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Abdul Mejid II, a Caliph, was made to sit in an ordinary train by Kamal Ataturk unceremoniously. First time in the Muslim world, Caliph was being treated so shabbily. Once upon a time, on his orders, lakhs of men used to be killed and women raped. He finally settled in Nice, France, with his daughter Durrusehvar Sultan and his niece Nilofer Hanim Sultan in 1924. They remained poor and often half-starved and frequently shabbily dressed. Perturbed by such petty conditions, Maulana Shaukat Ali, a fast friend of Gandhi, and his brother, Maulana Mohammad Ali, urged Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan of Hyderabad to help him. Nizam indeed came to the rescue of his Muslim brother and sent a lifetime monthly pension of 300 pounds and several allowances. However, the condition remained dismal until the two girls were married to the sons of Nizam of Hyderabad, Azam Jah and Moazzam Jah, in 1931.
Earlier, Several Muslim kings across the world asked for the hand of beautiful girls for their sons, including the ones from Egypt and Nizam of India. However, Nizam won the race as he was the richest of all. Indian Muslim elites put their whole force into bringing the girls to India. It was believed that the matrimonial relationship between the Nizam and Abdul Mejid would lead to the advent of a Muslim ruler who could be acceptable to the powers-that-be in place of the Ottoman Sultans and Caliphs. Further, it was expected that the alliance would rally Indian Muslims once again.
Initially, only Durrusehvar was to be married with the mehar fixed at 50,000 pounds, but it was deemed too large for Nizam’s comfort. To paper over the minor disagreement over meher, Shaukat Ali asked both the girls for Nizam’s sons for the same mehar, reluctantly accepted by the exiled Caliph. As was expected, after the dual marriages, his financial position became significantly better. Azam was the elder son and heir to Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad.
After their marriages, both the girls, with their husbands, boarded a ship to Bombay, the one on which Gandhi with his friend Shaukat was also travelling, after attending the second round table conference in London. Gandhi was a known sympathiser of the deposed Caliph and actively took part in the Indian Khilafat movement to restore his power and dignity. Like Nehru, Gandhi, too, remained partial to various Muslim causes throughout his life. Gandhi was delighted to hear the newlyweds on board and Shaukat quickly proceeded to arrange a meeting on the board of the ship.
However, there was a hurdle: Gandhi was travelling in III class and would not step into I class lest it becomes a political embarrassment where the young couples were staying, nor would the Hyderabad princes agree to go to III class, where Gandhi was staying. Shaukat then came up with an amicable solution, and the meeting took place in a lounge in the II class. He taught them about Indian culture and asked them to take up the cause of women’s empowerment in Hyderabad. On the ship, the brides were also taught to wear the sarees and the ways to carry them. Both were modern in their outlook and advocated girls’ education and women’s rights in India. Mir, the Nizam, used to call them ‘jewels of his palace’. They charmed the social circuit of Hyderabad and soon became the Page 3 celebrities of the Hyderabad press. Despite such charming personalities, their marriages could not survive for long and ended up in divorces. They left for Europe soon after, and later, Nilofer chose to remarry an American. In 1944, when the Caliph died, Turkey refused his burial in Istanbul; however, with the intervention of Durrusehvar, Saudi Arabia allowed his burial at Medina in 1954.
It was the wealthiest and most powerful princely state of India, whose Muslim ruler, Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan, presided over a predominantly Hindu population (85 percent). In spite of such an overwhelming majority, Hindus were hardly represented in the government, military and police. His state was of two lakh square kilometers area, in which 1.6 crore people lived as per the 1941 census. Nizam was the richest person in the world in the 1940s, and his cumulative wealth amounted to $2 billion. The US GDP at that time was $200 billion; hence, he was worth 1 percent of the US economy. Such was his opulence that he used the 185-carat Jacob diamond as a paperweight. It was the only princely state that used to have its own currency, Osmania Sikka. He started his own bank, Hyderabad State Bank, to manage the currency. It even had its own army, airline, phone network, railway stations, postal system, and radio station.
Nizam remained conscious of the fast-changing political scenario and decided to go with Pakistan or, in a worse case, stay independent. For this explicit purpose, he encouraged Syed Qasim Rizvi—a home-grown fanatic Muslim and founder of a political party Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen meant to uplift Muslims—to bolster his army by recruiting Arabs, Turks and Pathans from all over the world. Rizvi even met Sardar Patel in Delhi to convince him to agree to Hyderabad’s independence. However, the meeting turned out to be stormy, and his demand was summarily rejected. He gave a very violent statement in Delhi after the meeting:
‘Death with the sword in hand, is always preferable to extinction by a mere stroke of the pen…if the Indian Dominion comes to Hyderabad it will find nothing but the bones and ashes of the one and a half crores of Hindus…’
With Syed Ahmed El-Edroos, Nizam’s army chief, he started the carnage of Hindus in the state in early 1948 and killed thousands of them and unleashed unmentionable atrocities. Lakhs of Hindus fled to neighbouring Central Provinces to hold on to dear life. Edroos was an Arab and called himself the direct descendent of the Prophet. His army had 6000 regular, trained soldiers, in addition to 18,000 poorly trained yet rabid Muslim irregular soldiers. Rizvi further strengthened the army by enrolling his two lakh followers. The troika of Nizam, Rizvi and Edroos, with the help of razakars, unleashed mayhem in the state and burnt the houses and farms of Hindus. The same carnage ensued again, which was happening with fair regularity over the past 1300 years, with thousands of Hindus being killed and women raped.
Even after hearing about the genocide, Nehru remained non-committal and was frequently found frolicking under the sheets with Edwina Mountbatten. However, Sardar Patel and K.M. Munshi decided to attack Hyderabad, and under the nickname of Operation Polo, military preparations started, which would soon amalgamate Hyderabad into India. However, in a typical Nehruvian move, Rizvi was allowed to migrate to Pakistan while Edroos took refuge in Bangalore without any repercussions. Like a cowardly bully, Nehru ended up taking out all his anger on KM Munshi. The relationship further soured when Munshi devoted all his energies to the reconstruction of Somnath temple.
Nizam, too was allowed to retain his title ‘Nizam’, all his property, wealth and wives of multiple nationalities. Later, he lost his titles and the privy purses in 1971 when Indira Gandhi passed the 26th Amendment to the constitution. However, his wealth remained intact.
Mukarram Jah Bahadur, the last Nizam of Hyderabad and born to Durrusehvar Sultan, died last week in penury after swindling all his money on wine and women. He passed away unsung in Istanbul, from where his nana once ruled the entire Muslim world, with an iron hand.
Written by Amit Agarwal, author of the bestsellers on Indian history titled “Swift horses Sharp Swords” and a “Never Ending Conflict”.
Follow me on Twitter @amit1119 and Instagram/ Facebook at amitagarwalauthor.
You may buy the books at the following links:
- Name Change & History Behind It - March 4, 2023
- Mughal Gardens - February 7, 2023
- Nizam and his Atrocities - January 31, 2023