Feb 28, 2007

Wazir Mohammad Khan – An Assessment

By 1813, Wazir’s epic triumph in resisting the siege of Bhopal left him the undisputed hero, savior and de facto ruler of the state. Triumphant and resurgent, Bhopal emerged from its major crisis, the second most important Muslim state in India after Hyderabad. It was now firmly on the map, having weathered the onslaught of the Marhattas. Like his great-grandfather Dost Mohammad Khan, Wazir was brilliant military strategist and a charismatic leader.

Soon after the siege of Bhopal, came another defining moment of Bhopal’s history. Stung by the failure of siege, Daulat Rao Scindia began preparing another strong force to punish and subjugate Bhopal. Gwalior again claimed Bhopal as a tributary state and demanded subjugation. At this point, the British Resident [a synonym for Agent to the Governer –General (AGG). The resident supervised the work of Political Agents appointed to princely states], Sir Barry Close, stepped in and conveyed a clear warning to Gwalior that the British would not countenance the subjugation of Bhopal as a tributary state and would support its territorial integrity which the British proceeded to define. For several years, Gwalior insisted with the British that, according to a treaty with the Marhattas signed in 1805, Bhopal was a tributary of Gwalior. Eventually, in 1819, the Governor-General wrote to the Maharajah of Gwalior and also to Nagpur, Indore and Hyderabad informing them that the British considered Bhopal as an independent state under British protection (Reference: Federal Department Political Consultation (FDPC) Records No 60 dated 18 May 1815, Indian National Archives, New Delhi). Gwalior heeded the British warning, returning five districts to Bhopal’s territory and the forts of Islamnagar and Raisen.

Wazir established regular contact with the East India Company sending emissaries to General Sir John Ochterlony in Delhi, and later entered into correspondence with the Governer-General Lord Wellesley and other officials of the Company. By 1816, Wazir was the most powerful ruler Bhopal had known since Dost. He had, however, become addicted to alcohol, which gradually undermined his health. Wazir died on 16th March 1816 at the age of 50, after ruling Bhopal for little more than nine years, at the age of 50. He was buried at Bara Bagh.

Feb 27, 2007

Hinduism Today III

After Part I and II

The Muslim League’s movement, which led to creation of separate state of Pakistan, proved to be its peak. For details one might refer to this excellent article by Sepoy at Chapati Mystery. Increasingly it becomes apparent to the keen observer of the sub-continent’s history, during the period of independence of India, the Indian National Congress was conceived to be the pro-Hindu party while the Muslim League was the mouthpiece of the Muslims. In the period after the Independence, this perception appears to have changed diametrically, with the Bharatiya Janata Party being the representative of Hindus and The Indian National Congress being seen by most Indians as the mouthpiece of non-Hindus. In this most amazing reversal of roles, the only unidentified party seems to be the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – RSS. During the period of Independence and the subsequent partitions, the RSS emerged as the self-appointed flag bearer of Hindutva. Nurtured mainly by the Hindus from the state of Maharastra, their ideologue Nathuram Godse was later to kill Mahatma Gandhi. In his book titled “Gandhi Badh Kyon?” (Why Killing Of Gandhi?), he states many perceived betrayals of Mahatma Gandhi to the Hindu cause as the reason for this killing. The main points of his statement can be summarized as

a) During 1939-40 till 3rd June 1947 the Indian National Congress bowed before Jinnah and agreed to creation of Pakistan under the leadership of Gandhi.
b) Gandhi went into fast till death, to pressurize Indian government to pay Pakistan 55 Crores as compensation.

It is interesting to note that, although these were the general perception of the Indian populace during that time, nobody ever owned up the cause. During the last several years of independent India, the facts of that period have never been discussed to its logical conclusion. Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation remains the holy cow, and no discussion has ever been tolerated about him.

The RSS went on to create its political wing named “The Hindu Mahasabha”, which later transformed into Jana Sangha and ultimately to the Bharatiya Janata Party. After trying for several years unsuccessfully to come into main stream politics, their time finally came after the Ram Janma Bhumi movement which culminated into breaking of a 18th century mosque at Ayodha in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, built by the Mughal emperor Babar (founder of Mughal empire in India) at the site of the Hindu god Ram – according to the legends. This was followed by wide scale violence across India. This followed by the Hindu votes being diverted in favour of the BJP, and they formed the government with many other smaller regional parties under the name of National Democratic Alliance (NDA). They were defeated in the subsequent 2004 general elections, which apparently resulted in much behind the screen soul searching at BJP. During a vist to Pakistan as the leader of opposition, the BJP president at that time (June 2005) called Jinnah secular. This resulted in a huge controversy and Advani had to resign as party president. It was later found that this comment of Advani was on the lines of Bhopal Papers submitted by Sudheendra Kulkarni, BJP national secretary (later resigned). Mr Kulkarni in his papers had advised the BJP leadership to drop the Hindutva agenda, carve out an identity for itself as an entity not tied to the RSS' apron strings, and woo Muslims. Mr Kulkarni continues to write for a leading Indian daily, The Indian Express. The BJP, inspite of best efforts of RSS, has rapidly emerged as the alternative party to the Congress, and it appears to be just a matter of time before it becomes just the other option that the Indian voter goes to when they have had enough of Congress, as is evident from the fresh results of by elections in India.

