Jan 31, 2007

Urdu - The Language Divided

Teri Aakhain Khuda Mehfooz Rakahay,
Teri aakhon mein hairani bahot hai
(May God keep your eyes safe, because they are full of wonder and surprise)
-Sheen Kaf Nizam

Recently, the Iqbal award conferred by Madhya Pradesh government for Urdu writing was presented at Bhopal to Shiv Kumar Nizam, who writes under nam de plume of Sheen Kaf Nizam. This has become a topic of controversy.Somebody observed "If selecting a non-Muslim was a criterion for the BJP government then Balraj Komal would have been a great choice". Some body else reported (Chandrabhan) Khayal as saying
"Unfortunately Hindu writers are given so much respect amongst Urdu-speakers but most Hindus believe that Urdu is a Muslim language, kuchh halaat hi is mulk ke aise ban gaye hain, kya kiya jaye"
On the other hand, according to wiki "Because of Urdu's extreme similarity to Hindi, speakers of the two languages can usually understand one another, if both sides refrain from using specialized vocabulary. Indeed, linguists sometimes count them as being part of the same language diasystem. However, Urdu and Hindi are socio-politically different, and people who self-describe as being speakers of Hindi would question their being counted as native speakers of Urdu, and vice-versa." Top three nations with speakers of Urdu language are:

India (48.1 million [1997])
Pakistan (10.7 million [1993])
Bangladesh (650,000)

Meanwhile a hot discussion about Sahir Ludhyanvi , and through him about Urdu, is on. Check it out

Jan 30, 2007

Moharram At Bhopal

Muslims of every sect are solemnly observing Moharram, which reminisces of the great sacrifice of Shaheed-e-Azam Hazrat Imam Hussain. The rituals will culminate on Tuesday. Like every year a grand rally would be taken out on the 10th day of the month which will include Alams, Tazias and Sawaris. Main attractions would be large Tazias of Mangalwara and Budhwara. It would be for the first time that Tazias and Alams would be immersed in the Lower Lake instead of Karbala Ghat on the banks of Upper Lake. However, for completing religious rituals Tazias would be first taken to Karbala.

The Tazias (replica shrine of Imam Hussain) are being taken out in Bhopal from the era of Begums. At those times both ruler and ruled, Hindus and Muslims paid their respect and tributes to the martyrs of Karbala. part from its religious importance, month of Moharram has its own significance for Bhopali culture. The famous Gutkha of Bhopal came into existence during this mourning month. Raja of Islam Nagar Vijay Ram also had a Tazia prepared. Besides making Tazias and holding Majlis several other acts of philanthropy are undertaken. They include offering water and Sharbat, feeding poor and have-nots and distributing alms. Mahmood Sikandar, who is great devotee of Imam Hussain has been taking out his Tazia for the last 50 years. He told that in Bhopal Tazias are made of Bamboo sticks and papers of various kinds. 

That is why Tazias are lightweight and can be lifted and carried by a few persons. They are eco-friendly as they degrade in water sometime after the submersion. Tazias were mostly submerged in the Upper Lake on the banks of Karbala. But many people lay them to rest in the soil. The biggest and oldest Tazia of Bhopal is that of Mangalwara eunuchs. The Tazia of courtesan Nanhi Bai, which had silver coating, was also a major attraction. But when Nanhi Bai moved to Bombay (Now Mumbai) she took her Tazia away with her. During the battle with Marathas of Gwalior and Nagpur between 1808 to 1812, the condition of people became so bad that they had to eat stones of Tamarind (Imli) and roasted leaves. That battle had started in the month of Moharram and ended in the same month many years later and Bhopal emerged victorious. Though the battle was over but the people of Bhopal did not stop taking Gutkha. Instead they made certain modifications to make the Gutkha tasty. Now Gutkha was prepared with cut beetle nuts and other ingredients. The famous Zari Batua (pouch) also came into existence to keep and carry Gutkha. In Olden times, special Gutkha was prepared for Moharram.

Another very interesting episode is associated with Moharram in Bhopal. In the era of Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum, two of his emirs Tabba Mian and Abba Mian, both brothers, got her permission to divert the route of Moharram procession and Tazias through near their house so that they could have maximum glimpses of it. This was vehemently opposed by the masses. That year the situation became so tense that Tabba Main and Abba Mian could not move out of their houses to watch Tazia procession. The next year Tabba mian added several stories to his house so that he could watch Tazias from there. At that time the palace-like building became the tallest one in the city. The palace still lies in dilapidated condition near Peer Gate.

Jan 29, 2007

Yeh Lo Main Hari Piya

Omkar Prasad Nayyar died of cardiac arrest on Sunday. Born on January 16, 1926, in Lahore, Nayyar expired within hours of passing away of Kamleshwar

As has been aptly pointed out by Indscribe about Kamleshwar:

"You go to wikipedia, you'll find just 3 lines about him. Yes, that's what we have reduced everybody to. Whoever doesn't write in English is a nobody in this nation.
We may produce lots of Ambanis and Indira Nooyis in future but we are surely going to become a nation of pygmies, who we'd look up to!... sab baune hi bachenge!"

