Friday, April 30, 2010

Only 1411 Tigers Left- Where Do We Go From Here?

Only 1411 Tigers Left- Where Do We Go From Here?
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The advertisement campaign that there are only 1411 tigers left in the India has attracted many eyeballs. The ad campaign has also moved a large number of hearts. People from Kashmir to Kaynakumari and from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh want to know the root of the problem. They are perplexed how come such a catastrophe is taking place right under their nose and no solution could be found to stem the decline of the population of the Tigers in the country.

One of the reasons for the decline of the population of the Tigers is poaching. Poaching is done because there is huge demand for tiger body parts and its skins. Tiger’s body parts are used in a wide variety of traditional medicine and black magicians uses its skin as a seat. In order to meet these demands there are criminal gangs that fund the poaching operations in India. It’s an organized crime conducted in collusion with local people, forest communities and the wild life protection officials.

The poor infrastructure is another reason for the decline of the tiger population. The under-equipped forest guards find it difficult to protect the Tiger reserve. Most of the reserves have very limited frontline staff and each person may have has to cover an area of 65-70 square kilometers. This is ridicules task and most often forest officials inflate the figures of the Tigers to save their jobs.

Tiger reserves exist in an environment where thousands of indigenous communities also live side by side with the Tigers. The relationship with the local communities and the forest is the "weak link” in the conservation effort of the Tigers.

Of late Tiger conservationist want the local communities out of the reserve as it felt that they are a hindrance in protecting the Tigers. The local communities are shifted from the core areas of the reserves without being given any alternative access for grazing or fuel collection. They have no other go but to turn to the reserves for their survival and poach tigers for their livelihood.

The developmental priorities of the government are causing an irreversible ecological transition in the tiger reserves resulting in the decline of their population. Extractive industries like mining and manufacturing and power plants are found in the tiger reserves. The insidious encroachment of the development projects comes in the way of saving the Tigers.

The fate of Tigers is entwined with the area of forest reserves. The depleting forest area poses a challenge to the conservation plan of the Tigers. It is estimated that 726 sq km of forest area had decreased in past one decade in the country.

Tigers are territorial animal. They literally need land to roam freely. With the birth of a male tiger, this search starts. Either the old tiger gives way or the male has to look beyond the protected areas of the forest and move into the guarded area of the forest. The tigers could expand its space when the outside world was forested, but now when the forests are degraded, they have no where to go except outside the reserve zone.

The total core area of a national park is about 17,000 sq km. A Tiger needs a minimum 10 sq km territory to roam, mate and live. If we compare this with the dwindling forest space, then we can rationalize why we have so few Tigers left.

The Tiger census revealed that many more tigers lived outside reserves than those inside. The 2001 census put the number at about 1,500 tigers inside and as many as 2,000 outside. The next census in 2005 found the number of tigers in the reserves between 1,165 and 1,657 but does not account the tigers living outside.

What happened to the Tigers living outside? Where did they disappear? Were they all killed by those who live outside the reserve? This could be true because the people who live outside the reserve are poor and resent these animals. The Tigers kills their cattle, the herbivores and wild boars in the reserve eat their growing crop. These people living around tiger land are at the receiving end. So it was in their best of interest to kill the Tigers and its preys.

So where do we go from here? How do we save the Tigers? Do we plan to expand and increase the forest area or save those people who live outside the reserves or save the Tigers? The best way would be a combination of all three. We have to protect the forest from getting depleted. The conservation of the Tigers should not be at the expense of the indigenous people who live outside the reserve. The best way would be a co existence model between the forest the Tigers and the indigenous people.

Unless we re-imagine the conservation efforts differently there is little hope to save the Tigers. The hard fact is more forest land is needed to safeguard the tigers. For this systematic planning has to be done. The tract of land outside the reserves has to be to be planted with trees that survive cattle and goats.

Then we have to look after the people who live outside the tiger reserve. They should be generously compensated for the crops destroyed or their cattle killed. They should be provided with alternative access to grazing and fuel collection.