On a related note, the Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs (all sub sects of Hinduism) claim to be independent entities from Hinduism. The Buddhism has almost vanished from India, the place of its birth, and survives (flourishes) only outside India. Some Hindu scriptures had started referring to Buddha as another incarnation of Vishnu, a god of Hindu pantheon. This feature of Hinduism, of internalizing any available religion, is another matter of pondering. This probably overwhelms other religions and they prefer to flee to keep their identities from being overtaken by the Hinduism.

Feb 26, 2007

Hinduism Today - II

Continues from Part I
Talking of Yoga, the present day yogi, Swami Ramdev has generated his own share of controversy. His success is attributed to the basic principles of marketing management as taught by C. K. Prahlad, the management guru, namely addressing the bottom of the pyramid. It is evident from his huge and ever increasing popularity in India, that some thing is going right. There are numerous people who claim to have been benefited by the yoga techniques (pranayams) taught by Swami Ramdev. During his recent visit to Bhopal for his training camps, he insisted repeatedly that he or his yoga techniques were not hypothecated to any particular community. However with almost the entire BJP government of Madhya Pradesh attending, with one of its ministers in full RSS dress, it was evident that the ailing hearts and bodies of the local congress leaders and Muslims had to wait for another day to learn yoga. This fear of yoga appears to be spread even abroad.

Yoga is actually an omnibus term for an approach to spirituality. According to Hindu scriptures (Reference: Kevalya Darshan) the Sadhak (the one who seeks), when practicing the pranayams (yoga exercises) under supervision of guru, undergoes a transformation of thinking and starts seeking the God. This has been referred to as Bahirang sadhana - the external practise. This Bahirang Sadhana enables a person to destroy his unholy desires (Kevalya Darshan says - Pashutva nashaya). This makes sense, at least to the extent that only a healthy body can bear a healthy mind. The actual seeking of god starts later, as part of the Antarang Sadhana - the internal practice.

A Hindu is defined as a person who regards the land of 'Bharatvarsh', from the 'Indus' to the Seas as his land is a Hindu. Their panthas (sects) may differ, but their nationality is one. This is the only religion, which does not have any defined religious boundary but is defined by geographical boundary. William Dalrymple in his book "The Last Mughal" portrays an India which had internalized the culture of the mughals, "A pluralistic culture where you find Hindus and Muslims sharing the same poetry, enjoying the same mushairas." as per Dalrymple . In "The White Mughals", the same author says
“The wills of East India Company officials, now in the India Office library,
clearly show that in the 1780s, more than one-third of the British men in India
were leaving all their possessions to one or more Indian wives, or to
Anglo-Indian children - a degree of cross-cultural mixing which has never made
it into the history books. It suggests that, 200 years before Zadie Smith made
it on to the telly and multiculturalism became a buzzword politically correct
enough to wake Norman Tebbit and the Tory undead from their coffins at party
conferences, the India of the East India Company was an infinitely more
culturally, racially and religiously mixed place than modern Britain can even
dream of being”
It is evident that India had her own way irrespective of the religion being followed by the person, Hinduism was mostly the way of life the people here followed. However there was eminent shift in this attitude after the defeat in Sepoy Mutiny of India in 1857, in which about 85% hindu army rode to Delhi to fight the British under a Mughal Bahadur Shah Zafar. This defeat somehow brought great self-doubts to the Indians. The general Hindu and Muslim Indian were polarized. The Hindus formed the English culture oriented Arya Samaj, while the muslims in a bid to restore the old glory days of the mughals drifted towards Deoband, a faith which follows shariyat and shuns everything else. Also, after 1857 the prestige attached to Mughal culture disappeared. People were no longer interested in the old Mughal politeness, which was regarded as elaborate nonsense. Once the British won in 1857, suddenly everything about them became attractive. Again referring to William Dalrymple
“And you find that the Mughal culture shrinks in prestige and shrinks in its
attractiveness and more and more people want to go into English language
education. The most crucial thing is that the same year Ghalib dies is the year
when Mahatma Gandhi is born. So you have one world going down and there is this
new English educated, English-speaking world rising up. It’s that world which
wins India’s independence. It isn’t the old feudal elite. It is the products of
Anglicized schools and using, in many ways, the Western political methods,
political parties, protest marches rather than, you know, a mass uprising.”