The media is making the nation look more interested in knowing whether Aiswarya and Abhishek are married or not. It is better to say alvida to the like of OP Nayyar sahab and Kamleshwar saying "Yeh Lo Main Hari Piya"

Jan 28, 2007

Indian Minister Is Father Of Communist Terrorist

On December 2006 Shivraj Patil, the Home Minister, Government Of India referred to Naxalites as his “misguided sons”. When some Naxalites were arrested in Bhopal, it was discovered that the Naxalites had signed the rent contract with house-owners, naming Shivraj Patil as their father.

Now will the Union Home minister please stand guarantee for their bail!

Jan 25, 2007

Prospect and Retrospect

“A strong and resurgent India is celebrating its 58th Republic Day on 26 January 2007. This year’s parade will highlight the nation’s achievements in various fields, the military prowess, scintillating display of air power as also our rich and diverse cultural heritage”, says the Government Of India Press Information Bureau website. An article quotes Goldman Sachs Global Research saying “We project India's potential or sustainable growth rate at about 8% until 2020. The implication is that India's contribution to world growth will be even greater (and faster) than implied in our previous BRICs research”. The article goes on to state that India would be second only to China in world economics.
The Indian independence from British rule unfortunately will always bring up the sad memories of partition. There has been much introspection of late into the logic of partition. The romantics of India believe that had the politicians showed some restraint, India and Pakistan would have been united today. However the historical facts indicate towards a different truth, as has been indicated by this excellent article by Sadna Gupta:
“Constitutional/political parity between Hindus and Muslims, or between Hindustan and Pakistan as Jinnah demanded as the price for a united India was an unsustainable option. Even had every last four-anna Congress member signed off on it, such parity would not have been digestible by the general public and would have led to political chaos. As the forced basis for collective decision-making, it would have led to failure to write a constitution for India.
Eventual civil war could also have ensued since the British Indian Army was heavily weighted with the North Western region's minority which was seeking to rein in the political rights of the majority (similar to what happened in East Pakistan in 1971).”
Strangely, the same Jinnah who was so instrumental in creation of Pakistan was known as the ‘ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity’. His views appeared to have changed considerably by 1940, when in his presidential address to the Muslim League at the Lahore Session - where the famous Pakistan Resolution was passed – he said:
It is extremely difficult to appreciate why our Hindu friends fail to understand the real nature of Islam and Hinduism. They are not religious in the strict sense of the word, but are, in fact, different and distinct social orders, and it is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality ... The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, and literatures. They neither intermarry nor interdine together and, indeed, they belong to two different civilizations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions.

This definitely indicates that Jinnah viewed partition and the creation of a sovereign Muslim state as absolutely necessary. However, on August 11th 1947, in his inaugural address to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly - one of his most important and carefully prepared speeches - this is what Jinnah had to say:

“Everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs ... is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations. ... In course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community, will vanish. ... You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State. ... We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. ... in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”
Although it is difficult to fathom how these two diametrically opposed visions of Pakistan could have been articulated by the same person, it appears from the second quote that Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be just like India, with religion as a private issue, no business of the state. But if Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be just like India, then what was the purpose of the Pakistan movement, what was the need to create a new state at such great cost?
In recent years revisionist historians - the most prominent being Ayesha Jalal - have come up with a thesis that goes a long way in explaining Jinnah's actions. According to this thesis, Jinnah never really wanted Pakistan, i.e., a separate sovereign state for Muslims. This was a bargaining counter for Jinnah, against his predominant Hindu representatives of Congress. Jinnah always thought of ‘Pakistan’ as a demand, never as an independent sovereign state, and had evidently not though it through. No wonder then that when the state of Pakistan was actually established in 1947, Jinnah had no idea what this new state was to be all about, and had nothing resembling a long-term vision for it. As Salman Rushdie put it in his novel Shame “Pakistan may be described as a failure of the dreaming mind... Perhaps the place was just insufficiently imagined.” The political events unfolding should be analyzed with the clear minds of this generation, sans the bitterness of the generation that had to live through the nightmares of partition. The two-nation theory stated“Muslims and Hindus were two separate nations by every definition, and therefore Muslims should have a separate homeland in the Muslim majority areas of British India, to enable them to live according to the teachings of Islam. The theory was rejected by many in India as many Indians, including Muslims, demanded a secular state which possessed diversity.”
However this theory was proved wrong when Bangladesh was separated from the fellow Muslim country of Pakistan. Pakistan was reduced to believing “Pakistan ka Matlab Kiya? La Illaha Illal Lah” [What does Pakistan mean? No God but One]. To quote from this excellent article from Chapati Mystery

“The ideology of Pakistan, in Zia ul Haq’s Pakistan, was Islam. The narrative history of this ideology was in every history and social studies textbook post-1977 and part of every politician and leader’s arsenal.
This officially sanctioned ideology of Pakistan is historically, teleologically, and dare I say, divinely determined. There are no divergent paths, or counter-memories in this narrative. In this particular past, selections from the history of Muslim League exist merely to fulfill the prophecy of Pakistan.”
India thankfully appears to have bypassed the option of being turned into a Hindu Pakistan, and on the eve of 58th Republic day can hope to continue learning from others mistakes, as she might not have the time to commit all of them herself.

