Born On: February 8, 1897
Born In: Kaimganj, Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh
Died On: May 3, 1969
Career: Teacher and President of India
Dr Zakir Hussain is best known for his two year stint at the office of the President of India spanning from May 13, 1967 to May 3, 1969. He was the third President of independent India. However, it is not only his career in the President's office which makes him one of the greatest heroes that India has seen. Dr Zakir Hussain was one of the biggest exponents of education in India and it was under his leadership that the National Muslim University was founded. Till today, the National Muslim University exists under the name of Jamia Milia Islamia, a central university in New Delhi, and continues to flourish, producing some of the best students each year. Dr Zakir Hussain had served as the Governor of Bihar and had also taken oath as the Vice President of the country before ending his political career as the third President of India.
Childhood & Early Life
Zakir Hussain was born in the Kaimganj district of Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh. Though he was born an Indian, his family history can be traced back to the Pushtun tribes that occupied the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is said that his ancestors migrated to Uttar Pradesh during the 18th century. His father and mother passed away when he was only 10 and 14 years old respectively, leaving young Zakir to complete his school education from the Islamia High School in Etawah. He, later, attended the Anglo-Muhammadan Oriental College in Aligarh (today known as the Aligarh Muslim University), the place which saw the beginning of his career as a reformist politician.
Zakir Hussain had already gained recognition throughout India as the leader of the student union during his years of study at the Anglo-Muhammadan Oriental College. However, it was not only politics that interested him. After completing his formal education, Zakir Hussain became the leader of a young group of students who together founded the National Muslim University in Aligarh on October 29, 1920. (The university then shifted base to Karol Bagh, New Delhi in 1925. Ten year later it yet again shifted base this time permanently to Jamia Nagar, New Delhi and was named it Jamia Millia Islamia). He was merely 23 years old when he established the educational institution
Zakir's keen interest and dedication towards education more than politics became evident when he went to Germany to pursue a PhD in Economics. It was in the University of Berlin that Zakir Hussain brought out an anthology of some of the best works of Urdu poet Mirza Khan Ghalib. The chief motive of Zakir Hussain was to use education as the chief tool to help India during the period of freedom struggle against the British. In fact, Zakir Hussain was so dedicated in his goal towards dissemination of education in India, that he was also successful in winning the attention of his adversary, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, in the field of politics.
Return To India
Though Dr. Zakir Hussain visited Germany for his education, he returned soon after to provide academic and administrative leadership to Jamia Milia Islamia. The university was on the verge of being shut down in the year 1927 and it was due to the efforts of Dr Zakir Hussain that the educational institution has managed to stay afloat. He continued to lend his support, providing academic and managerial leadership to the institution for twenty one years. It was due to his efforts that the university immensely contributed in India's struggle for freedom from the British Rule. As a teacher, Dr Zakir Hussain propagated the learnings of Mahatma Gandhi and Hakim Ajmal Khan. He was an active member of several educational reform movements in the country in the mid 1930s.
Dr Zakir Hussain was elected the Vice Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University (his alma mater previously known as Anglo-Muhammadan Oriental College) in independent India. During his stint as Vice Chancellor, Dr Zakir Hussain was able to avert several teachers within the institution from lending their support in creating a separate state of Pakistan. Dr. Zakir Hussain was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 1954. With the end of his term as Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, Dr Zakir Hussain was nominated to the Rajya Sabha and thus, became a member of the Indian Parliament in 1956. However, he held this position only for a year after which he became the Governor of Bihar, a post he occupied for five years from 1957 - 1962.
Zakir was honored with the Bharat Ratna award in 1963. He was also the recipient of D.Litt. (Honoris Causa) by the Universities of Delhi, Calcutta, Aligarh, Allahabad and Cairo. With the end of his term as Governor, Dr Zakir Hussain soon succeeded to the office of Vice President of India, becoming the second Vice President of the country for a period of five years. It was on May 13, 1967 that Dr Zakir Hussain created history by being the first Muslim President of India to be elected for such a prestigious position. He was also the third politician to occupy the office of the Indian President, after Dr Rajendra Prasad, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.
Dr Zakir Hussain passed away on the 3rd of May, 1969, two years after he was sworn in as President of India. His death also made him the first President to die while still in office. He was buried on the campus of the Jamia Millia Islamia (or Central University) in New Delhi.