This difference between Hindus and Muslims had grown so wide by the mid nineteenth century that Sir Mohammad Ali Jinnah, educated in missionary school and graduated from Lickons Court, London in law, brought about a theory known as the “Two Nation Theory”, which is essentially a version of the observations of Al Biruni, a Persian scholar. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, an England educated Right wing Hindu leader, also supported the two-nation theory, albeit with the caveat that the Muslim state should be created somewhere in the Middle-East Asia

Feb 25, 2007

Hinduism Today - I

With the increasing threat from international terrorism, the anti-islamist is increasing by the day. India has taken off lately as a potential economic superpower and that has apparently not gone down well with her neighbours. Rajinder Puri in a chilling article published in Outlook quotes Yossef Bodansky, the Director of the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the U.S. Congress. Bodansky, in the mid-1990s prepared a carefully researched and meticulously detailed 20,000-word official note entitled China's Surge in the Malacca Straits. It dealt with the strategy of China's Peoples' Liberation Army (PLA) to destabilize Southeast Asian countries. The PLA sought leverage over their governments to secure for China control of the strategic Straits of Malacca. All shipments for the Far East from West Asia, including oil, must pass through Malacca. In Bodansky's background paper, the references to India are incidental. But the following excerpts from it merit consideration. Bodansky wrote:

"Beijing urged Islamabad to escalate the subversion of eastern India. The ISI
did not need too much prodding. With support from Beijing, the ISI expanded
operations from vastly expanded camps in both Burma and Bangladesh as of the
fall of 1993. The ISI terrorism support infrastructure in Bangladesh not only
supplies and trains on China-made weapons and explosives, but the Bangladeshi
military officers, acting as instructors had received special commando and
mountain warfare training in China. The deployment of these assets has increased
markedly since the fall of 1994. It is not by accident that the first action in
the long awaited escalation of terrorism in eastern India was the bombing of an
Indian troops' train in India's northeastern state of Assam in late February
1995. The bombs were attributed to the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland
(NSCN) on the basis of use of RDX and other bomb-technology details. Since the
fall of 1993, there has been an expansion of the ISI support for all forms of
terrorism in north east India, especially Manipur. At least five senior ISI
operatives cooperate closely with the NSCN, providing instructions and guidance.
As of mid-1994, the ISI provided the NSCN with huge quantities of weapons,
ranging from small arms, to rocket launchers, to anti-aircraft missiles
(including a few Stingers). The Chinese preparations for a regional escalation
and major crisis under conditions short of a major war are thorough. For the
conduct of covert operations inside India, Bangladesh and China run their own
training program at Kalapara and Munakata on Bay of Bengal and especially at the
25 Bangladesh Rifles at Khulna and Teknaf Island in Chittagong. There, Chinese
instructors are directly involved in training Tamils and other Indians for
terrorist, sabotage, and espionage operations."
Chirstanity in India has its own share of problems, what with the conversions to christanity. So does it make everything un-hindu unacceptable? That leaves us with the question, What is un-hindu? In Millie Graham Polak’s book on Gandhi, the man mentions that many Christians who heard him thought that he had converted to Christianity. Henry Polak and his wife Millie Graham Polak were quite close to Gandhiji during his years in South Africa. ‘‘Is Mr Gandhi a Christian?’’, a visitor once asked Millie. Millie sought clarification: ‘‘You mean one who converted to Christianity or one who believes in the teachings of Christ?’’ The visitor meant the former. Since Gandhi knew Christian scriptures so well, and would quote Jesus so frequently, she and her friends thought he must be a Christian. The visitor’s logic sounded convincing to Millie. Gandhi’s reverence for Jesus was transparent. Christ’s ‘‘Sermon on the Mount’’ was a source of guidance and inspiration to him. A beautiful picture of Jesus adorned the wall over his desk. Yet, when Millie asked him why he did not embrace Christianity, Gandhi’s reply was revealing. He said that although he had studied Christian scriptures and was tremendously attracted, he concluded that ‘‘to be a good Hindu also meant that I would be a good Christian. There was no need for me to join your creed to be a believer in the beauty of the teachings of Jesus or try to follow His example’’. One particular hindu guru, Paramhansa Yogananda founder of Yogada Satsang Society, even invokes jesus as a siddha Yogi (one who attained spritual enlightenment). The followers of his kriya yoga invoke Jesus as part of their daily prayer.

