Dreaded mafia don Mukhtar Ansari stands as a sore thumb in a family of illustrious personalities who served the nation, says a new book ‘Baahubalis of India Politics: From Bullet to Ballot’ [Rupa Publications India] by Rajesh Singh.
Mukhtar shares the name with his paternal grandfather who was the president of the Indian National Congress in the pre-independence era. The don’s maternal grandfather Brigadier Mohammad Usman Ansari, known as ‘Lion of Nowshera’, was a Mahavir Chakra awardee. Mukhtar’s son Abbas Ansari is a national-level Indian shooter in shotgun shooting and has won medals and accolades internationally. Abbas is currently BSP MLA from Mau.
Baahubalis — ‘Baahu’ in Sanskrit means shoulder while ‘Bala’ means strength. Colloquially ‘Baahubali’ has become a term about those who possess muscle power, who often get into politics through ill-gotten money and power. Rajesh, a former journalist and political analyst has focused on such characters ranging from Arun Gawli to Raja Bhaiya, Mohammad Shahabuddin, Mukhtar Ansari and many more whose careers have been pockmarked with criminal activity. All of them have been imprisoned at some point in their lives — and quite a few are still serving prison terms or awaiting justice.
Mukhtar, a former MP and MLA, has been lodged in various jails for the last 15 years.
According to Rajesh Singh, the glorious family history of Ansaris of Yusufpur-Mohammadabad, Ghazipur-Yusufpur, clearly did not weigh on him as he went about crafting for himself an image of a muscleman–politician, one who remains as powerful behind bars as he was outside it.
The don’s grandfather, Dr Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, was the president of the Congress in 1927–28. Ansari also holds a distinction of heading the Muslim League too where he fell out with Mohammad Ali Jinnah. He was also one of the founding members and former vice chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia.
Dr Ansari’s contribution throughout the 1920s is one of the most unforgettable and astonishingly stout chapters in the history of Jamia Millia Islamia. Dr Ansari had earned his master’s in surgery from the University of Edinburgh and is counted among the pioneers in urology; a ward has been named after him at the Charing Cross Hospital in London.
Dr Ansari was a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi and in league of his own to have shared a book he published, ‘Regeneration of Man’, with Gandhi. A road in old Delhi, at Daryaganj, is named after him in honour of his contribution to the Indian Independence movement.
Mukhtar’s other grandfather, Brigadier Mohammad Usman Ansari, was equally accomplished. He was trained as an army officer at Sandhurst and was first posted with the Baluch Regiment during the British Raj.
When the Baluch Regiment was transferred to the newly-created Pakistan in 1947, Brigadier Usman moved to the Dogra Regiment. In 1948, when the Indian Army beat down invaders from Pakistan into Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Brigadier Usman became the stuff that legends are made of.
He was part of the group that repulsed fierce Pakistani attacks in Nowshera. He led from the front, which earned him the sobriquet, ‘Lion of Nowshera’. The Pakistani forces declared a sum of Rs 50,000 for his head, a fortune of sorts then. Undeterred, and unmoved by the praise, the courageous man was fixated on one goal — to free Jhangar, which had been taken by Pakistan. But when that happened, Pakistani regular forces stepped up their offensive to recapture it. Brigadier Ansari stood like a rock to defend the position and was martyred. He was only 35 years old. His last words were:
I am dying, but let not the territory we were fighting for fall to the enemy.
He was posthumously awarded the Mahavir Chakra.
Rajesh Singh says today’s generation has very little or hazy ideas about Dr Ansari and Brigadier Usman. Another of Mukhtar Ansari’s relatives is Mohammad Hamid Ansari. Until recently the vice president of India (he served for two consecutive terms). Hamid Ansari too has a distinguished profile – former ambassador, former vice chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University and former chairman of the National Commission for Minorities. While his term as vice president ended in 2017, Hamid Ansari has remained active in various social spheres and is known to speak his mind.
Mukhtar’s twenty-seven-year-old Abbas Ansari is an ace shooter with medals in various international competitions, and a former national champion, he refuses to be stereotyped, more so by hardliners in his community.
Rajesh Singh narrates in an anecdote. During 2017 UP assembly polls when he was faced with a group of Muslim clerics who had taken exception to his poll campaign signature line, ‘Jai Hind’. They wanted him to stop saying it as it went “against their religious belief”. He dismissed the appeal and retorted that ‘Jai Hind’ did not belittle one’s faith. The only difference between Hindus and Muslims, Abbas remarked, was that one had ‘sapne’ and the other had ‘khwab’. Both imply dreams.