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 Professor 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 like me.
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 Bihar.
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 Professor 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.
Brajkishore Babu now arrived from Darbhanga and Rajendra Babu from
Puri. Brajkishore Babu 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
life-long friendship. Brajkishore Babu 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 was doing
something good for these poor people. Not 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 misunderstand
'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 Brajkishore Babu 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 as I would love you to run
that risk, you would go only 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
Brajkishore Babu 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.'