It should be ensured that there is substantial and disproportionate development investment in the areas adjoining a Tiger reserve. This should be meant to benefit the people living by the side of the reserves and they must be made partners, owners and earners from the Tiger conservation plan.

This however does not mean that we should not improve the infrastructure and manpower to watch and ward the forest. This is essential to stop the poaching. There should also be efforts made to improve the prey population so that Tigers can feed upon them easily. More camera traps should be set up to monitor the tigers and their prey. The camera traps could also be used for surveillance against the poachers and the timber cutters, who are depleting the forest with impunity.

The entire apparatus of the conservation of the Tigers from bottom up should be streamlined. The in charge of the Tiger reserve should be made accountable and their work should be periodically monitored. Any one who is found neglecting its duties should be taken to task.

The Tiger conservation plan is infested by lobby and pressure groups that call the shots. They are the ones who block the positive move to conserve the Tigers. It’s thus imperative that the wings of such groups should be clipped. .

The media campaign should move from making noises that there only 1411 tigers left. It’s the duty of the media drum up new the agenda for the conservation of the Tigers. The focus should shift to reclaim the forest land and how to add on it. It should also address the issues confronting the indigenous communities.

Finally, the countrymen must wakeup to the reality and identify with the solutions and volunteer to monitor the changes taking place on the ground. Unless something drastically is done to change the discourse of Tiger conservation, nothing is going to come out from making noises that there are only 1411 Tigers left.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Riots after Riots- It happens only in India

Riots after Riots- It happens only in India
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Communal riots have become part and parcel of Indian social life. The birth pang of the country was on the throes of communal riots. The history of last sixty years or so to a section of the Indian society, who has been on the receiving end of communal riots, is nothing but a history of wanton destruction of their lives and properties.

The irony is, the psyche of the countrymen has become immune to such development that there is little effort either from the government of the day or the civil groups to stop such well planned and well orchestrated communal mayhem in the nation that swears by the word peace, unity in diversity, peaceful coexistence and such blah, blah….

The year 2010 so far has witnessed two communal riots, one in Bareilly a small city in Uttar Pradesh, the other in Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh. While the incidence of communal violence in Bareilly is rare, Hyderabad remains on the seismic zone of communal flare-ups.

Genesis Barielly riots

The genesis Barielly riot was the Bara-wafaat procession taken out by the Muslims on the occasion of birthday of Prophet Mohammad. This was on March 2, 2010 when a small group of Muslim boys not more than 30, were coming to join in the main procession and they passed through a Hindu locality. They were challenged and hot words were exchanged and this followed a volley of brickbats on these boys making them bleed profusely. The fact that the brickbats in such huge quantity were kept on roof tops suggests some planning must have been done before the flash point

However, the group of boys somehow made it to the main procession, which characteristically was not a procession where some 30-40 thousand individuals gathered, but of much smaller in number who after seeing their co religionist bleeding retaliated by burning the shops that was indiscriminate.

Unlike the popular belief that it was only Hindu shops were torched, the fact remains that there were many Muslim shops which were completely burned down.

This resulted in the clamping down of the curfew, and after six days when every one thought the curfew would be finally be lifted, the administration on March 8, arrested the powerful Sunni Muslim cleric Maulana Tauqeer Raza Khan, the National president of powerful Ittehad e Millat (IMC) on the charges of inciting the trouble.

Bareilly is great seat of Barellvi sect of Sunni Muslim School and the Maulana is no baby sheep. The arrest made the supporters of Maulana to sit on dharna, demanding his unconditional release. Their number was around 30, 000 and their number kept increasing with each passing moment. In spite of such large numbers the supporters displayed remarkable discipline and none reported to have done anything negative, except peacefully sitting in Satyagrah for over 30 hours.

In was after three days Maulana Tauqeer was released from jail on March 11, 2010. His supporters after hearing the news of the release of their leader started dispersing peacefully to their homes.

