Abdul Jalil Choudhury of the Assam Provincial Congress Committee along with Assam Provincial Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind and other nationalist leaders travelled the length and breadth of Assam in order to generate public awareness about the Muslim League’s propaganda to incorporate Assam within the eastern part of Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

Not only that, to resist each and every probable plotting to include Assam with East Pakistan in the grouping scheme under Cabinet Mission Plan 1946, the Group comprising Gopinath Bordoloi, Mohd Tayabullah, Fakaruddin Ali Ahmed, Akram Hussain Saikia, Maulana Abdul Jalil Choudhury and other front ranking nationalist leaders of Assam went all the way to Delhi and met the Indian National Congress leaders namely, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and succeeded in their mission to get the assistance to resist all such move to merge Assam with Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

The dream of including Assam into Pakistan went into vain due to the timely move of all the Muslim nationalist leaders of Assam. Akram Hussain Saikia played a key role in the independence movement of India and did not even hesitate to contest the provincial Assembly election held in British India in January, 1946 from Kamrup South Assembly Constituency as a Congress candidate against the strong Indian Muslim League contender & Premier of Assam Province Stalwart Sir Syed Mohammad Saadullah.

The Muslim votes went in favour of the communalist Muslim League candidates causing many of the front ranking nationalist Muslim Congress leaders of Assam namely, Fakaruddin Ali Ahmed, who contested the election from Kamrup North and Akram Hussain Saikia from South Kamrup faced defeat to their rival Muslim League candidates.

Out of the ferocious struggle against the communalist group, among the nationalist Muslims, my grandfather Abdul Matlib Mazumder has been successfully retained the Hailakandi Legislative assembly constituency seat by defeating the Muslim league candidate in 1946. Gopinath Bordoloi became the Premier of Assam on February 11, 1946 and Abdul Matlib Mazumder also got a berth in the Bordoloi Ministry in 1946.

Akram Hussain Saikia had to face humiliation a number of occasions by the communal forces and attempt of assault physically as many as in three occasions but narrowly escaped unhurt in spite of that, he refused to surrender to the communal forces. Because of his straight forwardness, courage and determination both Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose profusely praised him. Akram Hussain Saikia was again nominated as an official Congress candidate in the general election to the Assam assembly in 1952 under the Constitution of free India from Kamalpur Assembly Constituency with joint electorate. Saikia was new to the electorate and conspiracy of socialist group lead to his defeat with a very narrow margin.

Akram Hussain Saikia without looking back continued to work as a loyal worker of the party and engaged his social and political activities and spread his wings in the service to the upliftment of rural areas. Saikia was even offered position of a judge in 1951 at the Gauhati High Court but he refused such a lucrative offer in order to be associated to social service.

Saikia was elected to the post of the Vice-Chairman of the Guwahati Local Board by defeating the Muslim League candidate and occupied the office of the Vice- Chairman from 1945 to the fullest satisfaction of the citizen of Guwahati and when Siddhi Nath Sarmah was elected to the Assam Legislative Assembly from Rangia Assembly Constituency and vacated the office of the Chairman, Guwahati Local Board and Siddhi Nath Sarmah himself along with Bishnu Ram Medhi, Gopinath Bordoloi proposed Akram Hussain Saikia’s name for the post of the Chairman.

The members of the Board unanimously supported the proposal solely on his exemplary performance. Saikia took charge of the Chairman and remained in office till 1959. His association with Guwahati Local Board till the abolishment of Local Board System in India in 1959 for a long term of consecutive 15 odd years.

It was in the year 1967, I along with my father Abdun Noor Majumdar, the eldest son of Moulavi Abdul Matlib Mazumdar, went to visit him at the Circuit House, Guwahati, where we met Akram Hussain Saikia who had come to congratulate my grandfather on his being elected to the Assam Legislative Assembly from Hailakandi Constituency at the age of 77 years.

It was my father who informed me that because of the joint effort of the Muslim leaders such as Akram Hussain Saikia, Fakaruddin Ali Ahmed, Mohammad Tayabullah, Maulana Abdul Jalil Choudhury and my grandfather along with Gopinath Bordoloi, Bishnu Ram Medhi, Bimala Prasad Chaliha, Omeo Kumar Das and many others stood like a formidable obstacle in the conspiracy of merging Assam with East Pakistan.

Saikia’s zeal for social work associated him with many social organisations. He served the people of Assam as an active member of the Assam State Anti-Prohibition Council, Guwahati Development Authority, Assam State Haj Committee, State Social Welfare Advisory Board, Board for Jail Visitors of the Guwahati District Jail, Land Settlement Advisory Committee, Pragati Sangha, Gopalananda Ashram etc. He was also the governing body member of the prominent educational institutions, namely, Calcutta University; Gauhati University Court; Cotton College; Guwahati Medical College and Hospital; Pragjyotish College, Guwahati and many other organisations.

Childhood and education

Saikia was born on November 17, 1914 at a remote village at Dampur, Hajo. His father Rupa Ali Saikia was a Revenue Official (Kanongo) of the British Ruler. His father belonged to a well-to-do and a respectable family of Assam with property with agricultural lands. Unfortunately, he lost his father at the tender age of 4 years. After his father’s death, it was his elder brother Majinder Ali Saikia, who supported him like a true friend, philosopher and guide in every step of his life.