Feb 22, 2007

Siege Of Bhopal – The Legends

The siege of Bhopal was the only major confrontation in the history of Bhopal. It also turned out to be the defining moment of Bhopal’s history, because immediately after this event, Bhopal was given protection by the British army. As pointed out earlier, the siege also brought out the best and worst from all and sundry Bhopalis. There was treachery, when the guards of Budhwara gate were bought off, and opened the gates to the Marhattas. However, Bakshi Bahadur held fort with few pathans, till Wazir arrived with additional forces, with the Bhopali men and women showering stones and boiling water on the Marhattas. Bakshi Bahadur was grievously injured during this attack. Although Ghous, the nawab, chose to stay away from the battlefield, his wife Zeenat Begum, daughter Gohar Ara and Moiz stayed and were heavily involved in the war. Zeenat and Gohar were on the forefront in leading the women of Bhopal and bravely took part in almost every front. Once when Moiz was injured firing a canon, Zeenat took over after offering her dupatta to bandage the wounds to Moiz, and continued till Moiz could recover and resume.

The Bourbons also payed back their debt to the late Mamola Bai, who had given shelter to fleeing Salvador de Bourbon. Known as Inayat Masih in Bhopal, he fought side-by-side with his son Shahzad Masih - Balthazar-de-Bourbon, Wazir Mohammad Khan and his son Nazar Mohammad Khan. During this battle, the starving Bhopalis had to eat stones of Tamarind (Imli) and roasted leaves, which started the trend of famous Bhopali gutkha. Even after 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 Muharram. The battle ended in the month of Muharram in which Bhopal emerged victorious. This is a reason of Muharram being observed by all Muslims and Hindus, even eunuchs, of Bhopal

Feb 21, 2007

End Of The Siege Of Bhopal

There were a number of occasions when the Marhatta forces almost succeeded in gaining entry in to the fortified area of Bhopal. The siege endured week after week, month after month. While the Marhatta armies waited patiently for the inevitable capitulation, the besieged Bhopalies were given to eating leaves and boiling shoe leather for nourishment. The main source of food came from the loyal Rajput zamindars Ratan Singh and Aman Singh, who, under the cover of darkness, would bring cartloads of grain through the jungle to an appointed spot on the far side of the lake overlooked by the Fatahgarh fort. At a given hour, well past midnight, Wazir and a few trusted companions like Shahzad Masih (Bourbon) and Bakshi Bahadur (the commander in chief) would slip stealthily through the rear gates of the fort and swim across the lake with their empty mushuks. These mushuks would be filled with grain and on return, rationed out to the starving population. Led by the brave Zeenat begum, wife of Ghous who stayed back, the women of Bhopal, both Hindu and Muslim, played a vital role in the siege. They learned to fill cannons with gunpowder and sometimes, dressed as men, would load and fire the cannons themselves. The famous guthka (beetle nuts coated with different spices) of Bhopal is said to be a legacy from this period.

After nine months of deprivation, Wazir announced at a council of war that he would ask for safe passage for the women and children and the remaining 300 able-bodied men would mount a final, suicide attack on the besieging Marhatta army. Legend has it that Wazir went to the resident Pir called Pir Mustan Shah and laying his sword and turban at the Pir’s feet asked for his blessings. As per the legend, the Pir went into a trance, pointed to a spot in the fort and asked Wazir to dig. There, in a shallow depression, the Bhopalis found a hidden arsenal of dynamite. Filling their canons with gunpowder, they decided to postpone their surrender by a day. Unknown to the Bhopalis, the army of Gwalior led by Jagua Bapu had suffered an attack of cholera. Moreover Sadiq Ali, who led the Nagpur forces, had withdrawn from the siege following differences with Jagua Bapu. With canons fired by women, Wazir with his loyal men mounted a ferocious attack on Jagua’s forces and achieved a heroic victory.

Feb 20, 2007

The Siege Of Bhopal, 1812-13

The Marhattas were furious at Wazir’s presumptuous counter-attack. Accordingly Gwalior and Nagpur jointly resolved to defeat Wazir and carve up the state of Bhopal among themselves. Wazir sought Bhopal’s salvation in British support, sent numerous messages to the Governer-General and to British army commanders soliciting a treaty of friendship. The British were initially inclined to respond to Wazir’s entreaties but drew back from committing their support, partly because they did not entirely trust Wazir and partly because they hoped to neutralize the Marhattas by compromise. When Gwalior and Nagpur armies, numbering 82,000, converged on Bhopal on 15 October 1812, Wazir stood virtually alone. He could muster up only 11,000 able bodied fighters made up of Bhopal’s Pathan army, Rajput allies, Sikh mercenaries and Pindari fighters from neighboring Tonk. Wazir ordered the closure of the gates to the Fatahgarh fort with the entire population of Bhopal sheltered within. The siege endured for nine months (six months according to some chroniclers), with life inside the fort becoming desperate. Almost everyday the Marhattas would attempt entry by storming the gates or stealthily throwing rope ladders over the walls at night to scale the walls of the fortress. Day and night, the men and women of Bhopal resisted these efforts by pouring boiling water on the attackers and meeting them with a barrage of rocks and stones. Women, often dressed up as men, would appear on the ramparts to mislead the besieging force into believing that more men than was actually the case defended the fort.

