Hyderabad was the largest Indian princely state in terms of population. According to the estimates of 1941 census its population was around 16.34 million with Muslims accounting for nearly 12 %. Its ruler, the 6th Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan was the richest man in the world at that time.
Three kilometers from Masab Tank stood the King Kothi surrounded by walls, which had not been whitewashed for some years. It still housed the Nizam. He was no longer the ruler but his legend survived and even flourished. The richest man, the most miserly man, the proudest prince who had been humbled, the man whose word was law for close to four decades, who issued orders on everything expect on the rising and setting of the sun, who could pick up any woman he liked… he stayed there surrounded by his family, his mistresses, their dependents and their servants — and their dependents. A whole army of retainers catering to the whims fancies and illusions of one man who was still the absolute ruler within the four walls of his dilapidated palace –the ‘King Kothi’.
He still issued firmans in the old style in Urdu but they pretained to his place affairs or his private dealing. Some firmans just embodied his unsolicited opinions on trivia. It was pathetic to see the descendent of Asaf Jah I who granted concessions to the French and the British trading companies and laid down stiff conditions for their enjoyment, now issued dictats on inconsequential matters to fill up his time. The ‘Nizam Gazette’, an Urdu daily used to publish them regularly. So did some others like the ‘Shiraz’.
The following are two typical firmans: ‘Dated 10 Rabi-ul-awal. 1376H (15 October, 1956) Regarding: Inayat Ali, Boy aged 17 or 18, son of Khurshid Ali, servant in the palace of private estate.
Pleased to state that this child is also motherless because his mother died in his early childhood. The mother of Wasif Ali who is resident of Nazri Bagh is his father’s sister. Because of changed times, his father cannot bear the expenses of his education. He had, therefore, entrusted him to my care. The child was also willing to come to Nazri Bagh. Therefore, he has joined Wasif Ali
Who can be there, who due to the fickleness of these times wold refuse t entrust his children, whether male or female, to my care? My circumstances are known to the whole world. yet the welfare of the boys and girls staying here is apparent. It won’t be out of place or considered self- praise to stay that these people were lucky that they got such a master of commander who considers them his children and treats them like wise. No doubt about that.’
The second firman: ‘Dated 15 rabi-ul-sani, 1476 H (19 November, 1956) Regarding: Circumstances of Iqbal Jung***, son of the late Maharaja Peshkar
[Peshkar was Maharaja Kishan Pershad’s hereditory designation] (Born of the late
Pleased to state that the upbringing and education of his boy during the lifetime of his father was not proper. But after the father’s death his condition has worsened. Due to bad company and excessive drinking he developed an enlarged liver (a few years ago). Treating him as an orphan and also because of the fact that my daughter was engaged to him, he was kept in the Nazri Bagh and treated with great care at a time when there was no hope for his cure. It is a matter of satisfaction that he recovered.
He was also under a large debt. This could not be discharged from the amount received by way of compensation of the Peshkar’s estate. Nor could it be settled with the sale proceeds if the house (Situated within the compound of the Peshkar’s mansion in the city) which is father had given him during his lifetime for his stay. Out of this amount also part of his debt was discharged through a committe to the sarf-e-khas.
Further, in spite of instructions to the contrary, he kept on taking loans without knowledge though for a long time since his coming under my care, his personal needs did not cast any financial burden on his small income (from the compensation for the jagirs of the Peshkar). Even then he did not mend his way (that is, he continued to incur debts).
Because of the foregoing, I had to write these few lines to bring the circumstances of his case to the knowledge of the public. After his declaration, if any one gives him a loan, it will be at his own risk. It will not be repaid from his income, because his income which was credited by way of trust in the private estate of the suf-e-khas has been fully spent (and now nothing is left of his private income).
A part from that, if this boy does not become sensible he will get embroiled in litigations. His life will become notorious and he will get into all sorts of troubles. Then he will be deprived of my patronage and his continued stay in the Shadi Khana will become impossible. That’s all.
The Nizam also occupied himself by arranging matches for the offsprings of his retainers, dependents and servants. After the nuptials, he would send for the bedsheet to check weather the girl he had married off was in fact a virgin.
He prepared the menus for different residents of the King Kothi according to their rank and status and if someone fell ill, he would prescribe medicine as well as the special diet. He was a staunch believer in the Greco-Arabic (unani) system of the medicine and his prescriptions always proved very effective because nobody dared to re[port otherwise.