At this moment the goons of the Bajrang Dal and the BJP started attacking the unarmed returning Muslims in which two of them sustained severe cut injuries by sword. At the same time the belligerent mob got busy vandalizing, looting and burning Muslim owned shops and property.

This continued unabated on March 11 and 12, 2010 and the police and paramilitary forces had tough time containing them. It was only by March 15, when the curfew was lifted after two weeks that the city limped back to normalcy.

Genesis of Hyderabad riots

The communal riot in Hyderabad city is a basket case of communal incident. It’s once again the same old story where the state apparatus has failed to preempt the situation and only bolted the doors when the horses had fled!

The riot in Hyderabad had its origin in rabble rousing speeches at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad conference on March 24th, 2010. This led to filing of the cases against those provoking violence against minority communities. This happened three days before the breakout of actual violence that took place on Hanuman Jayanti day on March 30, 2010.

Hanuman Jayanti, a festival that was hitherto celebrated with relative simplicity in Hyderabad city saw an unprecedented mobilization by Hindu extremist organizations that blanketed the entire city with Saffron flags.

The belligerence of the Saffron brigade was at height when they provocatively planted Saffron flags and other Hindu religious symbols on Mosques, Churches and other sites of such religions.

This provocation was enough for retaliation from the fearful community and according to reports it was free for all where three lives were lost, ninety people were left injured.

Police arrested two hundred and seventy two suspects, most of them Muslims, imposing curfew within the jurisdiction of twenty five police stations of the city. It took several days for the situation to come back to normal and peace to be restored.

In both the cases, Bareilly and Hyderbad, the role of state administration is dubious. It is unfortunate that both the state governments allowed the riots to unsettle the state of communal harmony and did little to preempt the situation.

In both the cases the Hindutva groups were the main culprits and agent provocateurs in destabilizing communal harmony and provoking religious violence.

The general public had begun to sense the communal tension but not the administration that has the intelligence gathering apparatus. It seems the police intelligence agency were either oblivious to the fact or deliberately remained silent.

These copy book cases of communal riots in the country has been recurring in pauses each year in the country from last sixty years or so. Not a single year passes when there are no communal riots in India.

On a rough estimate there could be an average three to five riots each year. Still no one in this country gives a damn about it. Every one forgets about it when thing gets normal after some fire fighting exercises, till it recurs again. This sounds bizarre but it’s true fact about the history of communal riots in the country.

Ask those who has been reeling under violence, terror and curfew. Imagine living under the looming shadow of uncertainty, danger and the threat of violence and state imposed restrictions under curfew. What kind of wound it may inflict on the minds of the sufferers.

I some time wonder how long this madness will be allowed to perpetrate by the collusion of the state and the central government. Are they not responsible for producing Jhadis in this country? It’s a murky game that going in this country from last 60 years or so, where first you produce the Jhadis, and then go after them.

The irony of my country is each one us get carried away by the symptoms and none care of thinking of the ways and means to control the disease. The biggest, stakeholder in this, the state, seems to be wavering in its commitment to uphold the secular credentials that’s guaranteed in the constitution of India.

At the end, would be a regular investigation is ordered to probe these riots and what it would lead to. A step further may be a judicial probe of these incidents. But will that be sufficient to get to the real story behind these riots? Even if we are able to get one, will that avoid further loss of life in yet another riot on yet another pretext? Your guess is as good as mine!

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Myanmar Election - All is Not Well

Myanmar Election - All is Not Well
Syed Ali Mujtaba

With the announcement of the Political Parties Registration Bylaw, the scene is now set for the holding of the long-awaited 2010 elections in Myanmar. While some groups are registering parties, many existing opposition parties remain undecided.

The parties do not now have the leisure of debating the legality of the Constitution or the electoral laws since they have to register within 60 days of the announcement of the Political Parties Registration Bylaw. Decisions will need to be made quickly if they want to compete, while at the same time, the parties will need to focus on their election manifestos.