Jan 24, 2007

Mamola Bai

Mamola Bai married Yar Mohammad Khan during one of his campaigns on neighboring states. According to some writers she was daughter of the Rajput raja of Kotah, while others state she was a “Brahmin lady from northern India”. It is evident that Mamola Bai assumed a leading role in Yar’s court soon after she became his consort. She converted to Islam but never adopted a Muslim name.
Yar Mohammad Khan’s death led to another major confrontation between family aspirants to the title. His half-brother, Sultan Mohammad Khan, made a second attempt to claim the throne. Aligned with some other members of the family, Sultan and his younger brother Sadar seized the Fatahgarh fort and sought the support o neighboring Marhatta kingdoms. Mamola Bai faced the revolt from Islamnagar, proclaiming Yar’s 11-year old eldest son Faiz Mohammad Khan as the nawab. She sent Bijjeh Ram as the head of 5000 soldiers to confront the Sultan Mohammad. The confrontation took place around Eidgah Hill in which Sultan and Sadar surrendered to the royal force. They agreed to renounce forever their claims to the title and moved to the neighboring state of Kurwai. Faiz, the stepson of Mamola Bai, however turned out to be more inclined to spirituality and devoted himself to prayer and meditation. Faiz was an imposing figure, almost seven feet tall with arms stretching down to his knees. As Faiz withdrew increasing behind a veil of devotion, the Dowager Mamola Bai assumed effective governance. Under her, Bhopal signed a treaty with the Peshwa, and with their nod Mamola Bai took over control of Raisen fort from nominal Moghul control.

With the arrogation of power by Mamola Bai and her trusted chief minister Bijjey Ram, the Barru-Kat Pathans started feeling increasingly restless. This might have been due to the fact that both the power holders were outsider Hindus. At the Age of 46, the revered saintly Faiz Mohammad Khan died of dropsy on 12 December 1777, ending his reign of 35 years in which he paid scant interest in the affairs of state. Faiz died childless and was buried near Kamlapati’s palace beside his real mother. He left behind his widow, Saleha Begum, better known as Bahu Begum.

Sensing another crisis of succession, the 62-year old Mamola Bai declared Faiz’s younger brother Hayat Mohammad Khan, as the fourth Nawab of Bhopal. Faiz’s widow, Bahu Begum, refused to accept Hayat’s accession, perceiving that by placing her weak, indolent son on Gaddi (throne), Mamola Bai was seeking to continue her Hindu oriented reign in Bhopal. Supported by the Barru-Kat Pathans, Bahu Begum regularly ran a parallel government at Islamnagar. The two women headed rival cabals vying for power in the state. In fact, Hayat Mohammad Khan offered to step down to pacify the tempestuous Bahu Begum.

Jan 23, 2007

Marhatta Domination

By 1736, the Nizam and Peshwa had become rivals for power. Peshwa Baji Rao invaded Bhopal with a significant force in November 1736. Defeated in the war, Yar Mohammad Khan was forced to pay an annual grant of five lakh rupees to the Marhattas. These gains by Marhattas led to reconciliation between the Moghul court and the Nizam in Delhi. The Nizam was dispatched with a vast force, which converged on Bhopal where battle was to be engaged. The Nizam occupied Raisen fort and waited for Moghul reinforcements to arrive while the Peshwa mounted his famous guerilla tactics, aimed at starving out the Nizam’s unwieldy force. Several weeks later, the Nizam’s forces were desperate, the Nizam’s Rajput and Jat allies deserted him, and eventually the Nizam’s forces emerged from Raisen but were roundly defeated. On 6 January 1738 the Nizam, signed a peace treaty with the Peswa Baji Rao at Dorah-Serai, near Bhopal, in which he ceded Malwa, acknowledged sovereignty over the territory between the Narbada and Chambal rivers. The Nizam was then allowed safe passage to Hyderabad.