Many of his patients took his prescriptions and medicines respectfully, but in fact took a proper allopathic medicine. The credit, of course, went to the ‘great healer’. Occasionally he would still send a gift of some fruits or a part of his royal dinner (khasa) and in return get a nazar but that part of his business had tapered off.
The first Nizam had said in his will that he was leaving enough wealth to last seven generations – if properly spent. His successors had squandered it but something was still left when the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, came upon the scene. He set himself the task of augmenting the inheritance.
And then while he was still on the collecting spree, he found that his world had crashed around him and that the sources of funds had all dried up. He was also painfully aware of the marked propensity of his sons to spend recklessly. That was the main point on which he found fault with them.
He cautioned them against excessive spending but that had no effect upon them. They spent beyond the purses fixed for them; they incurred debts from all and sundry and the ageing Niam felt angry and embarrassed. But still he worried about what might happen to them after he was no more.
On the other side, the political front and the legacy of the Hyderabad is being taken for an internal change with some selfish-minded people. Hyderabad, not only had its own Army, but also had its own Railways, Airline, Postal Service, Radio Broadcasting network and currency. The Nizam and his court ruled over it with the British Resident keeping a close and watchful eye over everything.
The British Army also had a permanent garrison, just in case the faithful ally of the King Emperor was found lacking in faith. The Nizam was the first to sign the Subsidiary Alliance with the British and had remained steadfastly loyal to the empire. Even during the Mutiny of 1857, he managed to keep his state free from uprisings.
While the rest of India was engaged in the freedom struggle, Muslims in Hyderabad were visibly living in peace. Since the kingdom was being ruled by a Muslim king Mir Osman Ali Khan and the entire administration was largely under the control of Muslim officials and nobles, the community in general must have felt that it was completely safe. But this safety was superficial and temporary.
Unlike common perception that the Muslims were the ruling class, power was being enjoyed by a small section of the community. The rich and the elite were ruling the kingdom. They were not concerned about the common Muslims. Illiteracy and unemployment among Muslim masses was as rampant as it is today. The political conditions were extremely volatile.
The 6th Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan was ruling the Hyderabad since 1927. India was fighting its war for independence. Being a faithful ally of British, Nizam had no major threats from outside. But the political conditions within the state were heading for a major change. Some clerics and intellectuals floated Majlis-e-Bainul-Muslimeen and its first executive committee meeting was held on 12th November 1927. The meeting was convened by Moulvi Mohammad Mahmood Nawaz Khan and presided by Moulvi Haji Fatehullah.
On 15th of March 1929, Majlis declared its constitution with three main objectives — to unite all sections of the Muslim community, to protect the cultural, educational and social rights of Muslims and to promote loyalty towards the country (Hyderabad) and respect the law of the land. The organisation was later renamed as Majslis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. Later, the Arya Samaj, Hindu Mahasabha and Hyderabad State Congress came into existence. The State Congress was formed in 1938 and was immediately banned by the Nizam Government.
While the Majlis was trying to unite the Muslims and preparing them to defend the HyderabadState, Hindu Mahasabha on the other side, was mobilising the Hindus against Nizam. But Majlis, in its initial days, failed to make an impactful appeal to the Muslim community. All governments servants and the elite class stayed away from Majlis.
In 1940, Nawab Bahadur Yar Jung, one of the founding member, was elected as the Majlis President. He was a Jagirdar, a great orator and highly respected Islamic cleric.
Unlike common perceptions, a majority of Muslims were living a deplorable life in the Nizam’s rule. The literacy levels were very low. Except for a government or private job, Muslims were not indulged in any major commercial activity. A majority of the Muslim population was poor. After getting elected as Majlis President, Bahadur Yar Jung prepared a five-year plan for the economic and educational upliftment of the community. He appealed for a donation of 5 lakh rupees to implement the plan, but he did not get the desired support from the rich and elite class of Muslims. The Majlis was trying to do what the Nizam failed to do as the ruler.
Muslims used to address Bahadur Yar Jung as ‘Qayed-e-Millat’ or the ‘Chief of Muslim’ community. Some historians say that Nizam was personally not happy with the popularity of Bahadur Yar Jung. On 8th September 1941, the Nizam issued a ‘firman’ or order imposing ban on Jagirdars from participating in politics. But Qayad-e-Millat was determined to stay in politics by strengthening the Majlis. On 3rd October 1941, he surrendered his Jagir, all titles and privileges to Nizam and continued his political activities.
While Bahadur Yar Jung’s leadership was posing a great threat to the Nizam within Hyderabad, the Britishers were not happy with his active participation in the activities of Muslim League outside the HyderabadState. Qayed-e-Millat emerged as the undisputed leader of the community. He continued to expand the Majlis in all the areas of HyderabadState.
