Shafi Daudi: The builder of the Congress in Muzaffarpur (Bihar)

By Mohammad Sajjad,

Born on 27 October 1875, at a village, Daudnagar, near the historic village of Vaishali, Shafi Daudi (1875-1949), was the founding President of the district unit of the Congress in Muzaffarpur (Bihar), in June 1920; the Shafi Manzil, was the venue of the meetings. He, along with few more companions like Ramdayalu Singh (1881- 1944), Radha Mohan Singh (d. 1961; of village Kamalpura, Paroo), Bindeshwari Prasad Varma, etc., went to Calcutta to attend the special session of the Congress in September 1920.

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By that time, Muzaffarpur had already become an important centre of the national movement. As a matter of fact, since 1857, Muslims were taking the lead both in modern education as well as in subsequent anti-colonial political assertion. Syed Imdad Ali’s Bihar Scientific Society (1868) and few other initiatives resulted into emergence of a sizeable section of educated middle class, more particularly among the Muslims, in Muzaffarpur.

Maulana Shafi Daudi [Photo Courtesy:]

In 1908, Khudi Ram Bose was hanged till death for having resorted to violent revolutionary activities; he had intended to kill the unpopular judge Kingsford, but ended up killing two ladies. The same year Annie Besant had visited the town and established Theosophical Society, which later on threw up leaders of the Home Rule Movement, as recorded in Janakdhari Prasad’s memoir, Kuchh Apni Kuchh Desh Ki (1970). In the Seminary School, the ‘Bihari Students Conference’ (1916) was organized, presided over by Annie Besant. On 15 April 1917, Gandhiji visited Muzaffarpur, stayed at the Shafi Manzil while on his way to Champaran; he also went to the kothi of indigo planter (Nilaha Sahib) at Daudnagar (another village of Muzaffarpur, which was the ancestral place of Mazharul Haq’s father). In 1913, a branch of the Anjuman-e-Khuddaam-e-Kaabah (Abdul Bari, Firangi Mahal, Lucknow) was opened by Abdul Waheed and Khan Bahadur Syed Mahmud, who was teaching in Berkley. In 1889, inspired with the Darul Uloom (Deoband), the madrasa, Jamiul Uloomwas established by Hafiz Rahmatullah ‘Ahqar’ (d. 1927), who was an important leader of the national movement. By 1920 the anti-colonial politics had started becoming more assertive.

Thus a host of freedom fighters emerged among the Muslims in Muzaffarpur, viz. The Aijazi brothers, Abdul Wadood, Hakeem Ruknuddin, Abdul Khaliq, Mohammad Ishaq, Mohamamd Hakeem, Badruzzaman, Abdul Majeed, Hafiz Nabi Hasan, Nematulllah ‘Razi’, Abdul Ahad, Mohammad Zahuruddin, Badrul Hasan, Advocate, Khan Bahadur Syed Ahmad Husain, Syed Mehdi Hasan, Moulvi Matiurrahman, Moulvi Abdul Ghani, Moulvi Hasan Jaan, Mohammad Ismael, Mohammad Yaqub, Tajammul Husain, Syed Mubarak Ali, Noor Hasan, Abbas Vidyarthi, and many more.

On returning from the Calcutta Congress (Sept 1920), Daudi first of all addressed a huge gathering in the premises of a school at the Bhagwanpur railway station near Vaishali. Through such efforts, now the Congress programmes started becoming popular among the common people. On 15 October 1920, the provincial Congress formed a committee of four people including Mazharul Haq and Shafi Daudi. This is how the organizational structure of the Congress started becoming stronger. On 7 December 1920, Gandhiji again visited Muzaffarpur along with the Ali brothers. Once again the Shafi Manzil was privileged to be the place preferred to stay at by these history- makers.

After the Nagpur session (1920) of the Congress, law courts came to be boycotted; Daudi gave up his lucrative court practise (of around Rs three thousand a month) and started adjudicating the disputes either at his home or at the district headquarters of the Congress at the Tilak Maidan in Muzaffarpur which became hub of nationalist activities. On the death of Tilak in 1920 a target was fixed to raise a fund of Rs ten million from across the country. It was due mainly to the efforts of Daudi that Muzaffarpur contributed Rs one lakh to the fund.

