Regarded as one of the greatest sons of Assam and India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was a highly successful political leader who left a permanent imprint on the political landscape of India, leaving every citizen immensely inspired till date. Such was the impact of this eminent leader?s long and distinguished career who made priceless contributions towards the Indian independence movement. Further, by occupying the position of the President of India is just one shining example of his commitment towards the selfless service and ethical values bestowed upon the nation and its people. Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, this prominent leader grew to lead the nation with undying love, passion, and determination.
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was born in Hauz Qazi area of the walled city of Old Delhi to Col. Zalnur Ali and daughter of Nawab of Lohari. His father, during his bachelorhood, was serving in Indian Medical Service when he was asked to leave Assam. He, along with Col. Sibram Bora, was offered seats in the Shillong Club away from the European guests at a function. On boycotting the function, he was transferred to the distant North-West Province. This was where he came in contact with the Nawab of Lahori in Delhi and eventually, married his daughter. Fakhruddin received his formal education at Government High School, Gonda district, Uttar Pradesh. On completion of his matriculation from Delhi Government High School, he went to England in 1923 to pursue his higher studies from St. Catherine?s College, Cambridge. After his return from London, he started practicing law in Lahore High Court in 1928.
During his stay in England, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed met Jawaharlal Nehru in 1925 whose progressive ideas touched him so much that he treated him as his mentor and friend from 1930s onwards. On Nehru?s request, Ali Ahmed joined the Indian National Congress and actively participated in the Indian freedom struggle, though he was persuaded by his co-religionists to join the Muslim League. He offered Satyagraha in 1940 for which he was arrested and imprisoned. Further in 1942, he supported the Quit India Movement for which he was yet again arrested in August 9, while returning from the historic session of All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting in Bombay. He was, thus, detained as a security prisoner for three and a half years until April 1945.
While serving as a Congress leader, Ali Ahmed occupied several positions. To begin with, he was a member of Assam Pradesh Congress Committee since 1936 and was elected to Assam Assembly in 1935. Later, he became the Minister of Finance, Revenue, and Labor in September 1938. During his term at the Ministerial office, Ali Ahmed gave a proof of his administrative abilities. He introduced the Assam Agricultural Income Tax Bill, the first of its kind in India, which levied taxes on tea garden lands in the Province and his pro-labor policy in the labor strike in the British-owned Assam Oil Company Ltd. Though Ali Ahmed also met with criticism, what was one thing that had been established was his ability as a administrator.
After India gained independence, Fakhruddin was elected to Rajya Sabha in 1952 and eventually became Advocate-General of the Government of Assam. He fought from Congress in the Assam Assembly and served two terms, from 1957-62 and 1962-67. He gained a senior position in the Chaliha Ministry in 1957 and was asked by Nehru to join his cabinet in January 1966. In 1971, he was elected to Lok Sabha from Barpeta constituency. During his tenure, Ali Ahmed handled various portfolios, including Food and Agriculture, Cooperation, Education, Industrial Development, and Company Laws. He attained the membership of AICC from 1947 to 1974.
With the split of congress in 1969, Fakhruddin chose to be with Indira Gandhi due to his deep-rooted association with Nehru and his family. As such, he was picked up by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as the President of India on August 29, 1974, thereby becoming the second Muslim Indian president after Dr Zakir Hussain. In the wake of Emergency rule in 1975, Fakhruddin became the target of his detractors claiming that he put his signature at the behest of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Fakhruddin was a multifaceted personality. His deep and intense interest in sports and other extra-curricular activities was extremely popular during his time. Being a half tennis player and golfer, he was elected as the President of the Assam Football Association and Assam Cricket Association on various terms. He even served as the Vice President of Assam Sports Council. Apart from being a member of Delhi Golf Club and Delhi Gymkhana Club since in 1961, he was selected as the President of All India Cricket Association in 1967. During his visit to Yugoslavia in 1975, he was conferred upon with an honorary doctorate by the University of Pristina in Kosovo.
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed married a young 21-year old Abida on November 9, 1945 at the age of 40. Abida was educated at Aligarh Muslim University and belonged to a respectable family from Uttar Pradesh. Begum Abida Saheba was elected to Lok Sabha in 1981 from UP constituency.
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was unable to complete his 5-year tenure as the President of India since he suffered a heart attack immediately after his return from a tour of the South-East Asian countries. He breathed his last on 11th February, 1977 in Rashtrapati Bhavan, Delhi while still in office. He was 71 years old.