Those from Bihar’s capital city of Patna might have heard the name of MMHAPU, though it is likely that not everyone would be aware of what the initials stand for.
MMHAPU is Maulana Mazharul Haque Arabic and Persian University and is located on Ali Imam Path at the south corner of Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park in the city.
Though founded in 1998, the University did not start functioning till January 2008.
But who was Maulana Mazharul Haque, one wonders.
A quick online search did not throw up any Wikipedia page on him, which is somewhat strange given the fact that it is on the land donated by him on which stands Congress party’s Bihar headquarter – the Sadaqat Ashram.
The Maulana was born on December 22nd, 1866 in Bahpura, Thana Bihta in Patna in an affluent family of zamindars.
After completing his matriculation from Patna Collegiate, the Maulana went to London to study law – as was the choice of many bright students of the time.
It was during his stay in England that the Maulana befriended Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who would later become the Mahatma.
Maulana’s nationalistic activities had started while he was in London. He founded the Anjuman Islamia to bring all Indians under one umbrella and discuss the problems the British-ruled country faced. It was at the Anjuman Islamia where the Maulana met Gandhi.
In 1891 he returned home and established a legal practice in Patna. Though quite successful professionally, the Maulana remained perturbed by the conditions of Indians under the British rule.
Maulana Haque became popular among the people for the help he extended during the 1896-1897 Saran famine in Bihar.
His association with Gandhi brought him closer to the Congress party and he became the vice-chairman of Bihar Provisional Congress Committee in 1906.
That same year the Maulana travelled to Dhaka to attend the largest Muslim convention called at the time. That conference resulted in the birth of All-India Muslim League, of which Haque would become the president in 1915.
But he became an even more popular figure among the nationalists when he opposed the creation of separate electorates for Muslims under Morley-Minto reforms of 1909 despite it being supported by some pro-British Muslim leaders.
By 1916 the Maulana had established the Home Rule Movement in Bihar and brought the Congress party closer to the Muslim League with the accord signed at Lucknow in December 1916.
Inspired by the call of Mahatma, the Maulana actively participated in the Champaran Satyagraha in 1917.
The Satyagraha was launched by the Mahatma as a protest against the British taxation of poor landless labourers forced to grow indigo.
For participating in the Satyagraha, the Maulana had to serve a jail term of three months. Yet the prison term did not budge him from his nationalistic activities.
Till 1920, the Maulana remained a practicing lawyer but he left his profession to join the Non-Cooperation Movement called by Mahatma Gandhi.
The movement had witnessed a massive participation from young men and women, who left their colleges to join it. Concerned about their education, the Maulana donated his 16 bigha land on Patna-Danapur road for Sadaqat Ashram.
It was here that students who left British government colleges to participate in the Non-Cooperation Movement continued with their studies.
At the same time, the Maulana urged the women of his native state to shun the veil (purdah) and participate shoulder-to-shoulder with men in the Non-Cooperation Movement.
Being a highly educated man, the Maulana wisely thought of spreading the message of nationalism to everyone so that they better understand the cause of freedom struggle. To do so, he launched a weekly magazine called ‘The Motherland’ on September 3, 1921.
In 1926, he was defeated in the election to Bihar Legislative Council. Not interested in leading a public life any longer, the Maulana donated his house for a madrassa and a middle school that same year.
By 1927, the Maulana had retired from public life. On January 2, 1930, he breathed his last at his home, Ashiana, in Faridpur or Siwan district in Bihar.
The Sadaqat Ashram stands till date and houses the Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee. It is the same place where India’s first President Dr. Rajendra Prasad spent the last days of his life and the site from where Jayaprakash Narayan launched his landmark political movement in the 1970s.
Today the Ashram also serves as a museum. Yet hardly is anyone aware of Maulana Mazharul Haque’s contribution to the freedom struggle.
What is also pitiable is the condition of the house where he was born.
The room in which the Maulana was born now serves as the principal’s office in which the school administration stores utensils and food for mid-day meal.
The Grand Old Party appears to have conveniently forgot one of its own shining lights making the Maulana one of the many forgotten luminaries of India.