XIII. THE GENTLE
I knew Maulana Mazharul Haq in London when he was
studying for the bar, and when I met him at the Bombay
Congress in 1915 the year in which he was President of
the Muslim League he had renewed the acquaintance, and
extended me an invitation to stay with him whenever I
happened to go to Patna. I bethought myself of this
invitation and sent him a note indicating the purpose of
my visit. He immediately came in his car, and pressed me
to accept his hospitality. I thanked him and requested
him to guide me to my destination by the first available
train, the railway guide being useless to an utter
stranger like me. He had a talk with Rajkumar Shukla and
suggested that I should first go to Muzaffarpur. There
was a train for that place the same evening and he sent
me off by it.
Principal Kripalani was then in Muzaffarpur. I had
known of him ever since my visit to Hyderabad. Dr.
Choithram had told me of his great sacrifice, of his
simple life, and of the Ashram that Dr. Choithram was
running out of funds provided by Prof. Kripalani. He used
to be a professor in the Government College, Muzaffarpur,
and had just resigned the post when I went there. I had
sent a telegram informing him of my arrival, and he met
me at the station with a crowd of students, though the
train reached there at midnight. He had no rooms of his
own, and was staying with Professor Malkani who therefore
virtually became my host. It was an extraordinary thing
in those days for a Government professor to harbour a man
Professor Kripalani spoke to me about the desperate
condition of Bihar, particularly of the Tirhut division
and gave me an idea of the difficulty of my task. He had
established very close contact with the Biharis, and had
already spoken to them about the mission that took me to
In the morning a small group of vakils called on me. I
still remember Ramnavmi Prasad among them, as his
earnestness specially appealed to me.
'It is not possible,' he said, 'for you to do the kind
of work you have come for, if you stay here (meaning
Prof. Malkani's quarters). You must come and stay with
one of us. Gaya Babu is a well-known vakil here. I have
come on his behalf in invite you to stay with him. I
confess we are all afraid of Government, but we shall
render what help we can. Most of the things Rajkumar
Shukla has told you are true. It is a pity our leaders
are not here today. I have, however, wired to them both,
Bapu Brajkishore Prasad and Babu Rajendra Prasad. I
expect them to arrive shortly, and they are sure to be
able to give you all the information you want and to help
you considerably. Pray come over to Gaya Babu's place.'
This was a request that I could not resist, though I
hesitated for fear of embarrassing Gaya Babu. But he put
me at ease, and so I went over to stay with him. He and
his people showered all their affection on me.
Brajkishorebabu now arrived from Darbhanga and
Rajendra Babu from Puri. Brajkishorebabu was not the Babu
Brajkishore prasad I had met in Lucknow. He impressed me
this time with his humility, simplicity, goodness and
extraordinary faith, so characteristic of the Biharis,
and my heart was joyous over it. The Bihar vakils' regard
for him was an agreeable surprise to me.
Soon I felt myself becoming bound to this circle of
friends in lifelong friendship. Brajkishorebabu
acquainted me with the facts of the case. He used to be
in the habit of taking up the cases of the poor tenants.
There were two such cases pending when I went there. When
he won any such case, he consoled himself that he did not
charge fees from these simple peasants. Lawyers labour
under the belief that, if they do not charge fees, they
will have no wherewithal to run their households, and
will not be able to render effective help to the poor
people. The figures of the fees they charged and the
standard of a barrister's fees in Bengal and Bihar
'We gave Rs. 10,000 to so and so for his opinion,' I
was told. Nothing less than four figures in any case.
The friends listened to my kindly reproach and did not
'Having studied these cases,' said I, 'I have come to
the conclusion that we should stop going to law courts.
Taking such cases to the courts does little good. Where
the ryots are so crushed and fear- stricken, law courts
are useless. The real relief for them is to be free from
fear. We cannot sit still until we have driven
#tinkathia# out of Bihar. I had thought that I should be
able to leave here in two days, but I now realize that
the work might take even two years. I am prepared to give
that time, if necessary. I am now feeling my ground, but
I want your help.'
I found Brajkishorebabu exceptionally coolheaded. 'We
shall render all the help we can,' he said quietly, 'but
pray tell us what kind of help you will need.'
And thus we sat talking until midnight.
'I shall have little use for your legal knowledge,' I
said to them. 'I want clerical assistance and help in
interpretation. It may be necessary to face imprisonment,
but, much so far as you feel yourselves capable of going.
Even turning yourselves into clerks and giving up your
profession for an indefinite period is no small thing. I
find it difficult to understand the local dialect of
Hindi, and I shall not be able to read papers written in
Kaithi or Urdu. I shall want you to translate them for
me. We cannot afford to pay for this work. It should all
be done for love and out of a spirit of service.'
Brajkishorebabu understood this immediately, and he
now cross-examined me and his companions by turns. He
tried to ascertain the implications of all that I had
said how long their service would be required, how many
of them would be needed, whether they might serve by
turns and so on. Then he asked the vakils the capacity of
Ultimately they gave me this assurance. 'Such and such
a number of us will do whatever you may ask. Some of us
will be with you for so much time as you may require. The
idea of accommodating oneself to imprisonment is a novel
thing for us. We will try to assimilate it.'