Mohammad Usman of Madras

Khan Bahadur Sir Mohammad Usman, KCSI KCIE (1884 – 1 January 1960) was an Indian politician, hakim and socialite who served as the Minister of Home for the Madras Presidency in the Justice Party government of the Raja of Bobbili and as the first Indian acting Governor of Madras from 16 May 1934 to 16 August 1934. His name is often written Muhammad Usman.

Khan Bahadur Sir

Mohammad Usman

Khan Bagadur Sir Mohammad Usman.jpg
Governor of Madras Presidency 1934 official picture
Member of the Executive Council of the Viceroy of India
In office
MonarchGeorge VI of the United Kingdom
Governor-GeneralVictor Hope, 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow,

Archibald Wavell, 1st Earl Wavell,

Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma
Succeeded byNone
Member of the Defence Council of India
In office
MonarchGeorge VI of the United Kingdom
Governor of Madras Presidency (Acting)
In office
16 April 1934 – 16 August 1934
PremierRaja of Bobbili
Preceded byGeorge Frederick Stanley
Succeeded byGeorge Frederick Stanley
Minister of Home (Madras Presidency)
In office
PremierRaja of Bobbili
GovernorGeorge Frederick Stanley
Member of the Executive Council of the Governor of Madras
In office
PremierRaja of Panagal
P. Subbarayan
GovernorGeorge Goschen, 2nd Viscount Goschen,
Sir Norman Majoribanks,
George Frederick Stanley
Succeeded byNone
Personal details
Tanjore, British India
Madras, India
Alma materMadras Christian College
Occupationlawyer, hakim
Khan Bagadur Sir Mohammad Usman KCSI KCIE

Usman was born into an aristocratic family of Tanjore in the Madras Presidency in 1884. He graduated from Madras Christian College and joined the Justice Party. He was elected to the Madras Legislative Council and later, to the Governor's executive council. Usman served as the member of posts and air in the Viceroy's Executive Council between 1942 and 1947. He died in 1960 at the age of 76. He was a part-time hakim or doctor in Unani medicine and used his influential position in the provincial administration to promote indigenous systems of medicine.

In person, Usman was both tall and very heavy. He was once described by V. S. Srinivasa Sastri as having a "magnificent frame", and Sastri's biographer says he was "of gargantuan size".[1]

Early lifeEdit

Usman was born to Mohammad Yakub who belonged to an aristocratic family of Tanjore,[2] Madras Presidency in 1884.[3] Usman graduated from the Madras Christian College[4][5] and joined the South Indian Liberal Federation. Usman practised Unani medicine and acquired a reputation as an efficient physician.[6][7]

Political positionsEdit

Usman was elected to the Madras Legislative Council as a Justice Party candidate in 1920 and served as a legislator from 1920 to 1923.[8] Usman served as the President of the Corporation of Madras in 1924–25[9] and as the Shera of Madras in 1924.[9] In October 1921,[7] the Raja of Panagal, the Chief Minister of Madras, established a committee on Indigenous Systems of Medicine.[10] He appointed Usman, the Secretary of the committee.[7][10] In 1922, this Committee concluded that Ayurveda was based on genuine scientific theories and noted that its practice has been waning over the years.[11] On 30 March 1925, Usman was appointed member of the executive council of the Governor of Madras.[12] He was elected president of the Muhammedan Education Association of South India in 1930.[13]

When the Raja of Bobbili took over as the Chief Minister or Premier of the Madras Presidency, Usman was made the Minister of Home in the provincial government. However, Usman resigned in 1934 recommending A. T. Panneerselvam as his successor.[14] Muslims of the Madras Presidency felt betrayed that Usman had not recommended a Muslim for the post and strongly opposed the candidature of Panneerselvam who was a Christian.[14] Violent Muslim-Christian riots erupted in the province.[14] Though the riots were eventually quelled, the incidents radicalized public opinion, both Muslim and Christian, against the Justice Party.