The Marhatta confederacy was bristling with power and ready to embark on its ultimate ambition of controlling the northern heartland of India. Suddenly in 1739, India faced the invasion from Persia of Nadir Shah. He defeated Emperor Mohammad Shah and sacked Delhi, killing 20,000 citizens in a day. Fearing an attack towards south, the Marhattas dug across the Narmada River but the dreaded confrontation never took place. Nadir Shah returned to Persia with the Kohinoor and the peacock throne. Marhattas, confused by the sudden attack, were further left to internal turmoil with the death of Peshwa Baji Rao in 1740. His son Balaji Rao II was not a military strategist like his father, but was a wily politician and diplomat. In this space, Rajputs, under the charismatic leadership of Jai Singh, again became players in the power game. Jai Singh also wanted to control Malwa, but never realized his dream. The Marhattas were eventually back, under the leadership of Shahuji’s nephew, Raghunath Rao, and his cousin, the brilliant general Sudashiv Bhau.

Thus, Yar Mohammad Khan’s 14-year reign saw Bhopal genuflect deeper towards the Marhattas with peace being achieved at the cost of territory and finances. Yar Mohammad Khan died of an illness in 1742 at the relatively young age of 32. He was buried at Islamnagar.

Jan 22, 2007

Yar Mohammad Khan, Second Nawab Of Bhopal (1728-42)

For Dost Mohammad Khan, the rivalry between the Moghul Court and the Nizam placed him in an acute dilemma. The Nizam was strong and well armed. He passed through Bhopal on his way down to the Deccan with an impressive show of force. On the other hand Dost owed allegiance to Moghul court, and was also a personal friend of the Sayyed brothers . Threatened at the local level by Marhattas and Rajputs, Dost aligned with the Moghul court. 

He allowed his brother, Mir Ahmed, to fight alongside Dilawar Ali Khan who was set up by the Moghul court to ambush the Nizam on his way to Deccan. Dilawar lost the battle of Burhanpur in 1720, Mir Ahmed was killed and Bhopal earned Nizam’s hostility. Confronted by a common enemy, the Nizam and Peshwa Baji Rao joined in an alliance against the Moghul emperors. On 19 June 1720, the Moghul army was defeated in the Battle of Khandwa. Consequently, the Nizam went on defeat the Moghul surrogate, Mubariz Khan in the battle of Shakarkhelda in 1724. Peshwa Baji Rao fought in league with the Nizam against Moghul emperor’s forces. Nizam then returned to Bhopal to settle scores with Dost.

Initially, Dost fortified himself at Islamnagar, but then agreed to a truce with the Nizam. Dost ceded the Islamnagar fort, ten lakh rupees and his 14 year son and heir, Yar Mohammad Khan as hostage. Dost was appointed the Killedar (fort commander) and was reduced to running the state on behalf of Nizam. Dost spent rest of his life consolidating the administrative upkeep of Bhopal with his trusted Dewan (Chief Minister) Bijjey Ram. When Dost died in March 1728, Yar Mohammad Khan, then 18 years old was dispatched to Bhopal at the head of a 400-strong detachment from Nizam’s army. 

Yar Mohammad Khan found that his only surviving uncle, Sultan Mohammad Khan, backed by the Barru-Kat high command of Dost’s army, had installed his eight-year old half-brother, Sultan Mohammad Khan, as the Nawab. Yar’s supporters including the Nizam’s detachment led by Bijjey Ram routed Sultan’s henchmen. With the help of trusted Dewan Bijjey Ram, Yar Mohammad Khan established himself as the Second Nawab of Bhopal at the age of 18 on 30th August 1728.

Jan 19, 2007


(1932 – 2007)

Mohsin Bhopali was born at Sohagpur of district Hoshangabad. His father Haji Abdul Razzak was a postmaster at Bhopal. Mohsin sahab spent his childhood at Bhopal and was a student of Hamidia School. His ancestral house was at Chauki Talleya Retghat Bhopal area. Although he migrated to Pakistan with his father during 1947 partitions, he made Bhopal a part of his name. Second sher from his first book became a legend:

Nerangie Siyasatye Dauran To Dekhie,
Manzil Unhe Mili Jo Sharike Safar Na The

Mohsin Bhopali last came to Bhopal in the year 1985 to participate in a Indo-Pak mushaira. A program was organized in the MLB College during his visit. Bhopal-e prays that may Bhopal be blessed with more people like him.

Ek Muddat Ki Rafaqat Ka Ho Kuch To Inam,
Jate Jate Koi Iljam Lagate Jao

Jan 18, 2007

The Marhattas

The fourth and most vibrant claimants to power were the Marhattas, operating mainly from the southwest. Sivaji, the supreme guerilla, had severely undermined the last years of Auragazeb’s rule and had given the Marhattas a vision of power and supremacy over the whole of India. After Shivaji’s death, there was a brief decline but his daughter-in-law, Tara Bai, and grandson, Shahu, had again lit the flame of glory in the hearts of the Marhatta people. 

The Marhattas had their own warlord houses in the Scindia of Gwalior, the Holkar of Indore, the Bhonsle of Nagpur and the Gaekwad of Baroda who were frequently jostling for power among themselves. Fortunately, Shahu, who was recognized as the titular head of the Marhattas, found in his new Peshwa (main minister), Balaji Rao Vishwanath – a Koncan Brahmin - a man of unique foresight, ability and wisdom. Peswa Balaji Rao set about uniting the Marhattas and organizing their administration, army and finances in such a way that by 1715 the Marhatta resurgence became a reality.