A few weeks into the siege, Wazir’s allies, the Rajput, sikh and some Pindari forces decided to quit and withdraw from the fort. The Bhopal forces were now reduced to 6000. Later still, hunger, deprivation and hardship led to Ghou’s resistance giving in. Wazir negotiated a safe passage for this idle and worthless ruler to occupy a house outside Bhopal where he resided accompanied by his retinue of eunuchs and courtesans. Surprisingly, Ghous’s first wife Zeenat and her eldest daughter Gohar Ara (later day -Qudsia) did not accompany him and bravely decided to stay on in the fort to rally their people in resisting the siege.

Feb 19, 2007

Ghous Mohammad Khan, Fifth Nawab, 1807-27

Between 1801 and 1807, Wazir engaged in a vigorous campaign to recover the territories and forts that the weak rulers of Bhopal had ceded to its neighbors. Meanwhile Ghous Mohammad Khan the heir apparent, engaged in treacherous deals with Marhattas of Gwalior and Nagpur. This left the British unsure of Bhopal’s commitment to resisting Marhatta power, while Wazir was negotiating with the Britishers for a treaty that would give Bhopal protection against its neighbors. Ghous’s actions is described by Major William Hough in “A Brief History Of The Bhopal Principality Of Central India” as follows:
So eager was this prince to ruin Vizier Mahomed, that he engaged to surrender
the fort of Islamnuguur, pay four lakhs of rupees in cash, and present an annual
tribute of 50,000 to Sindiah, with 11,000 rupees to his public officers.
Having consented to these terms, he proceeded to Bhopal, after being invested
with an honorary dress by Dowlut Rao Sindiah, whose ostensible support he seems
to have thought sufficient to maintain him in power; nor does he appear to have
met with any opposition on the part of Vizier Mahomed. But what could Vizier
Mahomed do while the Nawab was alive, and the son was permitted to exercise the
powers of Nawab; and the minister had not always possessed the full executive
However, Hayat died on 17 November 1807, aged 73, after a fairly inglorious reign of 29 years. Ghous Mohammad Khan succeeded him 18 days later. Soon Raghuji Bhonsle sent a force of 40,000 under his able general, Sadiq Ali. Sadiq Ali took over Bhopal and demanded that Ghous hand over Wazir and his wife as hostage. Sadiq later decided to take Ghous’s son Moiz as hostage. No sooner had Sadiq Ali left Bhopal than Wazir swooped down from Ginnor and, in a lightning assault, routed the Nagpur forces and resumed governance of Bhopal. Ghous was accused of supreme treachery, his advisers Munshi Suraj Mal, Bani Lal, Lalji Mustafa and Lala Roop Chand were executed in full public view. Ghous was banished to Raisen, never to exercise executive authority again, but still remaining Nawab Of Bhopal.

Feb 18, 2007

Hayat Mohammad Khan

Immediately after Manji Mamola Bai’s death, a vacuum developed because Hayat was weak, reclusive, decadent and a known failure. The real contenders of power, his cousins, had either been killed or banished into exile. On Chottey Khan’s death, his son Amir was appointed Dewan. He and his brothers conspired with the Scindia Marhattas, raided the treasury, made off with 1½ lakh cash and took refuge with Daulat Rao Scindia. Amir eventually persuaded Daulat Rao Scindia to invade Bhopal with force of 49000. Hayat was in no position to oppose and conceded the forts of Hoshangabad and Raisen. The Marhattas appointed Himmat Rai as Dewan who became the effective administrator of the state. Hayat Mohammad Khan’s eldest son, Ghous Mohammad Khan, was the heir apparent. In 1794, Ghous was married off to Zeenat Begum, who had been brought up by Hayat and his favorite wife Asmat, in the palace. Zeenat’s mother had died soon after childbirth and father, a Barru-kat pathan, died soon afterward while leading a Bhopal force against a Marhatta invasion in Sehore. Zeenat had three children from Ghous – Moiz, Gohar Ara (later known as Qudsia Begum) and Faujdar. Ghous is believed to have fathered 16 legitimate children and about 40 outside wedlock.

During this period, Wazir Mohammad Khan (check out battle of Phanda) came back from Hyderabad. He was banished from Bhopal by Chotte Khan and served under Rajput chieftain, Hati Singh. Later he served the Nizam of Hyderabad and was recognized as a leader and military tactician. Hayat sent for Murid Mohammad Khan, son of Sultan Mohammad Khan as a replacement of Himmat Rai. Murid arrived accompanied with 1000 followers and was sworn in as Chief minister on 20th May 1796. He raised the pay of armed forces and promised to do the same for civil servant and also a program of public works was implemented. He began to put pressure on jagirdars to contribute to state finances. Murid secretly made a deal with Pindaras and gave away large tracts of Bhopal territory. Meanwhile, the army, not having been paid, mutinied. On the other hand, the Marhatta threat started looming even larger.

