Indian National Congress

Hakim Ajmal Khan (Acting President for C.R. Das)

President: 1863-1927 (Ahmedabad, 1921)

The ancestors of Hakim Ajmal Khan came to India in the Company of Babur. During the reign of Akbar the family took up the medical profession.

Hakim Ajmal Khan was born into this distinguished family of physicians in 1863 at Delhi. According to the system of the time Ajmal Khan first learnt the Quran by heart, and then studied the traditional Islamic Sciences. He studied medicine in his own house.

After Hakim Ajmal Khan established his position in the family profession he was appointed the chief physician to the Nawab of Rampur in 1892 where he remained till 1902.

During his stay at Rampur, he became interested in the educational movement started by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and was appointed one of the trustees of the Aligarh College. He resigned from the position during the non - cooperation movement when the authorities of the Aligarh Muslim University refused to participate in the movement.

In his thirties Hakim Ajmal Khan began to take interest in political issues by writing short notes in his family owned Urdu Weekly, Akmal-ul-Akhbar, which was started sometime between 1865 and 1870 and had survived till the beginning of the 20th Century.

The beginning of the 20th Century was a new era so far as the family was concerned. Hakim Ajmal Khan was the first to enter politics and within no time became a leading figure. In his early political career he appears to have been more interested in Muslim politics.

In 1906, he was included in the Muslim deputation which met the Viceroy at Shimla to present him a memorandum on behalf of the community. He also participated in the Dacca meet of the Muslims which had been called for the purpose of organising a Muslim political party.

Hakim Ajmal Khan was one of those who seconded the move, and the Muslim League was thus born. Hakim Ajmal Khan also took much interest in the expansion and development of the indigenous system of medicine, Tibb-i-Yunani. In order to introduce modern methods of research he transformed his family established Tibbiya School into Tibbiya College of Delhi.

He added a research department, and a section for teaching midwifery. He encouraged upper class women to take up midwifery. In recognition of his services in this field the Government of India conferred on him in 1907 the title of Haziq-ul-Mulk.

In the second decade of the 20th century we find another Hakim Ajmal Khan who was gradually drifting away from 'loyal' politics to 'national' politics. In 1910, the Government of India proposed to withdraw the professional recognition given to the Hakims and Veds.

Hakim Ajmal Khan saw in the move an attempt of doing away with the Indian medicinal system. He organized the Hakims and Veds to protest against the proposed bill. About the same time, Tripoli was attacked by Italy; the British adopted an indifferent attitude and the Indian Muslims resented that and began to organise themselves. Ajmal Khan threw himself into the movement.

Meanwhile World War I began and Indian politics stood still. But the participation of Turkey in the War changed the situation. Many Muslim leaders were arrested. Hakim Ajmal Khan, like many other Indians had been helping the Government in the War effort. But the mass arrest of Muslim Leaders forced him to withdraw his support.

In 1917, Hakim Ajmal Khan came to Gandhi ji and other Congress Leaders. The association transformed the 'loyal' Ajmal Khan, into the 'rebel' Ajmal Khan. He renounced his title in 1920. In appreciation the Indian public honoured him with the title of Masih-ul-Mulk by which he is still known.

In 1921, he was elected President of the Indian National Congress in place of the previously elected President, C. R. Das, who was arrested well before the session started. Heart trouble claimed his life on 29 December 1927.

“The spirit of non - cooperation pervades throughout the country and there is no true Indian heart even in the remotest corner of this great country which is not filled with the spirit of cheerful suffering and sacrifice to attain Swaraj and see the Punjab and the Khilafat wrongs redressed.”

From the Presidential Address - Hakim Ajmal Khan I.N.C., 1921 Session, Ahmedabad.