At least seven political groups are now preparing to register with the Election Commission. They include: 1. National Unity Party (NUP) formerly the Burmese Socialist Programme Party, 2. Democratic Party (DPM), 3.Union of Myanmar National Political Force, 4.88 Generation Students Union of Myanmar, 5.Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), backed by the SPDC.

The government-backed USDA and some of its allied parties have been allowed to campaign extensively even prior to the promulgation of the election laws, for over a year now. It is learnt a prominent Shan political leader, Shwe Ohn is also planning to contest the elections.

The Kachin State Progressive Party (KSPP) led by Dr Manam Tuja, former leader of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) is entering the electoral fray with the requisite 15 Central Committee members and a minimum of 500 party members in Kachin State. The party is now preparing to register itself within the 60 days as stipulated in the party registration law, and its leaders have promised to work for the progress and development of education, health and the social status of Kachin nationals.

The Democratic Party - Myanmar (DPM) headed by veteran politician U Thu Wai along with few alliance partners are gearing up to contest the forthcoming elections. The DPM has been working towards forming a political party since the end of last year to contest the elections but could not do so officially because electoral laws were not announced till recently.

A group of Chin politicians are now preparing to participate in the general elections. It maybe recalled in the 1990 elections, Chin State was divided into 13 constituencies and Chin National League for Democracy won four seats, Zomi National Congress won two seats, Mara People’s Party won one seat, National United Party won one seat and the National League of Democracy won four seats in Parliament. However, as part of a crack-down by the regime on politicians and parties, many parties including the Chin National League for Democracy-(CNLD), Zomi National Congress-(ZNC) and the Mara People’s Party-(MPP) were banned. Now Chin political activists want a new party to contest the election, which can include all politicians in the various townships in Chin State.

Similarly, several prominent Karen nationals are reportedly busy forming political parties to contest this year's general election, while others are preparing to stand individually. Three Karen political parties were formed at the time of the 1990 elections: the Karen State Nationals Organization (KSNO), the Union Karen League, and the Karen National Congress for Democracy. The KSNO won in one constituency while the National League for Democracy (NLD) won in 10 of the 14 constituencies in Karen State.

The ruling Junta have issued the white ID cards used for foreign nationals to Muslim communities in northern Arakan State to vote in the election However, its likely that Muslim communities in Maungdaw and Buthidaung may vote for their Muslim leaders and not junta associates. This is due to their dislike of the regime and the oppression and discrimination of Muslims in Myanmar.

However, Myanmar’s biggest Opposition party the National League for Democracy (NLD) has announced that it would not register for 2010 election because it’s of the opinion the election laws are unfair and unjust. This means Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s party; NLD will have no role in the military-led political process

The NLD is angered by the military junta’s restrictive election laws, which bar current and former prisoners from taking part. Many NLD members are among the 2,100 political detainees in Burma, the most famous of whom is Ms Suu Kyi. The party faces dissolution if it refuses to register. The NLD won the last election in 1990 by a landslide but was never allowed to rule.

Similarly, some of the Kachin, Chin and Karen nationals have taken the decision not to take part in the election. This will allow the ruling SPDC to disband them or take whatever necessary measures against them. However, if the SPDC miscalculates and the ethnic ceasefire groups fight back and the fighting intensifies, the SPDC may change its game plan and use the instability as a pretext to postpone elections indefinitely.

The election in Myanmar has been widely dismissed as unfair. This is because while electoral laws provide for a relatively ‘free’ vote on voting day with representatives of political parties present at the polling station, the extensive powers given to the Election Commission effectively nullifies that ‘freedom’.

In other words, the Election Commission will pre-screen political parties and candidates that will be allowed to run. Only those who are not deemed ‘dangerous’ to the SPDC will be allowed to proceed to the voting stage. At that point, the people will be ‘free’ to choose between SPDC candidates and candidates that are friendly to the regime.