As a student, Saikia had a brilliant academic career and conducted his studies mostly depending on his merit scholarships. Saikia had his primary education at his village Dampur, Hajo. Thereafter, he passed his matriculation from Cotton Collegiate School, Guwahati in 1932 with first division. He also secured first division in IA examination from Cotton College, Guwahati in 1934. He completed graduation from Cotton College, Guwahati in 1936 with flying colours. Saikia decided to pursue his higher studies at Calcutta University and successfully completed his Masters in Political Science and Law degree in 1939.

Saikia enrolled himself with Lawyers Association, Guwahati in 1940s. He was a coveted Civil Lawyer and participated in Lawyers Association, Guwahati’s developmental works in spite of his busy schedule of political and social activities.

The members of the Lawyers Association, Guwahati also played a significant role in India’s freedom movement. The eminent freedom fighters, namely, Fakaruddin Ali Ahmed (former President of India), Bharat Ratna Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi, Karmabir Nabin Chandra Bordoloi, Bishnu Ram Medhi (former Chief Minister of Assam and Governor of Madras), Desh Bhakta Tarun Ram Phookan, Mahendra Mohan Choudhury, Md Tayabullah, Rohini Kumar Choudhury, Upen Sen, Probodh Lahiri , eminent Jurist Dr Jagadish Medhi, Joy Choudhury, Holi Ram Deka, Chief Justice Mahendra Pathak, Justice Dambaru Dhar Pathak, Justice Hansaria , B P Saraf, Sarat Dutta, Justice Kironmoy Lahiri, Justice Jiten Sharma, Justice P C Phukan, Justice Dhiresh Narayan Choudhury, Justice A H Saikia, Justice Biplab Sharma, Justice Harendra Nath Sharma and so on.

In the words of Gauri Shankar Bhattacharjee, a historic Parliamentarian of Assam: “Akram Hussain Saikia was a Nationalist. His was a multifaceted personality. He was a successful social worker, Political propagandist of integrated Assam and Indian federal structure and unsophisticated freedom fighter.”

Akram Hussain Saikia at a very young age of 12 years had the golden opportunity of his life to attend the 41st All India Congress Committee Session, 1926 at Pandu, Guwahati along with his friend Gauri Shankar Bhattacharjee. It was through his brother Majinder Ali Saikia, he came in close contact of national leaders namely, Motilal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel , Dr Rajendra Prasad , Madan Mohan Malaviya, Sarojini Naidu, Abul Kalam Azad and greatly influenced and motivated deeply with their ideology, nationalism as well as patriotism.

Akram Hussain Saikia was also closely associated with state level leaders and had a very cordial relation with their families; prominent among them are Gopinath Bordoloi, Bishnu Ram Medhi, Fakaruddin Ali Ahmed, Mohd Tayabullah, Tarun Ram Phookan, Siddhi Nath Sarmah, Abdul Matlib Mazumder, Nabin Chandra Bordoloi, Mahendra Mohan Choudhury, Maulana Abdul Jalil Choudhury, Omeo Kumar Das.

Saikia was actively involved himself in the Civil Disobedience Movement while he was studying at Cotton Collegiate High School, Guwahati. When many of his Muslim colleagues left the Congress party in order to join the Indian Muslim League, Akram Hussain Saikia, Fakaruddin Ali Ahmed, Abdul Matlib Mazumder, Mohd Tayabullah, Md Tayab Ali and many other Muslim leaders remained faithful with the Indian National Congress and worked for the welfare of the people of India.

In the post 1937 era, when the Indian National Congress realised its poor hold among the Muslims, the Congress designed a new policy, popularly known as the Congress Muslim Mass Contact Programme and at the call of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Gopinath Bordoloi along with Abdul Matlib Mazumder, Akram Hussain Saikia, Fakaruddin Ali Ahmed, Mohd Tayabullah and other prominent leaders concentrated in bringing in the Muslim population into the Congress fold. Not only that Assam Provincial Congress Committee had even conducted a series of public meetings in the entire region visiting Goalpara, Kamrup, Darrang, Nagaon, Jorhat and Shillong.

Sir Mohammed Sadullah had formed the Assam Valley Muslim Association in 1937 and became the Premier of Assam. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose accompanied by Tarun Ram Phookan went to Shillong in 1938 with a view to replace Sir Mohammed Sadullah by Gopinath Bordoloi. Akram Hussain Saikia with some colleagues also went to Shillong to place a Memorandum before Netaji advocating for replacement of Sir Mohammed Sadullah with Gopinath Bordoloi. Interestingly, Gauri Shankar Bhattacharjee, who led a students’ delegation from the Cotton College, later joined the team of Saikia and handed over the representation to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose at Shillong seeking the change.

On the auspicious occasion of Birth Centenary Celebration of Akram Hussain Saikia, a true follower of Gandhiji and a silent soldier of the Indian freedom movement, I offer my whole hearted respectful tribute to this great soul for his selfless contribution and sacrifice. My humble prayer before the Almighty to reward this great patriot with Jannat (Paradise)!


(The author is the eldest grandson of Moulavi Abdul Matlib Mazumdar, the freedom fighter & former Cabinet Minister of Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi Ministry in 1946. He is actively associated with socio-cultural organisations, sports organisations and an active social worker.)