By Shaik Ahmed Ali
Hyderabad was the largest Indian princely state in terms of population. According to the estimates of 1941 census its population was around 16.34 million with Muslims accounting for nearly 12 %. Its ruler, the 6th Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan was the richest man in the world at that time.
Hyderabad, not only had its own Army, but also had its own Railways, Airline, Postal Service, Radio Broadcasting network and currency. The Nizam and his court ruled over it with the British Resident keeping a close and watchful eye over everything. The British Army also had a permanent garrison, just in case the faithful ally of the King Emperor was found lacking in faith. The Nizam was the first to sign the Subsidiary Alliance with the British and had remained steadfastly loyal to the empire. Even during the Mutiny of 1857, he managed to keep his state free from uprisings.
While the rest of India was engaged in the freedom struggle, Muslims in Hyderabad were visibly living in peace. Since the kingdom was being ruled by a Muslim king Mir Osman Ali Khan and the entire administration was largely under the control of Muslim officials and nobles, the community in general must have felt that it was completely safe. But this safety was superficial and temporary.
Unlike common perception that the Muslims were the ruling class, power was being enjoyed by a small section of the community. The rich and the elite were ruling the kingdom. They were not concerned about the common Muslims. Illiteracy and unemployment among Muslim masses was as rampant as it is today. The political conditions were extremely volatile.
The 6th Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan was ruling the Hyderabad since 1927. India was fighting its war for independence. Being a faithful ally of British, Nizam had no major threats from outside. But the political conditions within the state were heading for a major change. Some clerics and intellectuals floated Majlis-e-Bainul-Muslimeen and its first executive committee meeting was held on 12th November 1927. The meeting was convened by Moulvi Mohammad Mahmood Nawaz Khan and presided by Moulvi Haji Fatehullah.
On 15th of March 1929, Majlis declared its constitution with three main objectives — to unite all sections of the Muslim community, to protect the cultural, educational and social rights of Muslims and to promote loyalty towards the country (Hyderabad) and respect the law of the land. The organisation was later renamed as Majslis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. Later, the Arya Samaj, Hindu Mahasabha and Hyderabad State Congress came into existence. The State Congress was formed in 1938 and was immediately banned by the Nizam Government.
While the Majlis was trying to unite the Muslims and preparing them to defend the HyderabadState, Hindu Mahasabha on the other side, was mobilising the Hindus against Nizam. But Majlis, in its initial days, failed to make an impactful appeal to the Muslim community. All governments servants and the elite class stayed away from Majlis.
In 1940, Nawab Bahadur Yar Jung, one of the founding member, was elected as the Majlis President. He was a Jagirdar, a great orator and highly respected Islamic cleric.
Unlike common perceptions, a majority of Muslims were living a deplorable life in the Nizam’s rule. The literacy levels were very low. Except for a government or private job, Muslims were not indulged in any major commercial activity. A majority of the Muslim population was poor. After getting elected as Majlis President, Bahadur Yar Jung prepared a five-year plan for the economic and educational upliftment of the community. He appealed for a donation of 5 lakh rupees to implement the plan, but he did not get the desired support from the rich and elite class of Muslims. The Majlis was trying to do what the Nizam failed to do as the ruler.
Muslims used to address Bahadur Yar Jung as ‘Qayed-e-Millat’ or the ‘Chief of Muslim’ community. Some historians say that Nizam was personally not happy with the popularity of Bahadur Yar Jung. On 8th September 1941, the Nizam issued a ‘firman’ or order imposing ban on Jagirdars from participating in politics. But Qayad-e-Millat was determined to stay in politics by strengthening the Majlis. On 3rd October 1941, he surrendered his Jagir, all titles and privileges to Nizam and continued his political activities.
While Bahadur Yar Jung’s leadership was posing a great threat to the Nizam within Hyderabad, the Britishers were not happy with his active participation in the activities of Muslim League outside the HyderabadState. Qayed-e-Millat emerged as the undisputed leader of the community. He continued to expand the Majlis in all the areas of HyderabadState. Besides focussing on socio-economic growth, Bahadur Yar Jung also wanted the Muslims to learn military skills. On 15th of April 1943, the Majlis Headquarters Darul-Salaam was established by purchasing the property at a cost of Rs.90,000. Even to mobilize this fund, Bahadur Yar Jung wrote letters to many rich Muslims seeking help. But it was with great difficulty and contribution from the community that he could buy property for Darul-Salaam.