All these four powers (Rajputs, Marhattas, Mughals and Nizam) took turns to claim sovereignty and periodically appointed governors to. However, except for occasional punitive raids against a particularly rebellious local feudal baron, they preferred to claim sovereignty by remote control.

Jan 17, 2007

The Rajputs

Continued from Previous post

The two remaining contenders for power, both Hindu, were the Rajputs and the Marhattas. The Rajputs operated mainly in Rajasthan and central India but were never sufficiently united to become an important unified force. The famous Rajput houses of Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Mewar had, over the centuries, sent their weaker family members to preside over smaller principalities of Malwa. Thus, unlike the great houses of Rajputana, Malwa had seen the emergence of smaller Rajput states that the senior Rajput rulers aimed to rule by proxy. However the Rajput houses remained divided and in the process, failed to achieve their full potential in seizing the initiative from a decaying centre. Religious affinities seemed to count for little, as the Muslim Emperor or Nizam frequently sought and gained support from Hindu princes against the Rajputs and Marhattas. Among the short-lived alliances between the four major power blocs, the least frequent were those between the co-religionists, the Hindu Rajputs and Marhattas or the Muslim Emperor and Nizam.

Jan 16, 2007

Gadar, Gabbar and Naxalites

Police has recently busted a naxalite factory operated at the heart of Bhopal, on a tip-off from central intelligence agencies. The factory was being operated in the area since last seven years. Sometimes, the police takes there own time to get to the culprits, while at other times they are really fast. According another news the police charged a couple with the murder of their twelve-year-old son. The parents confessed to the crime, and were remanded to 45 days in jail, the body was found and the case was solved. However, after six months of his murder, the murdered Gabbar turned up in town. The government pleader argued that as the parents had confessed to the murder, so he could not be Gabbar. As for the parents who confessed to the murder of a son who was alive - "They broke three of my fingers with sticks," said the father. The parents were tortured in custody for a night and made to sign a confessional statement the next morning.

This is a document translated from National archives of Delhi dated between 19 May and 10 August 1857 by Mohammad Farooqui.

Collection 53
Notice to the Thanedar of Kashmiri Darwaza
There was a note from trader Bahauddin stating that Bahauddin’s shop as well as two houses of Prince Kamran Bahadur which fall in your area were searched without any basis and you even let it be stormed. Therefore it is being written to the Thanedar of Kashmiri Darwaza that until [someone’s guilt] is proved you should desist from raiding or looting anybody’s house. When and if you intend to raid somebody’s house you should immediately inform the [ Kotwali]. Until permission is granted by the Kotwali no raids should be conducted. If anybody complains to you [about anyone] then you should get him to swear under oath and keep him in the lock up. You will be acting against your interest if you act against [the rules]. In case of any doubt please contact the Kotwali right away.

It has been more than one hundred fifty (150) years, but little has changed

The Rajputs

Continued from Previous post

The two remaining contenders for power, both Hindu, were the Rajputs and the Marhattas. The Rajputs operated mainly in Rajasthan and central India but were never sufficiently united to become an important unified force. The famous Rajput houses of Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur and Mewar had, over the centuries, sent their weaker family members to preside over smaller principalities of Malwa. Thus, unlike the great houses of Rajputana, Malwa had seen the emergence of smaller Rajput states that the senior Rajput rulers aimed to rule by proxy. 

However the Rajput houses remained divided and in the process, failed to achieve their full potential in seizing the initiative from a decaying centre. Religious affinities seemed to count for little, as the Muslim Emperor or Nizam frequently sought and gained support from Hindu princes against the Rajputs and Marhattas. Among the short-lived alliances between the four major power blocs, the least frequent were those between the co-religionists, the Hindu Rajputs and Marhattas or the Muslim Emperor and Nizam.

Jan 15, 2007

The Nizam Of Hyderabad

It is important to understand the power equations of the time when Dost Mohammad Khan established the Mirazi Khel dynasty in Bhopal. There were four major focal points of power in India during this period, the first of which, Mughal Empire has been examined in the previous post (this and this).

The second focal point of power was Chin-Qilich Khan, Asaf Jah, Nizam-ul_Mulk, whose family originated from Samarkand. Asaf Jah, was a loyal, upright and highly accomplished aide of Aurangzeb. Through dedicated service, he had been elevated to the highest rank in the administration as Nizam-ul-Mulk and had a significant force under him. In fact, Asaf Jah had combined closely with the Sayyed brothers to support Bahadur Shah's campaign for succession. As the Sayyed brother's influence grew, difference and suspicion developed between them and the Nizam. 