Charkha Samitis were formed in villages. During 26 January to 5 February 1921, as many as 56 meetings were held in the villages; training camps were opened which threw up local leaders. The state became vigilant upon Daudi and imposed certain restrictions like prohibiting him to address public meetings, against which Rajendra Prasad raised his voice of protest in the council. Daudi had succeeded in starting quite a few schools for nationalist education, in burning the foreign imported clothes, etc. On 30 October 1921 the Superintendent of Police entered in his diary that the people of Muzaffarpur have great trust in their leader Daudi who had made the district an important centre of the Non Cooperation Movement.

The same day the police raided Daudi’s house and arrested him alongwith few other people including Maghfur Aijazi (1900-1967), and Abdul Wadood (1955). With this a vacuum of leadership in Muzaffarpur came. Thanks to Mrs Zubaida Daudi who accepted the challenge to lead and addressed the pre-scheduled public meeting till Lateef Husain succeeded persuading Ramdayalu Singh to take over the lead. The popularity of Shafi Daudi can be gauged by the fact that in protest against his arrest, a large number of peasants surrounded the collectorate. The Collector wanted to put Daudi’s property to auction but he found no bidder. Inside the jail he was subjected to torture leading to popular protests making the colonial state bow down and Daudi was then declared a political prisoner.

Inside the jail he evolved a unique form of prayer offered by both Hindus and Muslims together. In December 1922 he was released and he joined the Gaya Congress, after which he joined the Swaraj Party, contested the Municipality elections and became its President. In March 1924 he contested for the District Board, from Patepur which he lost at the hands of an European candidate Danby, a planter. His contemporaries admit that this was beginning of the manifestations of caste and community based frictions within the Bihar Congress as well as in the national movement. This electoral defeat of Daudi was taken as reluctance of the common Congress cadres in granting proportionate share of power to the Muslims.

In Gaya, Hadi Husain (the brother of Sir Sultan Ahmad) underwent similar experiences which had hurt even Hasan Imam. From then onwards the Congress came to be dominated more by the Bhumihars and Rajputs whereas the Muslims and the Kayasthas began to be marginalized. G. McDonald has interpreted it in two ways, on the one hand the Bihar Congress now got rural elites as its leaders, and on the other hand they were more from the abovementioned two upper castes of Hindus. Rajendra Prasad in his Autobiography has also expressed his concern about the anguish of Daudi after his marginalization in electoral politics. Daudi was disillusioned and his alter dissociation witht eh Congress had a lot to do with the politics of the 1920s.

In 1924, Daudi was elected for the Central Assembly (separate electorate was applicable in the Council elections). In 1926-27 elections the Swarajists had tough days against the Mahasabhites like Moonje, Malaviya, Lala Lajpat, etc. In Bihar however the Swarajists had not seen as bleak scenario. It was due mainly to Daudi. He wrote a letter to Motilal Nehru expressing his hard work in the electoral campaign, wading through knee-deep water on the bullock carts, and ensured people’s support, more particularly of Muslims, to the Swaraj Party.

Daudi was however still favouring joint electorates with some reservation of seats for the Muslims, which he insisted on in the Madras session of the Congress (1927). The Puruliya session of the Bihar Congress presided over by Shah Mohaamd Zubair also insisted on reservation of seats for the underrepresented groups under the joint electorate. Meanwhile the Simon Commission was announced. On 30 Janaury 1928, Daudi presided over a meeting in the Anjuman Islamiya Hall, Patna, where he exhorted to sink the communal differences in order to put up a strong resistance to the Simon Commission. On 3 February, the day Simon Commissionw as landing in India, Daudi addressed from the Jama Masjid, Muzaffarpur exhorting people to boycott it, and he himself proceeded to Patna to lead a students’ procession against it along with Rajendra Prasad, Baldev Sahay, and Abdul Bari.

