Syed Muhammad Saadulla
|ছাৰ ছৈয়দ মহম্মদ ছাদুল্লাহ|
21 May 1885|
|Died||8 January 1955(aged 69)|
|Political party||Muslim League|
Cotton College, Guwahati |
Presidency College, Calcutta
|Occupation||1st Prime Minister of Assam Providence before independence, politician|
|Awards||Order of the Indian Empire(1946)|
Sir Syed Muhammad Saadulla, KCIE (Assamese: ছাৰ ছৈয়দ মহম্মদ ছাদুল্লাহ; 21 May 1885 – 8 January 1955) was the Prime Minister of Assam in British India. He was also the chairman of Gauhati Municipality in 1919 and Minister-in-Charge of Education and Agriculture for Assam from 1924 to 1934.
Syed Muhammad Saadulla was born on 21 May 1885, in an orthodox Muslim family of Guwahati.
His advent as the second son of Syed Muhammad Tayyabulla came from Kacharihat, a village near the town of Golaghat, to Guwahati around 1878.
Tall and athletic, Syed Muhammad Saadulla, M.A., B.L., a youthful 24-year-old, became a Pleader in Guwahati and set up practice at Lakhtakia in 1910. In the same year, he married the eldest daughter of Syed Muhammad Saleh of Kacharihat. He soon made his mark as a lawyer. He became Chairman, Guwahati Municipality, and was nominated as a member of the Legislative Council at Shillong. Assam became a chief Commissioners Province in April 1912. Although a nominated member Saadulla energetically participated in the Council’s deliberations, and expressed himself freely and forcefully on the matters of interest of the people of Assam. The qualities of citizenship which inspired him to unselfish efforts for what he believed to be right and patriotic were evident early in his political career.
Preoccupation with legal profession and civic responsibilities and duties of a Legislative Councillor left Saadulla with little time for recreation. Nevertheless, he played association football and cricket for the Town Club regularly at Judge’s Field. Most afternoons he played Lawn tennis at the erstwhile Jubilee Gardens, where the regulars were Tarun Ram Phukan, Gopinath Bordoloi and Hemanta Kumar Lahiri.
With his enhanced fortunes Saadulla bought a plot of land adjacent to his father’s house, and built a large residence for the joint family and an outhouse to serve as his office. He soon became a prominent figure in the Province of Assam. Saadulla displayed tireless energy, indestructible self-confidence, a searching and analytical mind, and prodigious memory.
In a decade, all ambition has been fulfilled, and Saadulla was recognized as the most conspicuous pleader in Assam. He had the gratification of being able to refuse two offers of important employment under the Government. He became restless and found himself disposed to a change. He consulted his younger brother, Syed Muhibulla, a Professor of Arabic and Persian at Cotton College, Guwahati and asked for the blessings of his 80-year-old father, and prepared to leave for Calcutta.
In 1920, in his mid-thirties, Saadulla, enrolled himself as an Advocate at the Calcutta High Court. He rented a house in Turner Street in the neighborhood of A.K. Fazlul Huq, Nawab Ataur Rahman, Barrister Khuda Bux and Nawabzada A.F.M. Abdul Ali. Before long, briefs from Assam for appeal before the High Court began to arrive and once more Saadulla was engrossed in preparing plaints. Success came slowly, but no sooner he was settled in the new establishment his wife and three sons joined him and spent as much time in their company as possible.
Assam became a Governor’s province, under the Government of India Act 1919, with an enlarged Legislative Council; and accordingly Elections were held in November 1920. Saadulla decided to concentrate on practice at the Calcutta High Court, and therefore did not enter Assam politics. He came to Guwahati with his family to be at the bed-side of his dying father, Syed Tayyabulla, who died on 22 November 1922. A year later he returned to Assam once more to stand for elections to the Reformed Legislative Council, and was returned with a comfortable majority.
Towards the end of February, 1924 Saadulla received a letter from Sir John Henry Kerr, Governor of Assam offering him a seat in his Executive Council as Minister. As the newly elected Legislative Council was due to meet at Shillong on 24 March, there was very little time to decide between Calcutta High Court Bar and Ministership in Assam. A man of instant decisions, he wrote to the Governor accepting his offer and assuring him of reaching Shillong well in advance of the date of commencement of the Council session. His colleagues and friends and relatives were unanimous in warmly approving his decision.
Saadulla was sworn in as Minister, and he rented a house known as "Rookwood" for his family. 1924 was a bad year for him; his beloved wife died at child-birth in the early hours of 9 December. He never really recovered from the cruel shock and profound grief. He never remarried and immersed himself in work and bringing up an infant daughter and looking after three sons.
Elections to the third Reformed council were held in November, 1926, and Saadulla was returned from his constituency by large majority. He was re-appointed as a Minister. The honour of Knighthood was conferred on him in 1928. The following year, Sir Egbert Laurie Lucas Hammond, Governor of Assam invited him to join his Executive Council, as a member for a term of five years.
After eleven years at Shillong, and disenchanted with Assam politics, he felt that it was time for him to make a move. Opportunity was at hand, Sir John Anderson, Governor of Bengal, had personally offered him a High Court Judgeship. Sir Syed Muhammad Saadulla went to Calcutta in 1935. Much to his dismay, Sir Harold Darbyshire, the Chief Justice, pointed out that he could not be appointed as a Judge for want of requisite experience of ten years of continuous practice at the Bar. In an effort to assuage his profound disappointment, he was appointed as a Government Pleader with an assurance of elevation to the Bench within a reasonable period. Not that he felt any disaffection over this matter in relations to the persons in authority.
The lure of politics combined with tremendous pressure by former colleagues was too strong for him. A General Election, under the Government of India Act., 1935, was being held in February, 1937. Saadulla returned to Assam and was elected to the Legislative Assembly. The Governor invited him to form the Ministry. It was his inestimable good fortune that he was premier of Assam. With a depressed interruptions, for nine years, a deeply religious man, he supported political and social creed with uncompromising integrity. He headed the Coalition Ministry from 1 April 1937 to 10h September 1938 and from 17 November 1939 to 25 December 1941 and again from 24 August 1942 to 11 February 1946. There were turbulent years in Assam politics and blessed with sturdy constitution, he performed with exemplary courage the onerous task with devotion and enthusiasm and generosity. In every public duty, he held the interest of the people of Assam foremost in his heart. The honour of Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE) was conferred upon him on 1 January 1946.
It is also interesting to note that Saadulla also remained a close friend and associate of the Punjab Premier/Chief Minister Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan (in power from 1937 to 1942) and was also a member of the Executive Committee of the All India Muslim League which met in March 1940, at Lahore, to draft the Lahore or ' Pakistan Resolution '.
The Assam Legislative Assembly elected Saadulla to the Constituent Assembly of India in 1947 and the later elected him to the Drafting Committee. Thus he helped in the preparation of the Constitution of the Republic of India. He was the only member from the North East India to be elected to the Drafting Committee.
He was seriously ill in 1951. Death seemed likely, but it did not alarm him. What he dreaded with undispellable foreboding was physical and mental disability. He recovered gradually and was restored to health. Thereafter he mournfully accepted life in retirement, and amenities of civilized existence. He morosely consoled himself with social activities, including dispensing hospitality on magnificent scale.
His health deteriorated, at the approach of winter at Shillong, and to escape the rigours of cold weather, he went down to plains. He died at Guwahati which was his birthplace, on 8 January 1955.
- C. F. J. Hankinson (ed.), Debretts Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage, 1954, Odhams Press, 1954