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M.A. Ansari

President: 1880 - 1936 (Madras, 1927)

The ancestors of Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari came to India during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Bin Tughlaq. The family started its career serving in the royal army and holding respectable posts in the court.

They settled at Yusufpur, now in the Ghazipur District of U.P and held respectable governmental positions. By the time Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari was born on December 25, 1880, the prosperity of the family was on the decline. Graduating from Victoria High School, Ghazipur in 1896 Ansari moved to Hyderabad where his two brothers were in the service of the Nizam, for his university education.

Immediately after his graduation in medical science from Madras Medical College, Mukhtar Ahmad proceeded to England on a Nizam State Scholarship for higher medical education. He qualified for M.D. and M.S. in 1905, topping the list of successful candidates, by virtue of which he was the only Indian to be appointed Registrar at Lock Hospital, London. Later he was taken as the House Surgeon at Charing Cross Hospital, London. The hospital acknowledged Dr Ansari's outstanding services in the field of surgery by opening a ward in his name as the Ansari Ward.

During his long and fruitful stay in England, Dr Ansari was drawn into the Indian national scenario through meeting and developing intimate relations with some Indian national leaders who used to visit London quite frequently. It was in London that he met and became a life - long friend of Motilal Nehru, Hakim Ajmal Khan and young Jawaharlal. In spite of his ample opportunities to continue in a comfortable life abroad Dr Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari returned home in 1910. After a short stay at Hyderabad and his home town Yusufpur, he established his medical practice in Delhi.

Soon after, Dr Ansari started taking part in active politics. His first move in this direction was leading the Ansari Medical Mission to Turkey in December 1912 to provide medical and surgical aid to the fighting Turkish army in the Balkan War. Although the mission was organised by Muslim leaders, it paved the way for Indian national leaders to put India on the world map by advocating and fostering international understanding. This was a period when the Congress and Muslim League were close in their political goals and it was not difficult to express oneself simultaneously from both platforms.

Thus, Dr Ansari succeeded in establishing himself in both circles, and played an important role in the Lucknow Pact of 1916 in which the Muslim League and the Congress agreed upon the idea of proportional representation. In 1918 he presided over the annual session of the Muslim League held at Delhi. His Presidential Address was proscribed by the Government because of his bold and fearless stand supporting the cause of the Khilafat and his demand for complete freedom.

In 1920, he was once again the President of the Nagpur session of the All - India Muslim League; Nagpur also saw at the same time the Indian National Congress under the presidency of Vijayaraghavachariar of Madras, and the All - India Khilafat Committee with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad as its President.

A joint session of all three organisations was held. Besides the Muslim League, Dr Ansari held a high position in the Congress also, almost throughout his political life he was a member of its Working Committee. He was its General Secretary in the years 1920, 1922, 1926, 1929, 1931 and 1932, and President in 1927 (Madras Session).

On question of entry in the Council to the government from inside Dr Ansari remained with Gandhi ji in the camp of the 'no-changers' who were against the entry. His personal relationship however remained unhampered with the 'pro-changers', prominent among them being Pandit Motilal Nehru and Vithalbhai Patel.

His palatial house in Delhi, 'Darus-salam' or the Abode of Peace, was for all practical purposes like Congress House. Gandhi ji used to stay there whenever he visited Delhi. Although part of the inner circle of Indian national life Dr Ansari also had access to the inner circle of the British bureaucracy in India. Thus, he often came to know in advance of governmental decisions regarding prominent national leaders and was able to alert them in time during non - cooperation days.

He took a keen interest in the establishment of independent national institutions for higher education, two of them being the Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and the Kashi Vidyapith at Benares. From its inception on 29 October 1920 Jamia Millia Islamia had the unconditional support of Dr Ansari.

He was elected its Chancellor after the death of the first Chancellor, Hakim Ajmal Khan. Impressed by the political and social services of her husband Mrs Ansari a devout and orthodox Muslim, also took a keen interest in the uplift of women in Delhi.

On the night of 10 May 1936, when returning from Mussoorie after paying a professional visit to the Nawab of Rampur, Dr Ansari’s heart beat for the last time in the railway compartment. The news reached Delhi before the train brought his body back which was finally laid to rest in the lap of his beloved Jamia Millia Islamia.

“India has been turned into a vast internment camp and a number of Indians abroad have been successfully locked out. Respectable citizens have been prevented from leaving India even for purposes of health, business or travel.”

From the Presidential Address - Dr. M. A. Ansari I.N.C. Session, 1927, Madras