Once again these measures expose the well-orchestrated strategies of the regime and its determination to shape the outcome of the elections. The political parties and the candidates that want to compete and represent their constituencies will have to come up with strategies that will not disqualify them prior to voting day.

The reluctance of the opposition parties and ethnic parties, to participate in the elections suggest it’s a sham electoral process orchestrated by an oppressive military regime that’s in power for nearly three decades.

Similarly it also reflects that Myanmar’s national reconciliation process leading to democratization of the country could not be achieved without the participation of all the ethnic groups and political parties in Myanmar. All this reflects that every thing is not well with the election in Myanmar.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Remembering CK Prahalad – The Management Guru

Remembering CK Prahalad – The Management Guru
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The news that the management guru, Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad, popularly known as CK Prahalad is no more has disturbed me. This is because as a small time city reporter in 1998 I remember covering the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) conference in Chennai, where he was the key note speaker.

Let me confess I belong to the rare breed of reporter, who have little clue of the person whom he is sent for reporting and comes to know about the person only after the event is over and has filed the report.

My first and last acquaintance with CK Prahalad, was when he was introduced to the audience and I could sense this guy is no small fry because he was given utmost importance by the captains of the industry.

When Prahalad, started talking and I started taking notes, I could gauge the depth and range of knowledge and realized why he was given so much of importance. He sounded like a management thinker, talking about many things big and small that I had no clue about and it was a learning experience to me.

No wonder I still preserve some of his thoughts that I jotted down on “How to Manage India”. Here are some excerpts of his speech.

‘India’s political agenda is still not driven by economics. The economic strategy is still an elitist preoccupation. There is no consensus on the roadmap of improvement of India,’ said CK Prahalad, the management guru.

‘India is still fighting with the past. It has yet to begin its innings of competing with the future,’ he added.

‘In India population is seen as a drag and not an opportunity. Population could also be a positive thing; it can become largest consumer market. Can India create a world-class market,’ Prahalad quizzed.

He suggested ‘India has to get out of the box and cannot remain insular. India does not have many choices. Its can’t do attitude will do no good, and if it has to progress, only can do and must do attitude has to be cultivated.’

Talking about the global economy, Prahalad said, ‘The characterization of new economics is de regularization and privatization. Global open standards, focus on competition, eco sensitivity, transparency, accountability, more people can participate in opportunity. De regularization and privatization, delimitation of local monopolies, outlet capacity, separate the assets from the people. Capital shortage, some capital is required.’

Talking about India, he said, lack of transparency can create lot of problem and advocated transparency and accountability. In order to contain the social upheaval there is the need for employment generation and this could be done only through the growth of the private sector,’ he suggested.

‘Diversified business groups have the scale and scope to sustain and exploit institutional development. Market institution takes a long time to develop,’ he said.

A sound strategic response to liberalization is rationalizing not reduced business, scope emphasizes internal institution building, exploit new opportunities even if it means increased diversification, fresh efficiency, improvement in current business, he added.

Prahalad suggested that the strategy in India should be tailor made and not imported from the west. India should develop unique core competence in an emerging market context.

‘Be fixated on internal institutional development not on increased business focus, look at diversification but from own point of view,’ he told the captains on Indian Industries.

Prahalad talked about many more of things of which I had little clue. I just jotted them as points and reproducing them as it may make sense to those who understand such theories better.

“Global local industries, Entire process of de regulation, Globalization – competition, customers’ opportunity, Global standards – major global pressure shifts. Global suppliers – competition for talent, Global markets- competition for markets, Local global – competition for distribution channels, Supply system – global consolidation of industries.”

'Global products are sold locally, Global recession – shifts will take place. Competition for talent is global, open standards – technology driven. Not stalled and size, quality speed cost features need to critical suppliers.'

