07 May, 2021

Badruddin Ajmal, All-India United Democratic Front chief

This alumnus of the Deoband school made his fortune in perfumes. Poor Muslims in Assam see him as a saviour; his detractors, as an inciter of riots.

Illustration by Sorit
Badruddin Ajmal, All-India United Democratic Front chief

It’s difficult to put Badruddin Ajmal in any particular box. He wears different hats—perhaps one should say caps—as the situation demands. He is an affluent businessman, a popular religious leader, a controversial politician, though not strictly in that order. For that can change as his priorities change. Yet all three roles merge seamlessly to create the persona that is Ajmal. He was born in Assam, three years after Independence. His initial success came through the perfume trade, not in his state but in Mumbai. Dubbed “perfume baron”, he has a multi-million dollar business spread across the country, with forays abroad. Ajmal studied at the Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband seminary and earned the equivalent of a master’s degree in Arabic and theology. Many call him Maulana Ajmal. His soaring popularity, especially among the Bengali-speaking Muslims of Assam, has also been attributed to his philanthrophy. He is credited with opening a number of schools, madrassas, orphanages and hospitals in various parts of Assam, particularly those with a substantial...

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