Seventy-two year old Badruddin Ajmal, who founded a political party – Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) in 2005, now known as the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), is known for making controversial comments from time to time.
With 9.3 per cent vote share and 16 MLAs in the 126 member state assembly, Ajmal’s party, which has often claimed to champion the ‘cause of Muslims’ in Assam, is a major player in the state’s political landscape.
Ajmal was born in January 1950 to affluent perfume businessman and founder of Ajmal Perfumes, Haji Ajmal Ali. A businessman and Islamic theologian, Ajmal’s political party soon rose to popularity in Assam and he won from two Assembly constituencies – South Salmars and Jamunamukh in Nagaon district in the 2006 state Assembly elections. Ajmal continued as the MLA of South Salmars till 2009, when he defeated his closest contender and Congress candidate Anwar Hussain from Dhubri parliamentary constituency to become an MP in the Lok Sabha for the first time.
Since then, Ajmal has represented the Dhubri seat in Parliament thrice, while his party, AIUDF won 18 seats in the 2011 Assembly election and emerged as the then single-largest opposition party against the Congress-led government.
Fast forward to 2016. AIUDF’s Assembly tally came down to 13 (but rose to 16 in the 2021 Assembly elections). While the figures of overall votes cast in favour of the party have come down, the party’s success rate has improved in recent years, after Ajmal’s party won 16 seats, having contested from only 20, with a 80 per cent success rate, albeit in a ‘mahajot’ or grand alliance with its once-adversary the Congress, to take on the BJP.
The politician who likes to wear traditional attire, has been featured in 2015-16 in a list of the World’s 500 most influential Muslims, published by Jordan’s Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre. Apart from his perfume business, he runs the Markarul Maarif Education and Research Centre in Mumbai, and has set up Mariyam Ajmal Women’s College of Science and Technology in Assam.
His assets and cases have both jumped exponentially over the years. From Rs 54.82 crore assets declared in the 2016 Assam Assembly election and a single case against him, Ajmal had Rs. 78.80 crores, including liabilities of over Rs 1 crore, and seven criminal cases pending against him as on 2019, when he last submitted details in his Parliamentary election affidavit.
These cases include charges related to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony, charges of criminal intimidation, false statements upon oath or affirmation to public servant or anyone authorised to administer oath or affirmation, cheating and dishonesty inducing delivery of property, charges of deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting religious beliefs, etc., among others.
He has been accused of making inflammatory comments by several individuals and organisations, including the All Assam Students Union (AASU), Congress, Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) etc. at different times. He has also been accused of toeing the BJP line to ensure electoral gains for the saffron party in the ongoing Gujarat Assembly elections, while BJP itself has often criticised him for his allegedly communal and inflammatory stands.
The latest controversy comes after he said in an interview, in an oblique reference to Hindus, that they should marry early like Muslims and sire children. He was quoted in the media as saying, “They (Hindus) should follow Muslims and get their children married at an young age. Get the boys married at 20-22 and the girls at 18-20 and see how many children are born.”
His comments faced sharp criticism from BJP MLA Diganta Kalita, who said Indians didn’t need to learn from ‘Bangladeshis’, indicating that Ajmal was the latter, and advised him to go to Bangladesh. Congress leader Debabrata Saikia later filed a complaint against him, accusing him of targeting the Hindu community and claiming that his comments had caused disharmony or enmity towards Hindus, especially Hindu women of India.
The Assam Jatiya Parishad has also filed a complaint against Ajmal, while the Trinamool Congress has burnt his effigy and filed a complaint with the police.
Ajmal later retracted his comments and said he was ‘ashamed’ of the controversy his comments had sparked, even as he maintained that those comments had been twisted, and that he actually hadn’t targeted Hindus.