'Capacity building – quality speed cost open standards, tremendous volatility – scaling up and scaling down new products , speed competition is leading to the growth of bullishness. Growth formally re write the portfolio, total opportunities view, help people viable local business, re thinking solution, pollution control compact fluent camp verses power generation, choice of technology,'

'Nuclear verses coal, concern for accountability, employer share holder, deep change or slow death, new level of competition, domestic market. Standard managers, new basis for competition for capital talent and customers. '

'Response to liberalization, diversify or focus, relative cost and benefits, value of internal institutions, time to develop eternal institution, strategy verses efficiency, need to be efficient what ever be the strategy.'

CK Prahalad a distinguished University Professor at the University of Michigan was rated as the most influential management thought leader twice in a row by Thinkers 50 listing of the world’s top business management gurus.

Three of his boldly original ideas—Strategic Intent, Core Competence and Bottom of the Pyramid—became part of the rule book for a whole generation of executives, shaping winning strategies for their companies.

His bottom-of-the-pyramid approach that challenged conventional thinking about targeting only the most profitable segments of the market acquired a permanent place in the lexicon of chief executives.

His theory and vision behind the viability of the high-volume, low-cost business models were path-breaking. A sharp and analytical mind, his ability to drill down to the core of the problem and come up with innovative solutions was legendary.

The obit note on Pralahad describes him one of the foremost strategic advisers to those at the very top of the corporate pyramid, who has passed away on Friday in California, United States, after a brief illness. The 68-year-old was battling lung disease the past few days.


Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Indian Muslims should emulate Super 30 model

Indian Muslims should emulate Super 30 model
Syed Ali Mujtaba

There is a view among a segment of Indian Muslim that instead of seeking favors from the government and hankering for reservation for shedding the burden of backwardness, some members of the community should come forward and emulate the Super 30 model of Bihar to uplift the fellow members of the community.

The Sachar Committee report reveals the abysmally low share of Muslims in professional courses, especially in institutes of excellence in the country. In 2006-07, only 3.3% of all students in all IITs and around 1.3% in all IIMs were Muslims. In IAS, the representation of Muslims was only 3% and it was 4% in IPS.

Super 30 is an initiative under which poor students are giving educational coaching free of cost to crack the highly competitive Indian Institute of Technology-Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE).

The coaching institutes’ takes 90 students every year divided into a batch of 30 students each and it has repeatedly demonstrated that how professional coaching can make the under privileged students crack the entrance test of the top engineering colleges of the country.

The 30 students are selected from among 3,000-odd aspirants who write the Super 30 entrance test. The entrance test is held in Lucknow, Agra, Gorakhpur and Varanasi in UP, Ranchi, Bokaro, Dhanbad and Jamshedpur in Jharkhand and Patna, Gaya, Muzaffarpur and Bhagalpur in Bihar.

Once selected, the students are provided professional coaching, food and lodging facilities, all free of cost. Parents of most of the students come from the bottom rung of the society, some being brick kiln workers, domestic help and doing menial jobs.

The institute was started in 2003 by two dynamic persons, one a mathematician and other a police officer. In the first year, 18 of its students made it to the prestigious IITs and the number rose to 22 in 2004 and 26 in 2005. In 2007 and 2006, 28 students made it through ITT-JEE. In the last seven years, 182 students out of 210 have made it to different IITs of the country. And for the last two years, all 30 students of Super 30 have made it to the IITs and this includes students from the Muslim community as well.

A British filmmaker narrated the success story of Super 30 trough the Discovery Channel and also a Japanese documentary film maker made a film on this innovative and successful attempt to send poor children to India’s top most engineering colleges.

The Super-30 success has made the government of Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh to replicate the model in their respective states. A team of government officials of these states are making a beeline in Patina to study this model of teaching and are preparing a blue prints for its implementation in their states.

Is the Muslim community in India being aspired by the initiative like Super 30? This is a big question mark as I have discovered that there are small and big, more than fifty coaching institutes run by the Muslim community in different parts of the country.

Many of these insinuations are receiving funds from the government, and are making tall claims to run the show and receive more funds but contrary to the claims these institutions are no more than government offices, providing employment and money to those who run them.