So far, Majlis did not enjoy any royal patronage nor the dominant rich-class was supporting the organization. But the common Muslims were joining the Majlis. Due to his sincerity and oratory skills he was able to pull thousands of people towards Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. But his approach was neither violent nor communal. In fact, there were several instances when he prevented Muslims from resorting to any kind of violence.
Prior to becoming Majlis President, Bahadur Yar Jung was holding the post of joint secretary. In 1938, Arya Samaj activists killed two Muslims youth – Nawaz Khan and Banda Miyan in Dhoolpet area. They were said to be close relatives of Bahadur Yar Jung . The news spread like wildfire and thousands of armed Muslims gathered at Bahadur Yar Jung’s house Bait-ul-Ummat in Begum Bazar. They were waiting for a signal from him to take revenge. Security forces were deployed all over the city to maintain law and order. Hyderabad’s Prime Minister Sir Akbar Hyderi, Home Minister T.G.Tasker and the Nizam himself were worried that it would be impossible to control the outbreak of communal riots in Hyderabad. They personally telephoned Bahadur Yar Jung requesting him to maintain restraint. Even Sarojini Naidu, who used to treat Bahadur Yar Jung as her son visited his house.
The crowd was shouting slogans seeking his permission to take revenge. He came out of his house and stood in front of the crowd. He did not say a single word. His silence had a strong message. The crowd dispersed peacefully. Sarojini Naidu hugged him like a child and said, “I have seen many leaders who provoke crowds, but I haven’t seen anyone who control them like this. This is the gift of God.” Later, many Muslims started gathering at Chanchalguda with weapons. But Bahadur Yar Jung deputed his close associates to protect Hindu population and properties en route funeral procession. Nearly 25,000 people attended the funeral. Before the start of procession, Bahadur Yar Jung made an impressive speech appealing for peace in Hyderabad. People used to love him so much that despite being emotional they followed his instructions.
After getting elected as MIM president, Bahadur Yar Jung tried to create a disciplined organization. The Nizam sensed a potential threat for his authority. On the other hand, his active participation in the activities of Muslim League also angered the British Government. To counter Bahadur Yar Jung’s popularity, he imposed the ban on Jagirdars from participating in politics. But Bahadur Yar Jung surrendered his Jagir instead of bowing before the Nizam.
Shocked by this move, Nizam then tried to lure Bahadur Yar Jung by offering him a ministerial berth. But Bahadur Yar Jung refused to become Nizam’s minister three times till 1944. Referring to these offers, in one of his speeches Bahadur Yar Jung said, “I was born to become dust of streets which could revolutionise the hearts and not to sit on a ministerial chair and think about the state’s schemes. I’m a labourer whose job is to construct a road on which the vehicle of Muslim community could pass comfortably and reach its destination. My association with Prophet Mohammad is sufficient for me to be proud of.”
Later, Nizam tried to please Bahadur Yar Jung by offering to return his Jagir and everything that he surrendered. Originally it was planned that Nizam would make this announcement on his birthday on 23rd June 1944. Since Bahadur Yar Jung did not show any signs of kneeling before the Nizam, this idea was dropped. Instead, the Nizam was ready with another deadly plan. Two days after Nizam’s birthday, a dinner was hosted at Hashim Ali Khan’s house, a senior official of the State High Court. Before the dinner, Bahadur Yar Jung was served a ‘huqqa’ mixed with poison. He died instantaneously.
Bahadur Yar Jung’s contribution for the Muslim community cannot be described in a few paragraphs. Nazeeruddin Ahmed has written his biography in three volumes of over 300 pages each and after reading them I felt that whatever was written about Qayed-e-Millat was too little.
Though the death of Bahadur Yar Jung created a vaccuum in the Muslim leadership, but it did not decrease the popularity of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. After him, Abul Hasan Syed Ali became Majlis president and he was succeded by Mazhar Ali Kamil. Two years later, in 1946, Moulvi Syed Qasim Razvi was elected as the Majlis president.
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