Besides focussing on socio-economic growth, Bahadur Yar Jung also wanted the Muslims to learn military skills. On 15th of April 1943, the Majlis Headquarters Darul-Salaam was established by purchasing the property at a cost of Rs.90,000. Even to mobilize this fund, Bahadur Yar Jung wrote letters to many rich Muslims seeking help. But it was with great difficulty and contribution from the community that he could buy property for Darul-Salaam.
So far, Majlis did not enjoy any royal patronage nor the dominant rich-class was supporting the organization. But the common Muslims were joining the Majlis. Due to his sincerity and oratory skills he was able to pull thousands of people towards Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. But his approach was neither violent nor communal. In fact, there were several instances when he prevented Muslims from resorting to any kind of violence.
Prior to becoming Majlis President, Bahadur Yar Jung was holding the post of joint secretary. In 1938, Arya Samaj activists killed two Muslims youth – Nawaz Khan and Banda Miyan in Dhoolpet area. They were said to be close relatives of Bahadur Yar Jung . The news spread like wildfire and thousands of armed Muslims gathered at Bahadur Yar Jung’s house Bait-ul-Ummat in Begum Bazar.
They were waiting for a signal from him to take revenge. Security forces were deployed all over the city to maintain law and order. Hyderabad’s Prime Minister Sir Akbar Hyderi, Home Minister T.G.Tasker and the Nizam himself were worried that it would be impossible to control the outbreak of communal riots in Hyderabad. They personally telephoned Bahadur Yar Jung requesting him to maintain restraint. Even Sarojini Naidu, who used to treat Bahadur Yar Jung as her son visited his house.
The crowd was shouting slogans seeking his permission to take revenge. He came out of his house and stood in front of the crowd. He did not say a single word. His silence had a strong message. The crowd dispersed peacefully. Sarojini Naidu hugged him like a child and said, “I have seen many leaders who provoke crowds, but I haven’t seen anyone who control them like this.
This is the gift of God.” Later, many Muslims started gathering at Chanchalguda with weapons. But Bahadur Yar Jung deputed his close associates to protect Hindu population and properties en route funeral procession. Nearly 25,000 people attended the funeral. Before the start of procession, Bahadur Yar Jung made an impressive speech appealing for peace in Hyderabad. People used to love him so much that despite being emotional they followed his instructions.
After getting elected as MIM president, Bahadur Yar Jung tried to create a disciplined organization. The Nizam sensed a potential threat for his authority. On the other hand, his active participation in the activities of Muslim League also angered the British Government. To counter Bahadur Yar Jung’s popularity, he imposed the ban on Jagirdars from participating in politics. But Bahadur Yar Jung surrendered his Jagir instead of bowing before the Nizam.
Shocked by this move, Nizam then tried to lure Bahadur Yar Jung by offering him a ministerial berth. But Bahadur Yar Jung refused to become Nizam’s minister three times till 1944. Referring to these offers, in one of his speeches Bahadur Yar Jung said, “I was born to become dust of streets which could revolutionise the hearts and not to sit on a ministerial chair and think about the state’s schemes. I’m a labourer whose job is to construct a road on which the vehicle of Muslim community could pass comfortably and reach its destination. My association with Prophet Mohammad is sufficient for me to be proud of.”
Later, Nizam tried to please Bahadur Yar Jung by offering to return his Jagir and everything that he surrendered. Originally it was planned that Nizam would make this announcement on his birthday on 23rd June 1944. Since Bahadur Yar Jung did not show any signs of kneeling before the Nizam, this idea was dropped. Instead, the Nizam was ready with another deadly plan. Two days after Nizam’s birthday, a dinner was hosted at Hashim Ali Khan’s house, a senior official of the State High Court. Before the dinner, Bahadur Yar Jung was served a ‘huqqa’ mixed with poison. He died instantaneously.
Bahadur Yar Jung’s contribution for the Muslim community cannot be described in a few paragraphs. Nazeeruddin Ahmed has written his biography in three volumes of over 300 pages each and after reading them I felt that whatever was written about Qayed-e-Millat was too little.
Though the death of Bahadur Yar Jung created a vaccuum in the Muslim leadership, but it did not decrease the popularity of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. After him, Abul Hasan Syed Ali became Majlis president and he was succeded by Mazhar Ali Kamil. Two years later, in 1946, Moulvi Syed Qasim Razvi was elected as the Majlis president. #KhabarLive