Murid sought a private meeting with Asmat in order to raise finances to defend Bhopal. Asmat was the daughter of a musician and soon after Mamola Bai’s death had become the effective ruler of Bhopal. She took all decisions in the name of her husband with the advice of her favorite eunuch and constant companion, Gulab Khwajah. On 30 December 1797, Asmat sat behind a curtain in the private quarters of her palace, while Murid pleaded with her to provide jewellery and cash so that the Marhattas could be opposed. Asmat declined and asked Murid to raise funds through taxes. Murid pulled out his dagger, tore down the curtain and attacked the defenseless Asmat. She ran upstairs screaming for help, but Murid grabbed her and killed her with vicious dagger thrusts while his accomplishes murdered her protecting eunuch, Gulab Khwajah. Murid then plundered the cash and jewels from Asmat’s house. Zeenat raised the alarm calling the guards. Murid declared open rebellion and took over the Fatehgarh fort. From there, Murid sent message to Marhatta leaders, offering his support to them and inviting them to take over Bhopal. Meanwhile, Hayat summoned Wazir Mohammad Khan. Wazir responded by gathering a force of about 1000 tribesmen, and entered Bhopal by the bridge Chotey Khan had built. He took effective control of the state, and set off to recover Hoshangabad Fort occupied by Marhattas. After a fierce battle, he led his forces to victory.

Meanwhile Bala Rao Anglia of Gwalior, governor of Sironj, sent a force to Murid with a condition that one of the two major forts is handed over to him. Murid agreed to hand-over Islamnagar to Bala Rao, and set out for Islamnagar to hand over the fort personally to Bala Rao. On reaching Islamnagar, Murid was refused entry into the fort by Moti Bgum, Hayat’s sister. Murid returned to Raisen, and handed it over to Balaji Rao to make good his promise. With the help of Marhattas he raised a force of 40000 and set out to besiege Fatehgarh fort. Wazir bravely resisted the siege and Bala Rao withdrew. Soon Balaji Rao discovered that Murid had lied and cheated on him also Bala Rao imprisoned Murid in Sironj, where Murid committed suicide. So deep was Bala Rao’s suspicion of Murid’s capacity for treachery that, fearing Murid was faking death, he did not allow his corpse to be buried until it actually began to decompose. Murid is buried in Sironj and detested is his memory by Bhopalis that legend makes it incumbent on a Bhopali to strike his grave with a shoe five times

Feb 14, 2007

Violence and Valentine

Finally it has happened at Bhopal. The ultimate dream of the secular Indian, the Muslim groups and the Hindu groups are together to protest against the “foreign culture” of Valentine’s Day. The main protesting party is the Hindu religious organization Bajrang Dal, being supported in certain areas of Bhopal by the Shiv Sena. A voluntary group of Muslims headed by Maulana Anis S Ahmad has also appealed to people not to celebrate western festivals, but to follow Indian culture. In the previous years also, there has been similar incidents involving young pairs and the Bajrang Dal activists. The punishment being meted out to the youngsters were blackening of their faces. However, this time the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) spokesman Ram Madhav announced yesterday at Bhopal that the activists would get the boys and girls married! Going a step further Bajrang Dal leader Rajendra Gupta added, "We will catch hold of couples meeting in public places, parks and restaurants and get them married. If they will not marry, the girl will have to tie a rakhi (a thread on the wrist establishing brother-sister relation). The couples will be more afraid of marriage than a scolding, beating or blackened faces," he said, adding that after the marriage the boys and girls would be handed over to their family members. Hopefully this is not a strategic move. At the street however, it can be heard that these activists are those who could not have any “setting” (Bhopali speak for a suitable female partner), and can be often seen loitering around the city famous girl’s college named Nutan College.

The opposition party of the state Congress' student wing National Students' Union of India (NSUI) has decided to oppose "any act of the Bajrangis". They have resorted to gandhigiri offering roses to Bajrang Dal activities to start with. However the next step is deputing girls trained in Judo and Karate at the parks and other lonely areas of the city, so that they can come to the rescue of any lover couples being harassed by the Bajrang Dal. Two women's groups, belonging to the Sawarna
Samaaj Party (SSP) and the Rashtriya Secular Manch (RSM), have decided to take on those threatening to oppose Valentine's Day celebrations in the state, ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The SSP is threatening Bajrang Dal members with a mace (lord Hanuman's weapon), the RSM has decided to form baton-wielding groups of women to dissuade Bajrang Dal activists from disrupting lovers on Wednesday. The RSM ladies wing even performed ceremonious worship of batons.

