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Letter of 3rd Secy Embassy of India in Nepal
to Sahebzada Anjum Quder regarding Grave of Queen


Begum Hazrat Mahal
vis-a-vis
Jawahar Lal Nehru

Written by: Prince Anjum Quder
  During the period of Celebration of the Centenary (1857 - 1957) of
The First War of Indian Independence - 1857

         In June 1957 my brother Kaukab Quder returned from Lucknow to our "home-in-exile" in Calcutta with a woeful tale that the State of Uttar Pradesh had just celebrated the Centenary of the First War of Independence, and all the heroes of 1857 had been honoured in various ways except Begum Hazrat Mahal, our illustrious great grandmother. So much so that even an invitation to the celebrations was forgotten to be extended to the survivors of the Queen Regent of Oudh, while those of her equally famous compatriots like Nana Rao, Tantia Tope, and Rani Lakshmi Bai were duly honoured by the State Government in a series of functions held in Lucknow and Varanasi. This was really distressing for a family whose record of sufferings, sacrifices, services, and contributions to the cause of freedom of our country is second to none.

         But we never lost heart, for Jawaharlal Nehru was there. I soon prepared a Memorandum and, picking up our youngest brother Nayyer Quder from Aligarh Muslim University, we arrived in New Delhi on 15th August 1957. Our visit was hailed by all the newspapers of the capital next morning, and The Statesman - Delhi was good enough to publish a large photograph of ours with a long story captioned "A Claim from 1857". This attracted the immediate attention of the Prime Minister, who desired to meet us next morning at eleven.

          That was a memorable meeting. Jawaharlal Nehru was all courtesy, and all kindness. His charm was disarming. We had no heart to complain against the discrimination meted out to the memory of Begum Hazrat Mahal by the State in the Centenary Celebrations of 1857, though that was the purpose of our visit. However, Mr. Nehru was all praise for the famous Queen of Oudh and inquired if we know where her grave was so that the Government could do something to perpetuate her memory there. To this of course my curt answer, which I soon regretted, was that it was the Government's duty to have searched for and honoured the Begum's last resting place. Jawaharlal Nehru, with a magnanimity that lived and died with him, frankly admitted the lapse and promised to do the needful. However, we supplied him with all the date we had, and the meeting that was to have lasted 10 minutes went onto more than an hour. He sincerely inquired of the health of my ailing father, and intimately asked about the welfare of the family and the education of our children. He was gracious enough to have imposed upon the Government of India the future cost of education of Kaukab in Calcutta and Nayyer in Aligarh. And it is due to the provisions made by Panditji that Nayyer went to London for higher studies.

         Reverting to our subject again, I was pleasantly surprised to receive from the Prime Minister in October 1957, so soon after our Delhi meeting, the news that the Government of India succeeded in discovering the grave of Begum Hazrat Mahal in Kathmandu city, and the Indian Embassy in Nepal was looking after the same. Two neat photographs of the grave, situated within the Begum's own Imambara and Mosque, were enclosed. This announcement was also made in the Lok Sabha by the late Shri B.N.Datar, the then Union Deputy Home Minister.

         On 9th May 1958 another announcement was made by the Government of India in the Lok Sabha giving State recognition to ten leaders of the 1857 Freedom Struggle. This included Begum Hazrat Mahal very prominently.

         Soon thereafter in 1958, Lucknow papers announced that the State Government had decided to construct at a cost of Rs50,000 a Monument in Lucknow to the memory of Begum Hazrat Mahal. It is significant that only sometime back the State had forgotten the Begum of Oudh it its "1857 Functions". Although we are not aware of the happenings behind the scenes. Mr. Nehru's long hand could easily be felt in the changed attitude. National Herald, with which Jawaharlal Nehru's association is well known, went further to say in its issue dated 21.6.1961 about Hazrat Mahal under the caption "Monument to Valour": " In honouring this relentless fighter for freedom, the city will be honouring itself. The famous Victoria Park in Lucknow was with great pomp and splendour renamed Begum Hazrat Mahal Park, and the celebrated Queen of England's big statue was replaced by the valiant Indian Queen's Memorial.

         As if all this was not enough, Mr Nehru's next public meeting in Lucknow -- which alas was his last there was held in the new Begum Hazrat Mahal Park, instead of the traditional Aminuddowla. And I learn on good authority that Mr. Nehru's direction were to hold all his future public meeting's at Lucknow in "Begum Hazrat Mahal Park". Thenceforth, the authorities seem to have abandoned the old Aminuddowla for the new Hazrat Mahal Park also altogether. Last year, the late Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri also followed his illustrious predecessor in choosing the venue of his last Public Address in Lucknow. And the Government is now building a permanent Public Address Platform in that Park.

         It is therefore quite in the fitness of things that today, on the second Independence Day Celebrations without Jawaharlal Nehru, the family of Begum Hazrat Mahal should humbly acknowledge the debt it owes to Nehru for re-introducing Hazrat Mahal to the present generation in India. True, Hazrat Mahal was great in her own rights. But she had lain buried in the golden pages of Indian history. Hundred years of British diplomacy in India, had cleverly run the memory of Hazrat Mahal, one of their bitterest enemies in India, down into oblivion. And it was left to the late lamented Jawaharlal Nehru, the Jewel of India, to resurrect the name of the popular Begum of Oudh to its rightful place in public memory.
Oh, for Nehru today !


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Reproduced from the letter Dtd September 7, 1957 written to
Sahebzada Anjum Quder by 3rd Secretary, Embassy of India, Nepal

Seal/- of
Govt of India
Ref No: PO/1/57/11300
EMBASSY OF INDIA
NEPAL
September 7, 1957

Sahibzada Anjum Quder R. A. Meerza,
The Royal House of Avadh,
11, Marsden Street,
Calcutta - 16.



         I am directed to acknowledge receipt of your letter of September 2, 1957, to the Ambassador, regarding the grave of late Malka Hazrat Mahal.

         We have furnished the relevant information regarding the location of the late Malika's grave to the Government of India and shall wait their instructions for further action. You will be interested to know that the grave is situated in local Hindustani Masjid and is regularly white washed and maintained by the Mosque authorities.

Yours faithfully,
Sd/-       

( Manjit Singh )
Third Secretary.

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