Syed Abdul Aziz in the Public Life of Patna, From 1885 to 1948
Prof. Muhammad Sajjad
Syed Abdul Aziz was born in 1885 at the famous Bihar village of Neora (Patna), in his mother’s maayka (a family which has a rare distinction of producing so many legal, judicial, political, and intellectual luminaries).
Son of Syed Hifazat Husain, a hakeem, and royal physician of the Jaipur state, Syed Abdul Aziz’s parents died early. The Jaipur state was compassionate enough to have offered him all help in pursuing his education. Aziz however politely refused it and pursued his education first under the tutelage of Justice Sharfuddin (1856-1921) and later (1893?) under Sir Ali Imam (1869-1932). Aziz joined the Patna College but later went to the St. Columbus College, Hazaribagh. In 1907 he went to England and returned back to India as Barrister in 1913. A man of strong self-will and self-confidence, he believed in hard work and determination. Thus, within a decade of establishing the court practice, he became known as one of the best and most successful advocates (faujdari=criminal cases) of Patna. His powerful, passionate speeches in the ‘Jury Address’ earned special distinction, popularity and fame which people gathered in the court to listen with great interest. He was candid in his sayings and was honest in his profession. He was the government pleader in the Meerut Conspiracy Case (1929). Soon, he could realize that the government had a weak ground, and despite the fact that prolonging with it could have fetched good money to Aziz, he frankly advised the Viceroy to withdraw the cases.
Initially, Aziz had no interest in politics, even though he did undertake social welfare activities with passion and commitment. It was Sir Ali Imam, who dragged Aziz into politics in 1926. From the Patna constituency of the Bihar Legislative Council, he was pitted against the barrister Mr. Md. Yunus (1884-1952). Aziz won the election rather easily. In January 1934, he became minister for education and development, and had to deal with the colossal natural disaster in the form of earthquake (15 January 1934). Aziz undertook tours of rural and urban Bihar, distributed food-grains, breads, clothes, blankets, medicines, and erected camps for the shelter of the displaced. Both government and non-government organizations were mobilized for these works, and houses were also constructed for resettlement of the people. Given his integrity and objectivity, the Congress had constituted a Corruption Enquiry Committee under his chairmanship. was praised by the leading pro-Congress daily, the Searchlight, as being ‘high above sectarianism’ and had stood for ‘Hindu-Muslim unity’, was associated with cooperative movement, had donated for relief works in the earthquake of 1934, had provided generous fund for the blind and was the founder of the provincial Blind Relief Association.
As minister, he paid particular attention to the cottage industries which made a mark under his stewardship. As a result, the Bihar Cottage Industries emerged as a popular brand and the fabric as well as designs of the curtains manufactured by it became particularly more popular even in abroad countries.
In 1936, Aziz launched Muslim United Party and contested the 1937 elections from the Patna constituency against Syed Abdul Hafeez, advocate. In a close contest, Aziz managed to win with a narrow margin. In 1938-9, the United Party merged into the Muslim League.
Aziz had a special taste of constructing houses/buildings with unique architectural designs; his residence ‘Dil Kusha’, just across the Gandhi Maidan, survived for long; it was later purchased by the Bettiah Maharaj. Aziz had no marriage, and he spent all his earnings on welfare activities, across the classes. He was particularly concerned about keeping his friends along at any cost, yet, once he was hurt, he never looked back to such friends. He was very good at offering hospitalities, and rich and diverse menu at his dastarkhwan was very famous, particularly for Mughalai dishes.
Even though Aziz was particularly known for his social welfare and charitable activities, his Blind Relief Camp was a big success in particular. Thousands of people got back their eye-sights through this camp. Poor people were given shelter, food and free treatment for their eyes. Special tents were erected in the Gandhi Maidan for the poor patients, who got medicines and even spectacles free of cost. This continued for many years. In December 1938, with Jinnah’s visit in Patna, he became involved in the politics of Muslim League and emerged as a tall leader of the League (became President, Bihar wing of the Muslim League).
He however, didn’t continue with it for long; in 1941, he went to Hyderabad to become minister of the Nizam, where, in 1944, he injured himself in the bathroom and became physically handicapped; despite the Nizam’s dissuasion, he came back to Patna. He was disgusted with the communal riots of 1946 and wrote an Urdu pamphlet in two parts, “Haadsaat-e-Bihar Par Ek Nazar, 25 October 1946-20 January 1947”. Notwithstanding, his association with the Muslim League and disgust with the communal riots of 1946, and his grievances against the provincial administration led by the Congress, and its role in this regard, he dissuaded Muslims against migrating towards, ‘Pakistan’. In his pamphlet he also indicted the Bengal wing of the Muslim League which was inducing migration of Bihar Muslims by creating panic and by offering rail fares. Aziz died in January 1948; his janazah had huge crowd in the Gandhi Maidan, and then he was buried at Neora.
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