Notwithstanding all this confusion, youngsters are thronging gift stores for cards and other gifts for their valentine. Most of them have decided on their strategy for the day too. Many have decided to go to movie, out of reach for both the stick and the mace, while some have decided to go out of Bhopal, to adjoining picnic spots. Some have even proponed and postponed the celebrations by a day. On these occasions the hijab of Bhopali girls do come very handy

Feb 13, 2007

The Battle Of Phanda, 1787

Continuing with history of Bhopal, on 24 February 1787, both sides squared up for battle at a village called Phanda, eight miles west of Bhopal. Shareef led his army with his seven brothers, while his son Wazir was given responsibility of protecting the women and children of the family at nearby village of Ashta. While the two armies prepared for battle at Phanda, Nawab Hayat remained ensconced in his palace in Bhopal, comforted by his regular attendants of mullahs, soothsayers, eunuchs and courtesans. At Phanda, Shareef’s rebel forces were defeated. Brave and courageous to the last, Shareef and his brothers stood their ground and all except one, Kamil, were slaughtered. Chottey Khan’s victorious army severed the heads of the six brothers and carried them home on swords to Hayat’s palace.

For the next seven years after the Battle of Phanda, Chottey Khan assumed increasing power. Hayat and his mother, now into her 70s, recognized, as so often in history, that their humble, unctuous, adopted ‘slave’ had assumed the role of a Frankenstein who paid scant respect to the wishes of the Nawab or his mother. An assumption of complete control over the state, especially as Mamola Bai was now ageing and losing her grip on power, was also a source of alarm for Hayat and the loyalists who had supported Chottey Khan against Shareef. Chottey Khan had taken wrath of all Barru-kat Pathans that of all of Dost’s family.

Then suddenly in 1794 Chottey Khan died. Soon afterwards, in 1795, the 80-year-old Manji Mamola Bai also died so that within the space of two years, the rule of the two Hindu converts to Islam who had effectively governed the state in the name of reclusive, titular nawabs was at an end. The steadying influence of Mamola Bai that had preserved Bhopal’s sovereignty and independence was gone, so was the firm grip on the administration by Chottey Khan.

Feb 11, 2007

Chottey Khan Of Bhopal

Mamola Bai adopted, converted and groomed four Hindu boys shortly after she became consort of Yar Mohammad Khan. The first was a Gond and the other two were Aheers. The fourth, a Brahmin, was given the name of Chottey Khan. By 1780, he was an adult and beholden to Manji Sahiba, as Mamola Bai was also known in Bhopal. After the violent deaths of three ministers in quick succession, Manji Sahiba appointed Chottey Khan as her Chief Minister on 17 November 1780. Chottey Khan proved to be an able administrator, an astute, crafty and unscrupulous political tactician. He reorganized the army and recruited an effective police force, which included an intelligence department that kept the Chief Minister fully informed of threats and intrigues. He built roads, extended Bhopal’s suburbs and built a dam on Banganga River, which resulted in what is today known as the Chota Talab, the smaller lake. The lower lake is also known as 'Chhota Talaab'. Chhota in Hindi means Small. Many people confuse that the name Chhota Talaab is because the lake smaller in comparison to the upper lake. But it is not so. The name 'Chhota' in actuality is the name of Chhote Khan, who built this lake in late 16th century.

Chotey Khan’s ruthless but effective administration was seen as a major challenge by Bahu Begum who taunted Shareef Mohammad Khan, grandson by stating “If I was a man, I would never allow this Brahmin slave to rule over the family of Dost Mohammad Khan.” She then promised him funds to raise an army against the Mamola-Hayat-Chottey axis. Sharif set to work in earnest, galvanizing his cousins and urging the Barru-Kat pathans to demonstrate their loyalty to Dost and rallying Pathan recalcitrant to overthrow the Hindu Raj being supported by Mamola Bai and her protégé, Chottey. Having raised an army of 5000, Shareef asked Bahu Begum for the promised financing. She failed to deliver. Shareef withdrew in disgust and with this non-event; Bahu Begum’s alternative government began to falter until it no longer posed a threat to Hayat.

Shareef had seven brothers and a brave, handsome adolescent son, Wazir Mohammad Khan. Shareef was duly banished from Bhopal. He withdrew to adjacent Rajput territory where he was welcomed and given supported. Shareef came back after raising an army and captured the Ginnor fort. The showdown was eminent in 1787.

Feb 8, 2007

Bahu Begum Of Bhopal

At the age of 46, the revered, saintly Faiz Mohammad Khan, developed the illness of dropsy. He died on 12 December 1777. His reign had lasted 35 years during which he took scant interest in the affairs of state, leaving Mamola Bai in charge of navigating the ship of state through turbulent waters. The capital had been moved from Islamnagar to Bhopal and Faiz is recorded as having stepped out of his palace only once during his entire reign of 35 years. He was buried near Kamlapati’s palace beside his real mother. Faiz died childless, leaving behind widow, Saleha Begum, better name as Bahu Begum, a spirited, defiant, outgoing woman who was not prepared to play second fiddle after her husband’s death.