When Farukhsiyar ascended the throne, the Sayyeds managed to persuade the Emperor to post the Nizam to distant governates and conspired to have his force defeated in battle by opponents who were surreptitiously given support. The Nizam survived these treacherous stratagems and eventually decided, in disgust, to detach himself from the Mughal court. He removed himself to the south with the Emperor's firman of governorships of Malwa and the Deccan. It was an open secret, however, that the Nizam intended to set up his own independent state in the region. Thus by 1720, the two Muslim power blocks -the Moghul Court and the Nizam - were ranged against each other with only a veneer of cordiality between sovereign and governor.

Jan 10, 2007

Mughal Court After Aurangazeb

The collapse of the Moghul Empire after Aurangzeb's death had been on of the most gruesome, venal and horrifying spectacles in history. Immediately after Aurangazeb's death, his surviving sons, betraying each other at every possible turn, engaged in brutal fratricide. Eventually, the 64-year old eldest son Muazzam survived the mayhem and was installed as Emperor Bahadur Shah. It was the events that followed the death of Bahadur Shah that made the earlier blood baths and treachery appear mundane. Bahadur Shah died on 28 February 1712. Immediately after his death, his sons squared up to battle for the coveted throne. The two youngest brothers were won over by the eldest, Jahander Shah, into jointly opposing the second son, Azim-as-Shan, who had the stonger force. 

A battle took place in which Azim's forces lost. Azim-us-shan drowned in the River Jhelum when his elephant was shot and went berserk, plunging in the quicksand. Jahandar then treacherously turned on the brothers who had supported him. He first blinded his mother for favoring a rival son and then poured molten lead into the eardrums of his unfortunate brother. Later, Jahander had him strangled while the other brother was put to death by more conventional method. Emperor Jahander did not live long to enjoy the fruits of his treachery. Within a few months of proclaiming himself Emperor, the increasingly influential Barha Sayyed brothers, Abdullah and Hussain Ali, assassinated him. The Sayyed brothers then propped up the murdered Azim-us-Shan's son, Farukhsiyar, on the throne, who promptly paraded the streets of the capital with the severed head of his uncle, Emperor Jahandar, trailing behind him on a donkey.

Then began Farrukhsiyars seven-year rule from 9th January 1713 during which he started plotting the downfall of Sayyed brothers. He made treacherous deals with Sayyed Brothers opponents. The Sayyed Brothers, on discovering his treachery, blinded the monarch on 25 February 1719, but felt it expedient to continue propping him up as a monarch. Even this did not prevent Farrukhsiyar from engaging in further deceit until, on 19 April 1719, while he was in a camp leading a force towards the Deccan, Sayyed Abdullah personally strangled the Moghul Emperor to death.

 Two sons of the murdered Emperor Jahandar - the first drugged to his eyeballs and the second a tnasvestite whose main pastime was to dance kathak with his accompanying eunuchs. Both these youths died within months of being crowned and a fourth emperor, Mohammad shah, was installed on the throne in 1720. Surprisingly Mohammad Shah held on till 1748 and his main achievement was to turn tables on the Sayyed brothers. Hussain Ali was assasinated in 1722 and Abdullah locked in prison where he was poisoned to death in 1724.

Sayyed Barha Brothers and Dost Mohammad Khan

During the turbulent times following Aurangazeb's death, a force was sent from Delhi to quell the Rajput rebellion that was taking place in Malwa. Dost was torn between his loyalty to the distant Moghul Court and is commitment to the local Rajput chieftains to whom he had given his allegiance. Eventually Dost sided with the Rajputs, and in the ensuing battle was wounded and lost consciousness. His men fled, abandoning their leader for dead. Long past midnight, on a silent, eerie battleground strewn with dead bodies, Dost regained his consciousness when jackals started nibbling at him. He barely managed to shrug them off when he heard another man, lying a f
ew yards away, moaning loudly and calling for help. Obviously he was also badly wounded. Dost raised his voice and said, "Why are you moaning so loudly? It is not becoming of a warrior to cry out like this. Grieve silently, like a man, and take what is coming to you as God's verdict with dignity". The young man answered Dost by saying "I'm not crying out because of my wounds. I'm only trying to scare the off the jackals eating away at my entrails. In any case I'm dying of thirst. Can you help me?" Dost could not rise from his prone position but he had some water left in his mushuk (leather water-carrier). He summoned enough strength to push the bag with his lance towards the wounded soldier who drank avidly from it.

At dawn, a posse of soldiers from the victorious army began scouring the battlefield evidently looking for one of their leaders. They came upon the very soldier that Dost had saved by giving him water. He was obviously an important man as the soldiers made great fuss of him. Before the rescue party could out him on a stretcher, the young man told the soldiers that their first duty was to help the brave man lying a few yards away, who had saved his life. Accordingly, the soldiers who belonged to the opposing army rescued Dost too. The person that Dost had saved turned out to be Sayyed Hussain Ali Barha, the younger of the Sayyed Barha Brothers who were now the power behind the throne in the Moghul Court at Delhi. Dost Mohammad Khan recuperated under the care of Syyed Hussain Ali Barha, who pleaded with dost to join him and his brother. Dost was also offered to be made governor of Allahabad. Dost gratefully declined, explaining that he had too many roots in Malwa. Hussain Ali reluctantly agreed, gave Dost some gold sovereigns, a sword and a band of horses as he took leave from his friend.