In 1935, Usman became the first Indian President of the Rotary Club of Madras.[15]

As Acting Governor of Madras PresidencyEdit

Usman served as the acting Governor of Madras from 16 May 1934 to 16 August 1934.[16] He was the first Indian to act as the Governor of Madras.[16]

Member of the Viceroy's Executive CouncilEdit

The British trusted Usman and considered him loyal.[17] He served as a member of the Indian Defence Council in 1941–42 and as the Vice-Chancellor of Madras University from 1940 to 1942.[18]

On 2 July 1942, the Viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow, expanded his Executive Council to nineteen members, bringing in Usman, Sir C. P. Ramaswami Iyer, B. R. Ambedkar, Sir Jogendra Singh, and Sir J. P. Srivastava. This took the number of Indian members of the Council to fourteen, with five Europeans.[19] Usman was made the member for Posts and Air.[4][18]

Usman's political views, according to the next Viceroy, Wavell, were "such that even a hardened Tory might regard as reactionary", and Wavell later noted in his journal that Usman "believed that God never meant India to be independent".[20][21]

At a conference of Post Masters General shortly after the end of the Second World War, Usman said of the need to improve postal and telegraph services "We have won the War. We have now to win the peace."[22]


Usman died on 1 February 1960 at the age of 76.[3]


Usman was knighted in the 1928 Birthday Honours[23] and made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire in the 1933 New Year Honours.[24] On 14 June 1945, he was appointed a KCSI.[25]

Usman Road, a thoroughfare in T. Nagar, Chennai is named after him.


  1. ^ Jagadisan, T. N., V. S. Srinivasa Sastri (Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India, 1969), p. 171
  2. ^ More, Pg 247
  3. ^ a b Sen, Siba Pada (1974). Dictionary of National Biography. Institute of Historical Studies. p. 375.
  4. ^ a b Cang, Joel (1945). United Nations Who's who in Government and Industry. Allied Publications. p. 112.
  5. ^ Muthiah, S. (10 December 2007). "Third from right?". The Hindu.
  6. ^ "A hospital by any name". The Hindu. 21 July 2008.
  7. ^ a b c Arnold, David (1987). Science, Technology, and Medicine in Colonial India. Cambridge University Press. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-521-56319-2.
  8. ^ Jinnah, Mohammad Ali; S. M. Zaman (1995). Qua'id-i-Azam and Education. National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research. p. 575. ISBN 978-969-415-035-2.
  9. ^ a b Nalanda Year-book & Who's who in India. 1947. p. 486.
  10. ^ a b Rajaraman, P. (1988). The Justice Party: A Historical Perspective, 1916–37. Poompozhil Publishers. p. 242.
  11. ^ Bala, Poonam (2007). Medicine and Medical Policies in India: Social and Historical Perspectives. Lexington Books. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-7391-1322-6.
  12. ^ Great Britain India Office (1928). The India Office and Burma Office List. Harrison and Sons, Ltd. p. 737.
  13. ^ More, Pg 121
  14. ^ a b c Mallampalli, Chandra (2004). Christians and Public Life in Colonial South India, 1863–1937: Contending with Marginality. Routledge. pp. 152–153. ISBN 978-0-415-32321-5.
  15. ^ "A 75-year-old legacy". The Hindu. 11 August 2003.
  16. ^ a b Muthiah, S. (20 September 2004). "A Mylapore landmark". The Hindu.
  17. ^ Hasan, Khalid Shamsul, The Punjab Muslim League and the Unionists (Ushba Publishing International, 2005) p. 187
  18. ^ a b The International Who's who. Europa Publications Limited. 1955. p. 997.
  19. ^ Keer, Dhananjay, Dr Ambedkar: Life and Mission (Popular Prakashan, 1971) p. 347
  20. ^ Wavell, Archibald, Wavell, the Viceroy's Journal (Oxford University Press, 1973), pp. 69 & 80
  21. ^ Waheed-uz-Zaman, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah: Myth and Reality (National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research, 1985), p. 64
  22. ^ Bernard Bel, Media and Mediation (SAGE Publications, New Delhi, 2005) p. 241
  23. ^ The London Gazette
  24. ^ Burke, Bernard; John Burke (1937). Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage. Burke's Peerage Limited. p. 2881.
  25. ^ The London Gazette


  • More, J. B. Prashant (1997). The Political Evolution of Muslims in Tamilnadu and Madras, 1930–1947. Orient Longman.