Sensing another crisis of succession, the 62-year old Mamola Bai moved quickly. Even before the traditional 40-day mourning (chehlum) was completed, she declared her second stepson, Faiz’s younger brother, Hayat Mohammad Khan, as the fourth Nawab of Bhopal on 3 January 1778. Hayat was 43 years old when he ascended the throne, a weak, indolent, corpulent, pleasure-loving character who could not aspire to the reverence in which his brother had been held.

Hayat’s accession to the gaddi sparked another crisis for Mamola Bai. Faiz’s widow, Bahu Begum, refused to accept Hayat’s accession and began a revolt in which members of Dost Mohammad Khan’s descendants supported her. Bahu Begum, who detested Mamola Bai, perceived that by placing her weak, indolent son on the gaddi, Mamola Bai was seeking to perpetuate her Hindu-oriented reign in Bhopal. Bahu Begum began holding court at her husband’s mazar (tomb) and set up a parallel government in Islamnagar. For three years, she regularly held durbars (royal courts) as an act of defiance against the rule of Mamola Bai. Typically of Bhopal’s history, two women headed rival cabals vying for power in the state. Mamola Bai temporized and requested Bahu Begum, as a compromise, to nominate any of Yar’s brothers as the Nawab while Bahu Begum acted as regent. In fact, Hayat Mohammad Khan offered to step down to pacify the Bahu Begum

Feb 2, 2007

Shan-E-Bhopal - The Bhopal Express

The Bhopal Express is a train plying between New Delhi and Bhopal. This train – also known as Shan-E-Bhopal, is the first ISO 9001 certified train of India. It has a Pizza Hut outlet in one of the bogies. The coupes are usually spic and span. The higher class compartments have indicating light to display the status of toilet - whether occupied or not, like in all aircraft. There are sockets for cell-phone charging. Drinking water vending machines, charging Rs. 1/- litre, has also been installed. All these facilities are provided and withdrawn from time to time, may be the train is being used by “powers that be” as test case. The berth numbers on the train are in Braille and the toilets have been designed to suit the physically challenged. Sometime back, there was news that the train would provide WiFi connectivity!

The starting station of this train, Habibganj, is also ISO 9000 certified. Habibganj, serves as the railway station for new Bhopal. The forms of city gates inspire this long, narrow, three-storey building. Designed by Uttam C. Jain, the station is a series of open vaulted concrete structures built at each of the three levels through which platforms and ramps pass. The building contains ticket offices, a waiting hall, a restaurant, and arrival and departure platforms.

Another feature of this station are the ramps that connect the platforms with the overbridge and there is special parking for the physically challenged. In fact, the station does not have a single staircase. Even the water taps have been redesigned to suit the differently enabled people. There is a railway timetable at main entrance in Braille.

The train Bhopal Express has been so popular that even the State tourism corporation wants a share in it's fame. In a bid to pro
mote tourism in the State, the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (MPTDC) is constructing a unique restaurant. They have acquired an unused rake of a railway train into a special food joint. To be located at Hotel Ashoka Lakeview in the state capital Bhopal, the officials claim, “a complete atmosphere of a railway compartment as well as railway platform will be created to woo the food lovers.” The authorities claim that it will be the world's first-ever stationary restaurant of a broad gauge rake, and is being named, what else – Bhopal Express.

The timings of this train is such that a person can work the entire day at Bhopal and then leave for Delhi at night and vice-versa. Timings also have a share in making Bhopal Express such a huge success, which are as follows:

From Habibganj (Bhopal) to Delhi (Nizamuddin)
SNo Stn Name Arrival Time Dep. Time Distance
1 HABIBGANJ Source 21:05 0
2 BHOPAL JN 21:17 21:22 7
3 VIDISHA 22:03 22:05 60
4 GANJ BASODA 22:33 22:35 99
5 BINA JN 23:30 23:35 145
6 JHANSI JN 01:35 01:45 297
7 GWALIOR 03:03 03:05 395
8 MORENA 03:32 03:34 433
9 AGRA CANTT 04:38 04:40 513
10 H NIZAMUDDIN 08:05 00:00 700

From Nizamuddin (Delhi) to Habibganj (Bhopal)
SNo Stn Name Arrival Time Dep. Time Distance
1 H NIZAMUDDIN Source 21:00 0

2 AGRA CANTT 23:37 23:40 188
3 MORENA 00:35 00:37 266
4 GWALIOR 01:06 01:11 306
5 JHANSI JN 02:30 02:40 403
6 BINA JN 04:35 04:37 556
7 GANJ BASODA 05:08 05:10 601
8 VIDISHA 05:38 05:40 641
9 BHOPAL JN 06:42 06:45 694
10 HABIBGANJ 07:05 00:00 700

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 ...