A close look at the functioning of Muslim run coaching institute provides a very unrealistic picture. Most of them have taken umpteen numbers of courses and they could hardly do justice to any of them. There is hardly any desire or inclination to provide a specialized training. No wonder, the bright students of the community keep themselves away from such institutions.

The Super 30 has provided a direction how a success story could be scripted in the most humble way. Now the onus is on members of the Muslim community to take this idea forward and replicate it for uplifting the not so privileged members of their faith. This they can do through professional approach and with utmost resolve and commitment and dedication to the cause.

The Rahmani Foundation, Munger, Bihar leads the way by adopting the Super 30 model for under privileged Muslim students of Bihar to crack IITs exams. The Foundations picked-up poor average Muslim candidates from Bihar and coach them in Patna providing them free coaching, lodging and foods to appear IIT Jee test. It costs Rs. 80,000 per year for each student’s expenses.

Additional Director General of Police Abhyanand, who coached and helped 30 students from poor families to join the prestigious IITs is heading this institution. Abhyanand began working for Rahmani 30 after disassociating himself from Super 30. The idea of coaching Muslim students to the police officer struck because Super 30’s successful students included Muslim students as well.

The Rahmani foundation announced that students who have scored more than 60+ marks in 12th can appear in the test at selected locations throughout Bihar. About 2,300 candidates appeared in the test and finally selected 10 candidates. All the 10 students enrolled in the special coaching institute passed the IIT-JEE exams.

It’s high time that some dynamic persons from the community should come forward and try to start specialized coaching institute in a professional way on the lines of Super 30 and Rahmani 30 in other parts of the country. They should hire the best faculty available and Muslim philanthropist should come forward to foot their bills. Similarly, the food and loading arrangement should made by members of the community.

A good administrator can do wonders in running such institutions and there is no dearth of them in the community who can produce results. If this happens with a missionary zeal, it won’t be long when Indian Muslims can too write a new script that can become a talking point in every nook and corner of the country.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Woeful Tale of Prince of Hyderabad

A Woeful Tale of Prince of Hyderabad
By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Here is a sad tale of Mir Barkat Ali Khan a.k.a Mukaram Jah Bahadur, the Eighth Nizam of Hyderabad, descendant of the Viceroys of the Deccan and heir to India's greatest dynasty since the Mughals.

It’s a saga on man who went from being the richest man in the world, the owner of Murchison House Station near Geraldton, Australia, to land up in a small two bedroom apartment in Istanbul, Turkey.

Yes I am talking about the woes of Prince Mukaram Jah, grandson and heir apparent of seventh Nizam Mir Osam Ali Khan who ruled the princely state of Hyderabad till its merger with India in 1948.

The 79 year old Prince was recently in Hyderabad to sell the fabled Nazri Bagah Palace in the King Kothi estate located in the heart of the city. Its trade mark being the curtain gate on the main road.

Nazri Bagah Palace is based on French architecture and looks very elegant from outside. Inside each room is tastefully decorated and has a huge clock near its portico. It catches the attention of any visitor from a distance reminding the changing times this palace has seen over the years.

A heritage structure Nazri Bagah Palace has many tales buried inside. It saw a flurry of activity to the run up to police action against Hyderabad state in 1948. The Palace was last abode of the seventh Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan.

Mukaram Jah, who suffers from diabetes, remains cash starved and frequents Hyderabad to dispose off his ancestral property to make his ends meet.

He had received a substantial amount in 1995 when the government of India paid him 218 crore rupees for the 173 pieces of fabled jewels owned by his forefathers.

However, it seems the Prince is once again is in want of cash and his latest sojourn to the city of his forefathers was for such purposes.

It’s an irony for the man whose grandfather, the seventh Nizam, once the richest man of the world, is unable to hire lawyers to straighten up his litigated fortune.

The blame could squarely be put on Jah, his relatives, friends, advisors and government that has reduced, once world’s richest dynasty into a sorry state of affair.

Most of his legendry wealth is under litigation, either with his relatives or with the Union or state government. His disastrous four marriages and series of failed business ventures have landed him into a pitiable situation.

