In November, 1930 a public meeting was held in the Victory Playground to celebrate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad. A young man was moving his audience to tears by his oration. Midway through his speech, there was a general commotion. Policemen on duty started blowing whistles nervously. Mir Osman Ali Khan, Nizam VII, had arrived unannounced to attend the meeting.
The young speaker paused only for a while and then greeted the newcomer in an emotion-charged manner: “Oh crowned slave of the Muhammad of Arabia, come, let me tell thee about the style of governance of that emperor of both the spiritual and the corporeal worlds.” Osman sat there completely mesmerized and like the thousands amongst the audience, washed by the flood of words coming from that young speaker, tears began to roll down his cheeks. He asked some of the telling sentences of the speech to be repeated, as people say ‘encore’ in mushairas.
A week later, on 25th November he received a firman. It read : “The royal personage was delighted to hear your sermon and on the auspicious occasion of his birthday is pleased to confer the title of Bahadur Yar Jung on you.”
The young man was born in 1905 to Nawab Nasib Yawar Jung and named Saadi Khan alias Muhammad Bahadur Khan. He was descended from a Pathan family which had come to Hyderabad during the reign of the Nizam Sikandar Jah (1903-29) and was granted a minor jagir of Lal Garhi He was also a hereditary jamadar of the nazm-e- jamiat (commander of the Irregular Forces) of the Nizam.
Bahadur Khan’s mother died barely seven days after his birth. He was therefore brought up by his maternal grandmother upto the age of 14 and thereafter by his paternal grandmother. He was educated at the Madarsa-e-Aliya and Darul-ul-Uloom and acquired proficiency in wrestling, swimming, marksmanship, and swordsmanship. He was also very fond of shikar. He was married at the age of 14 to Talmain Khatoon, an older cousin. Right from school days he used to excel in declamation and became a popular orator.
When Bahadur Khan inherited the jagir on the death of his father in 1923 he also inherited a debt of Rs. 4.5 lakhs. Within four years he set the affairs right and having cleared all the debt, doubled the income from his estate to Rs.40,000 per annum. In 1926 he was elected president of the Society of Mehdivis and in 1927 he started the Society for the Propagation of Islam.
In 1930 he was elected secretary of the Union of Jagirdars which had been established in 1892 but was moribund. He served in that capacity for four years and infused new life into it. He was fond of reading and knew Urdu, Arabic, Persian and English and had smattering of Telugu. Because of his oratorical skills he became immensely popular and also very close to the Muslim League leader, Jinnah whose speeches he often interpreted from English into Urdu.
In 1938 he was elected president of the Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Musalmeen, a society with a cultural and religious manifesto. However, it soon acquired political complexion and became aligned the Muslim League in British India. He soon rose to be the supreme and unquestioned leader of the Ittehad and imparted a new militancy to it.
Bahadur Yar Jung noted the peculiar political situation of Hyderabad. It was a State with an overwhelming Hindu population — some 87% — and a Muslim ruler. With the winds of change blowing all over and the talk of democracy and the demands for a responsible government, the control of power was bound to pass from the ruling Muslim minority to the Hindu majority. To perpetuate the existing state of affairs, heavily weighted in favour of the Muslims, he therefore propounded an ingenious theory.
The Nizam claimed that, as a ruler, he was sovereign. Louis XIV of France had proclaimed in the 17th century “L’etat!– c’est moi!” (I am the State). In 1938, Bahadur Yar Jung enunciated the doctrine of ‘Ana’l Malik’, — ‘We are sovereign’. According to this theory, sovereignty did not vest in the ruler, but in the Muslim community. The Nizam was merely a symbol of that sovereignty. Every Muslim in the State thus became a participant and a sharer in sovereignty.
It thus sought to make it the vested interest of every Muslim to protect his sovereignty and its symbol, the Nizam. It became the official doctrine of the Ittehad and Bahadur Yar Jung insisted that Hyderabad should be declared a Muslim State.
In 1931, he performed Haj and thereafter undertook a tour of the Islamic countries of West Asia, and of Europe.
To make matters absolutely sure, the demographic balance of the State had to be altered. He therefore undertook a vigorous programme of conversion of Hindus into Muslims – particularly those belonging to the untouchable and backward classes in rural areas. He advised his band of missionary workers to aim not at the conversion of individuals but of whole groups. This work was done with particular zeal for three years and during that period he is credited with the conversion of 24,000 persons.
Bahadur Yar Jung thus reduced the Nizam from the personification of sovereignty to its mere symbol. He often said things which caused the Nizam discomfiture, and, not unoften, even offence. Once when he thundered against the British presence and their direction of administration in the State, the Nizam was compelled by the Resident to censure and to silence him and to be confined to his house for some time. The jagirdars were not allowed to participate in politics. To overcome that constraint, Bahadur Yar Jung renounced his jagir and title in 1940 and intensified his activities. That added to his popularity.
In 1944, he had gone to a dinner at the house of Hashim Ali Khan, a judge of the High Court and a close friend. Coming rather late, he ran up the steps and apologized to his host and other guests. Then he sat down and, as he took a pull at the hookah, he collapsed. His sudden and unexpected death raised suspicion that he was poisoned allegedly at he instance of the Nizam. But only whispers were heard. However, the Nizam joined the mammoth funeral procession the next morning.
Inspite of his politics, he was a friend of many leaders of other communities. Sarojini Naidu, for example, used to refer to him as her son.
His early death changed the course of history in the State. #KhabarLive