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Muslim Personalities: Syed Shahabuddin

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Syed Shahabuddin

An Introduction

President, All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, Editor, Muslim India Monthly (now closed) since January 1983, Convenor, Babri Masjid Movement Coordination Committee, Vice-President, National Union of Backward Classes etc. National Convenor, Insaf  Morcha,  Writer and Speaker on Public Affairs, Ex-Ambassador to Algeria and Mauritania 1972-75, Ex-Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha & Lok Sabha) 1979-84, 1995-89, & 1991-96,   Ex-General Secretary, Janta Party 1980-85, Ex-Vice-Chairman, Haj Committee.  Prominent participant in Backward Classes movement since 1983.  Vice-President of the National Union of Backward Classes. 

Birth and Education

Born:   November 4, 1935 at Ranchi, Married Shaher Bano in 1958
EDUCATION: Education at Gaya, Ranchi and Patna. Had a brilliant academic career, standing first (gold medalist)in the Patna Universityfrom Matric (1950) to M.Sc. (1956) and Bachelor of Law. Part I (1957), Part II (1969)  

Participation in Student Activism

In his student  day received many prizes as speaker and was connected with many student bodies.  Led student agitation against police firing on students in 1955 as the Convenor of the Patna University Students’ Action Committee and as the General Secretary of the Bihar State Students’ Council of Action. Led the Movement for the formation of the University Union, drafted its constitution and was a member of its Steering Committee. Was associated with the United Nations’ Students’ Association and the Students’ Relief Committee. Was elected Secretary of the National Committee of the World University Service in 1955.  Was elected Secretary of the Indian Foreign Service Association in 1968.

Professional Career

Teacher:   in Physics, Patna University, 1956-1958.
Diplomat:   Member of the Indian Foreign Service, 1958-78.
Served as Vice-Consul/ Consul at New York (59-61), Second Secretary, Rangoon (61-63), First Secretary, Jeddah (63-66), Under Secretary/ Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs (66-69), Charge d’affairs, Embassy of India, Caracas (69-72), Ambassador of India to Algeria and concurrently to Mauritania (73-75) and Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, in-charge of South-East Asia and Haj Affairs, 1975-78. Took voluntary retirement from the IFS, in November 1978, to enter public life.
Writer & Orator:  Edited Muslim India, the monthly journal of research, documentation and reference from 1983 to 2002 and again from July 2006 till 2009. He has been a regular contributor on current affairs in the media and a familiar participant in seminars and TV discussions.   Contributed numerous articles in English and Urdu on national and international affairs in various magazines, newspapers, journals etc with special focus on Human Rights, Minority Questions, South Asia, South East Asia, and the Islamic World. He has also been writing to policy makers, political parties as well as governments on the issues relating to Muslims and Islam. 


While in the Indian Foreign Service, participated in many international conferences, including Afro-Asian Legal Consultative Committee, Rangoon, 1962, International Conference on Human Rights, Tehran, 1963, the UNCTAD-III,Santiago, 1972 and the Non-aligned Summit, Algiers, 1973.  Traveled widely in the Americas, Europe, North Africa, West Asia, South Asia, and South East Asia. Also performed Haj several times.  Participated in several Conventions and Conferences organized by the CCIM, Chicago, IMF (UK), London and BMAC, USA, and UK.  Addressed various Universities inIndia and abroad, including Oxford, East-West and Cornell. 


Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses, New Delhi, Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi, People’s Union of Civil Liberties, New Delhi.


Elected as Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha & Lok Sabha) in 1979-84, 1985-89, & 1991-96,1979 from Bihar.  Nominated as Permanent Invitee to the Janata Party National Executive.  Served as a Member of its Manifesto Committee during the 1979-80 election campaign.  Nominated Chairman, Committee on International Affairs.  In December 1988, on formation of Janata Dal, he kept Janata Party alive and later in August ’89 formed the Insaf Party and became its Founder-President. On fall of Janata Dal Government, dissolved Insaf Party and joined Janata Dal.  Nominated Member of its National Executive. 


President, All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat*.  Associated with All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM) since 1979 and was its Vice-President/Working president from 1981 to 1990.  Served as a Member/Vice-Chairman of the HajCommittee, India.  Served on the Academic Council and the Court of the Aligarh Muslim University.  Served as Member/Chairman of the Dargah Khwaja Saheb Committee, Ajmer. Served as the convenor of the AIMMM’s Central Action Committee for the Restoration of the Babri Masjid.  Organized All India Conference on Babri Masjid and has served since then as Convenor of the Babri Masjid Movement Coordination Committee. Organized National Convention on Babri Masjid in February 1991. As the Member of the Council and Working Committee, All India Muslim Personal Law Board participated in negotiation leading to the legislation of Rights of Muslim Divorcees. Organized the National Political Convention of Muslim Indians in New Delhi on 8-9 July 89 and drafted the Charter of Demands.  Organized Bihar State Conference on the Education, Employment and Economic Status of Muslims of Bihar in Patna in October 1992. 
Reinvented and revamped All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM) constitutionally, making it more democratic. Brought openness and accountability.  Published all his accounts quarterly and its journal.  
His achievement includes acquisition of new Mushawarat building (earlier it used to work from rented premises) and the improved finances.  For years the Mushawarat had been working on an annual budget that would not suffice to pay even a month’s electricity and phone bills.  Under his presidency a “Circles of Friends of Mushwarat” was created, consisting of persons within India and abroad who were asked to  contribute financially to the Mushawarat. 
In the 80s he lead Muslim MPs, from all parties and met the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, to highlight the problems being faced by Muslims in India.  Indeed, after being nominated as a Janata Dal M.P. in Rajya Sabha he articulated Muslims' grievances, asked questions and kept an eye on all the ills faced by Indian Muslims.  Undeterred by the hostility of the media as well as his own party he kept on speaking and writing on Muslim issues and paid the price by never being able to return to the Parliament.  In this respect (being in a secular party and still articulating Muslims' issues), except Maulana Hafizurrahman saheb, he has no match in post-independent India.  No Muslim or non-Muslim politician has written so much on Muslim issues as Sahahabuddin saheb did.  One will hardly find any other Muslim leader or intellectual who has opposed and exposed Hindutva forces with such a force as Syed Shahabuddin Saheb.  His 'Muslim India' journal will be an outstanding contribution, a journal of reserach and documentation that no research scholar working on Indian Muslims can afford to ignore.  Syed Hamid had once commented: 'Some years ago Syed Shahabuddin was the best to lead (Muslims).  But people did not support him'.  (Milli Gazette. 1-15 July, 2001)


First recipient of The Al-Ameen Tipu Sultan Memorial Award for Community Leadership. Numerous citations and appreciations.
* All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat is a federating body of major Muslim organisations, which also has a Guiding Council consisting of eminent Muslim Indians who are there in their individual capacity and are not necessarily associated with any organisation.    The function of Mushawarat is to keep abreast of the community’s needs and protecting its larger interests by making representation to the government, writing to them, doing a follow-up, building public opoinion etc.



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