On 27th September 1978, Syed Mohammad Advocate, my grandfather and one of the famous lawyers of North Bihar passed away in Muzaffarpur leaving a deep void in the legal profession at that time. As a little over six years of age, I have a faint memory of his huge funeral procession being attended by men cutting across religion, caste and sect.
Born in 1896 in Patna City, Mittanghat Mohalla in the family of Mir Murtaza Husain, he went to the famous Madarsa e Suleymania, Patna City for his basic education. Those days most of the famous Shii personalities of Patna had their basic education at the Madarsa e Suleymania before moving to the British government-owned educational institution.
He, however, acquired higher education of Aalim and Fazil before completing his Law degree from Patna Law College. In the colonial period Patna district court and lower court was blooming with some of the greatest lawyers of India.
For a beginner It was difficult to make a mark in that sphere in Patna those days. Hence, he was advised by Sir Sultan Ahmad with whom he worked for a while to shift to some other town in order to get experience before coming back to Patna.
Incidentally he came in contact with some elite of Muzaffarpur who wanted him to come to Muzaffarpur and start his career in the not so competitive environment of Muzaffarpur. In the meantime, the Spanish flu had consumed several members of his family including his two brothers and sisters.
In mid 1920s he crossed the Ganges and settled in Brahampura locality of Muzaffarpur initially before shifting to Chandwara Mohalla. The house he bought was obliterated in the devastating earthquake that shook eastern UP Bihar and Nepal in 1934. The present house where we were born and brought up was built by him brick by brick in more than a decade period.
By that time he had become a famous person of Muzaffarpur having the membership of various trusts organisations including municipality and minority institutions. The migration of a large number of well off Muslim families in terms of education and property in the wake of Partition left a deep void in the Muslim society of Muzaffarpur.
Despite lot of pressure from his relatives and friends, he refused to migrate to Pakistan as a result becoming a dominant voice amongst the Muslims of Muzaffarpur. That is why the Congress government of Bihar appointed him the Government Pleader. At one time he was the longest serving government pleader of Bihar.
Although a typical “gosha nasheen” one who loved seclusion, rather than being in limelight, he was forcibly nominated for post of MLC in late 1950s by then Chief Minister of Bihar Sri Krishna Sinha popularly known as Sri Babu. In fact the CM loved him so much that he wanted him to be in the Assembly rather than in the Council.
But my grandfather who we lovingly called “Sarkar Abba” refused to contest the election. It goes without saying that had he contested he would have won hands down from Muzaffarpur not only in Assembly and also in Parliament as well.
When we see our present generation who is who licking the boot of every Fascist and Criminals in order to become MLC and MLA, I feel that my grandfather must have been a Sufi or Pir to have refused a certain berth in Assembly and Parliament!
I have several anecdotes, transmitted to us orally from our elders, of the CM and Ministers of cabinet visiting our ancestral house to have lunch and dinner. Apart from his legal acumen and winning almost dozens of lost cases for the government, he was an accomplished poet also. Wrote several salaams and nauhas apart from few ghazals. These have been lost as he never wanted to preserve these posterity.
Last but not the least he was a devout Azadar of Imam e Mazloom and a Zayar e Karbala e Moalla, who would participate in the Moharram ceremonies with a lot of passion and devotion. On the 8th of Moharram he initiated the nazr e Hazrat e Abbas followed by a Hazri which has been continuing since then by first by our late father and now by my elder brothers.
(It is originally a Facebook post shared by Syed Ali Kazim, who teaches history at AMU)