This was a momentous friendship, which steered history of Bhopal in a different direction eventually.

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Jan 9, 2007

Investor's Meet And Prabasi Bharatiya Divas

Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chauhan's announcement of setting up of NRI facilitation centre at Prabasi Bharatiya Divas at New Delhi has had the desired effect on participants, increasing participants in investors meet to be held at Khajuraho on 16th and 17th January 2007. 

The Bhopali only hopes that the investments actually materialise, inspite of the Indian beaureaucracy and are seen working soon in Madhya Pradesh. However, the Khajuraho meet is promised to be a show piece of the cultural heritage of Madhya Pradesh, with performances from vocalist Mita Pandit and Sarod recital by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan.

Of Sun, Holidays and Spoil sports

Remember when it was such fun to have unusual days off from school? The mass tari (mass bunking of class) of college days was surely no match for this. Many school children of Bhopal are looking forward to a holiday on January 25th, the day designated for Surya Namaskar at schools across Madhya Pradesh. Now only if the spoil sports like State School Education Minister Narottan Mishra would have a heart!

Bhopal and the Indian Mutiny, 1857

Bhopal was under the reign of its second Begum, Sikander Jahan Begum, daughter of Qudasia Begum, when the Sepoy mutiny of India broke out. Surrounded on all sides by hostile neighbours like the Marathas at Indore and Gwalior, Rajputs in Rajasthan and even the Nizam in Deccan, the rulers of Bhopal had already vowed loyalty to the emerging forces of East India Company. In August 1857, Bhopali mutineers under the banner of the Sepoy Bahadur revolt attacked the British garrison in Sehore and Berasia. 

There were three points of revolt in Bhopal. Fazil Mohammad Khan, great-grandson of Dost Mohammad Khan, Non-Commisioned officers Wali Shaha and Mahavir, and the ulema supporting Bahadur Shah Zafar's call to free India. By remaining calm and farsighted, Sikander Begum was able to gain upper hand over the rebels of Sehore garrison, which broke the backbone of the rebels. Rani of Jhansi, Laxmibai the legendary queen, sent a message to Sikander stating "As soon as I have my hands free, I shall deal with you at the point of sword." to which Sikander replied "I have firearms in readiness for you. Come when you will". 

According to an account of a British lady, recorded in Indian Office Library Records, while the Bhopal army surrounded the British garrison in Sehore, Sikander ensured safe passage for important British civilains, including Colonel Durand, the British Resident in Indore, to the safety of Hoshangabad fort which was protected by a loyal Pathan contingent. As the British recovered control, the support given by Sikandar Begum at the time extreme crisis was seen as ultimate proof of Bhopal's loyalty to the British government and earned for the state Her Majesty's lasting gratitude.

The wily woman, when asked by a close confident what she would have done if the British had lost, replied "In that event, the Bhopal army had made sure that the British garrison was neutralized"! Through her canny statecraft, Sikandar had ensured that by surrounding the British garrison in Sehore, she would win in either eventuality.

Jan 4, 2007

Bhopal Wanderers

Indian Hockey is on a downfall from bad, worse to worst. The year 2006 saw several high-profile events, and India failed to register its presence on the world scene in every one of them. Beginning with India’s disastrous performance in the Commonwealth Games in March, where the Indian men finished sixth, to the fifth-place finish at the Asiad in Doha, Indian hockey has gone from bad to worse. World Cup outing in September was also a disaster. It is a poor reflection on the planning aspect that, despite so many major tournaments lined up through the year, India did not play more competitive hockey. In fact, now that qualification for the 2008 Beijing Olympics is possible only by winning one of the three qualifying tournaments (from February 2008). It would be fitting to recall the legendary "Bhopal Wanderers", for whom Dhyanchand said "Give me Bhopal Wanderers, and I can beat any team in the world".

