Sir Ali Imam, an icon of nationalism, as remembered by Sachchidananda Sinha

An excerpt written on Sir Ali Imam by Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha, in his book 'Some Eminent Behar Contemporaries', wherein he is described as an icon of nationalism.

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(Following is an excerpt from ‘Some Eminent Behar Contemporaries’ written by Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha about Sir Ali Imam)

A conclusive proof of the genuineness of Ali Imam’s nationalism is to be found in the statement circulated by the Rt. Hon’ble Syed Ameer Ali, in connexion with the work and activities of Sir Ali Imam in England, in 1909, when he was there at the time when the Morley-Minto reforms were under consideration, and the various aspects of separate electorates for Mussalmans were being considered by Lord Morley. Ali Imam, as the President of the Amritsar session of the League, had tried to influence Lord Morley in favour of a settlement on nationalist lines, which gave dire offence to the Rt. Hon’ble Syed Ameer Ali, who was then (as throughout his life) a leader of the communalists, and who accordingly circulated a memorandum, both in Britain and India, which was calculated to discredit Ali Imam, and his public activities.


A copy of this memorandum was sent to Ali Imam by the late Sir Theodore Morrison—then a Member of the India Council of the Secretary of State for India—along with a letter, both of which were given to me by Ali Imam himself, and have been in my possession since. I quote below some salient passages from the memorandum, without any comments, as they speak for themselves :


“Mr. Ali Imam came to England ostensibly to confer with H. H. the Aga Khan and myself on the subject of the Government of India’s proposals relating to Mahommedan representation on the Viceroy’s and other Councils. He wrote to me that he was coming expressly for that purpose. I had a full four hours’ talk with Mr. Ali Imam, and I pointed out to him the utter futility of his assumptions and anticipations, on which he relied, that it would be better for the Mahommedans to join in mixed electorates ; but he remained unmoved. Having failed to convert us, Mr. Ali Imam has openly declared himself against his people. He was perfectly entitled to place before Lord Morley his own views, but I have reason to believe that he did not give him a quite accurate representation of Mahommedan feeling on the subject. On the Ist October, a dinner was given to him by a certain number of Hindu and Mahommedan sympathisers. At this dinner he strongly urged his people to accept gratefully what the Government of India proposes to give them ! I met him next day at an ‘At Home’ which, to show our friendly spirit, was given to him as a purely social function. I congratulated him first on the office of Standing Counsel the Government, of India had conferred on him. I then said I had a friendly complaint to make to him that it was not fair to enter on a campaign against his people. On this he replied : ‘I will do all in my power to prevent the Mussalmans getting what I think detrimental to them. In answer to this frank avowal, I simply remarked:—‘After that nothing remains to be said ; we now understand each other perfectly.’ As his friends are representing him to be the President of the All-India Muslim League, ( I cannot believe that he had any hand in this ) his attitude is creating an impression on the British public unfavourable to the Mahommedans. What is most reprehensible, however, is the propaganda that has been started to defeat the Mahommedan claims- I do not blame Mr. Ali Imam for the attitude he has taken up. He has to placate on one side the Hindus, on whom his practice depends, and on the other, accommodate the Government in whose hands rests his advancement in life and the fulfilment of his ambitions. After all patriotism, like charity, begins at home. The other young Mussalmans who wish to follow his example look at the question from the same point of view. However, these remarks do not touch the main point which is—how does your Standing Committee propose to act in this matter ? Surely Mr. Ali Imam’s presence any longer on the committee of the League cannot be to its advantage, nor to his credit. His policy is quite opposed to that of the League ; he has openly declared that he will do his utmost to prevent the Mussalmans getting what they want. It is for you to say whether he should not be respectfully but firmly requested to resign his seat on the Committee, as a position wholly inconsistent with the views he entertains. His remaining on the Committee would be most anomalous both to the League, and prejudicial to the Mohammedans whom the League represents.”

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Md Umar Ashraf

Md. Umar Ashraf is a Delhi based Researcher, who after pursuing a B.Tech (Civil Engineering) started to explore, and bring to the world, the less known historical accounts. Mr. Ashraf has been associated with the museums at Red Fort & National Library as a researcher. With a keen interest in Bihar and Muslim politics, Mr. Ashraf has brought out legacies of people like Hakim Kabeeruddin (in whose honour the government recently issued a stamp). Presently, he is pursuing a Masters from AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, JMI & manages