Subsequently, the Motilal Nehru Report came. On 18 October 1928 there was a public meeting of Muslims outpouring dissatisfaction against the Nehru Report. This was preceded by such meetings in various district headquarters of Bihar. In August 1928 he had reiterated it at the All Parties’ Conference, Lucknow. Motilal Nehru did not endorse it; rather he bluntly snubbed him, which shocked him deeply and he left the Congress-Swaraj Party. On 9 December 1928, an All Parties Conference of Muslims was convened to know the Muslim reaction on the Nehru Report. This conference passed many resolutions including communal amity, joint electorate, reservation for Muslims in the central assembly, provincial autonomy, and complete independence for India, whereas the Nehru Report had contented itself on Dominion Status.

In 1929 he helped Mian Fazl-e-Husain of Punjab to found the All India Muslim Conference. Daudi’s Urdu bi-weekly, Ittehad , from Patna’s “Qaumi Press, Bankipore”, worked a lot towards popularising the political programmes of the Muslim Conference. The Congress’ loss was the gain of the Muslim Conference, which was increasingly becoming the Muslim League’s eye-sore. As the Conference was for joint electorates and the League was for separate electorates. For most of the duration of 1924-34, Daudi was member of the Central Assembly and he left his mark both on the streets as well as inside the assembly.

In 1931, during the Civil Disobedience Movement, in the North West Frontier Province, the “Red Shirts” of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan had undergone police excesses. Daudi left no stone unturned in getting the responsible officers transferred by taking the issue up with the Governor and the Inspector General of Police, and got the imprisoned freedom fighters freed from incarceration. Daudi was a part of the delegation of the Round Table Conference-II, which had gone to London, and along with Allama Iqbal and Shaukat Ali he had toured certain parts of the world where he propagated his struggle against colonialism.

In the earthquake of 1934 he undertook the relief works on a very big scale. The Congress office of the Tilak Maidan in Muzaffarpur was ‘confiscated’ by the government, hence the contiguous land of two and a half bigha was given to the office to operate the relief works; it was a land belonging to the Servants of India Society of Gokhale, hence it came to be known as Gokhalepuri. And the building was named “Hridaya Sthali” after Hridayanath Kunjru, the Secretary of the Society. Gandhiji inaugurated the building on 23 April 1934.

The Muslim Conference gradually lost its relevance particularly after the Communal Award (1932). Meanwhile the ex-Khilafatists of Punjab had formed the Majlis-e-Ahrar. Daudi contested 1937 elections on the Majlis-e-Ahrar, and lost it to Badrul Hasan of MIP. He tried to re-establish his law practise in the Muzaffarpur court, became the Public Prosecutor. Gradually, more on account of failing health and old-age ailments, he went back to his village Daudnagar, and became part of the Jamaat-e-Islami, which was founded in March 1941 by Maulana Maududi (1902-79). In 1947 he dissuaded the Muslims of his village and locality from migrating to Pakistan. His nephew Col. Mahboob Ahmad (1920-92), the second Lieutenant in the British Indian Army, was with the INA of Subhash Bose, whom he had first met at Singapore in early 1943, and by July 1943 he joined the INA, also toured different parts of Bihar persuading people to remain undaunted in the face of the 1946 massacre, and exhorted them not to migrate to Pakistan.

In January 1949, Daudi breathed his last at his ancestral village Daudnagar.

Could this story of Daudi be taken as yet another instance of Muslim alienation against the Congress’ denial of adequate share in the structures and processes of power during the freedom struggle? This question perhaps needs a debate, leaving at least one thing undisputed that Daudi was the founder of the district unit of the Congress in Muzaffarpur and his contributions to the freedom struggle can’t ever be forgotten, notwithstanding his experiments with many political formations.

[Note: This is an abridged version of my essay, “Ek Ahad Saaz Shakhsiyat: Shafi Daudi” , published in Jamia, Urdu quarterly, vol. 100, Nos. 4, 5, 6, April-June 2003, pp. 33-50. Details in my forthcoming monograph, Contesting Colonialism and Separatism: Muslims of Muzaffarpur, Bihar, since 1857].

Mohammad Sajjad is Assistant Professor at Centre of Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University (India)