Hockey started in Bhopal with inter state forces hockey tournament in 1909, which was organised in the "Kali Parade Ground" and eight teams participated in it. After the tournament, it was observed that the Bhopali youngsters, who found the hockey sticks worth Rs 2/- beyond their reach, had taken to the game using mango tree branches with a bent end known locally as "Khapota". The payjamas used to be lifted and converted to shorts, and the sherwanis remained as it is. The games used to be played in narrow lanes of Bhopal, with open drains and mud on both sides of the road. The stick work was such, that the ball never touched either the drains or mud. There were many yongsters from Bhopal who had gone to study at Aligarh University during 1931. The hockey players of Aligarh University wanted to participate in Mathura Gold Cup, which was disallowed by the university as examinations were due. The players decided to participate anyway, but by the name of "Bhopal Wanderers", as eight players in the team were from Bhopal. In the first four years, Bhopal Wanderers had won ten tournaments, including the initial Mathura Gold Cup. The 1936 Berlin Olympics was played under the captinship of Dhyanchand and the team included two famous bhopali players Ahsan Mohammad Khan and Ahmed Sher Khan. The year 1938 was the pinnacle year of Bhopal Wanderers, who won all the tournaments played in India. The olympics of 1940 were postponed, which would have seen atleast six players from Bhopal representing India. By the time this olympic was played in 1948 at London, three players from Bhopal, Akhtar Hussain, Latif-ur-Rahman and Major Shakur were part of the team. However they wre not played. In 1952 Helsinki Olympics saw four players from Bhopal Akhtar Hussain, Habib-Ur-Rahman, Latif-Ur-Rahman and Anwar Ahmad Khan play for Pakistan team.

Something changed drastically after that, as no player from Bhopal found a place in the Indian hockey team. Even when the great Inam-ur-Rehman, generally accepted as the best inside-left ever produced by the country, was playing at his peak for Calcutta's famous club Mohun Bagan in the early 60s, he could not find a place in the Indian team for the 1964 Olympics.Bhopal's hockey magic found expression again in 1968 when Indian Airlines, in the Jawaharlal Nehru Hockey Tournament in 1968 in Delhi, captained by Inam-Ur-Rahman with 7 other boys from Bhopal, mesmerised team after team with their ball control, short passing, dodging and stickwork. Indian Airlines lifted the trophy on debut, shocking spectators and sports writers alike, that such talent, though available in the country, was being neglected. The shock gave way to questions from the press, and in 1968, Inam-ur-Rehman became the first Bhopal player to represent independent India in the Olympics, twenty years after another Rehman from Bhopal had been selected for the London Olympics.

As in every other stream of Indian life, unsolicited interference of political interests and one up manship has ruined the legacy of Bhopal hockey

Photograph: Team of 1936 Berlin Olympics

Jan 2, 2007

Dow's and dont's

After a court in New York observed that any order by it directing Union Carbide to clean up Bhopal will run into technical problems "because of the impracticality of a court-supervised clean-up project on land owned by a foreign sovereign.", the only case pending against DOW about the Bhopal Gas Victims is the case in the Indian High Court of Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh naming Union Carbide, Eveready Industries (Carbide's successor in India) and Carbide's new owner Dow Chemical as respondents.

DOW chemicals has consistently denied being inheritor of the liabilities of Union Carbide, after purchasing Union Carbide Ltd in 1999. DOW CEO Liveris insists that liabilities, if any, is of Union Carbide, and no liability rests with Dow as it was not in the picture when the disaster took place 22 years ago. It may be noted here that 12 years ago, US court deemed that the case for compensation should be tried in India rather than in the U.S. As a result, after five years of legal wrangling, the Indian Government was forced to reach an of court settlement with Union Carbide for 470 million US dollars, a fraction of the three billion dollars, originally claimed. Union Carbide also refused to pay the 220 million dollars demanded by survivors' organizations as interim relief. But the issue of who will eventually pay for the cleaning up thousands of tons of toxic wastes abandoned by Union Carbide in and around its factory site remains. Meanwhile, India has emerged as an economical superpower and DOW chemicals is eyeing the lucrative market. 

Now Ratan Tata wants to set up a corpus with the help of other Indian companies and Dow to clean up the Bhopal plant site. Dow Chemicals will make "substantial financial contributions". Meanwhile, Dow has been allowed collaboration with Reliance Industries Ltd by the Ministry of Industry after taking a green signal from the Law Ministry. The foreign collaboration approval was given to Dow in October, signalling that India has not blacklisted Dow as an investor. West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has also indicated to Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) representatives that he is looking towards Dow setting up a chemical industry in his state. Dow says that while it is comfortable with the case against Union Carbide proceeding in the court, it finds the Department of Chemicals suggestion that Dow fork out Rs 100 crore as an interpretation that the government was holding Dow liable. In a letter to the Ministry of Industry on December 8, the Charge d’ Affairs of the US Embassy in Delhi urged the government to withdraw the Rs 100-crore claim on Dow. A senior Cabinet Minister said: “if we do not help Dow settle this, then the company will move to Thailand or Vietnam.”

Dow wants to evade legal liability, the Indian government is in favor of burying the legacy and telling corporations what they want to hear - that they can come and do as they please in India. Successive Indian governments have failed Bhopali gas victims, right after the terrible incident, till non-disbursal of compensation 22 years after the tragedy

Bhopal : A Prayer for Rain

Bhopal : A Prayer for Rain, a film on the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984, was declared tax-free in Madhya Pradesh by chief minister Shivraj ...