The seventh Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan had set up 56 different trusts for the welfare of the numerous members of his family in1948-50. According to trust deeds, the shares were appropriated among their major and minor beneficiaries variously estimated to be 2000 to 2500. A total corpus of 60 crore rupees was deposited in these thrusts which have appreciated many folds in six decades.

The largest stake in the Nizams’ estate is of Prince Mukaram Jah, but ever since he inherited the fortunes of his ancestors after his coronation as the eight Nizam in 1967, it has been a tale of woes for the heir apparent.

With enormous money at stake, the beneficiaries are engaged in bitter internal feud for an extra pound of flesh. More than 800 writs have been filed against Mukaram Jah by his relatives questioning his entitlement for the privileged share in Nizams’ private estate. This includes separate claims by Jah’s, brother, sons’ daughters and estranged wives.

Sympathisers of Mukaram Jah blame it on the Union government that failed to acknowledge in letter and spirit the exclusive rights and privileges that were bestowed on him through an act of Parliament and in the shape of Union Ministry’s ‘Blue Book’ in the wake of the abolition of privy purses by Indira Gandhi in 1971.

Since then the spectre of dispossessions loomed large on the heirs of the Asifjahi dynasty. First the Privy Purse was abolished; thereafter Andhra Pradesh government took away entire personal property through the Urban ceiling Act.

The surplus properties taken by the state government include his estate of the Chiran Palace, in posh Jubilee hills area that’s now made into a public park. A portion of Nazri Bagh Palace in the King Kothi estate and the entire erstwhile Mahbub Mansion palace were taken away in lieu of unpaid taxes and estate duties. Besides, numerous taxes were slapped on the remaining properties of the Prince, literally stripping him of his legendry wealth.

Following the mismanagement of the affairs of his estate, Jah left Hyderabad in frustration to settle in Australia. He bought a luxurious mansion Havelock House in West Perth. The Prince owned 5,000 acre sheep farm in an Australian outback and lived there for more than three decades, with his Australian wife and their two sons.

However, his lavish life style in Australia painfully came to an end. He was reported to have engaged in some commercial activity which had offices in Hyderabad, Sydney, London and Geneva, that went bust. With creditors pressing from all sides, Jah was forced to first sell his mansion in Perth in 1994 and then to part off the sheep farm which included his famous house, The Murchison, in lieu of the unpaid debts.

The Doon School, Harrow, Cambridge and London School of Economics educated, Prince Mukaram Jah then moved to Europe. There he lived in Switzerland and England, before moving to Turkey where he currently leads a life of anonymity.

In course of his chequered life, Mukaram Jah led a profligate lifestyle. He married four times and each marriage ended in a divorce. The settlement of each divorce cost him a fortune.

He married first time in 1959 to Turkish Princess Esra Birgin and had a son and daughter with her. He divorced her as she did not want to move with him to Australia.

He married again in 1980, to former air hostess and employee of the BBC, Helen Simmons who converted to Islam, changed her name to Aysha. He had two sons with his second wife. Aysha died in 1989 of an AIDS-related illness.

Jah once again married in 1990 to Manolya Onur, a former Miss Turkey, with whom he has a daughter.

He married fourth time to Jameela Boularous in 1994, a woman from Morocco, and has a daughter.

He married again in 1995 for fifth time, to Princess Orchedi, a Turkish lady with whom he is currently living in Istanbul and who is a divorcee and has children from her previous marriage.

The biggest mistake of Prince Mukaram Jah was, instead of staying in Hyderabad and sort out his problems, he turned his back on them and left the city of his forefathers.

Jah’s advisor and close friend, Sadruddin Javeri, who managed his estate in his absentia squandered away a huge part of his wealth. It was Javeri’s cupidity that the world famous Falaknuma Palace was sold to the Taj Group of hotels in lieu of unpaid debts. No wonder, the advisor who called himself Prime Minister of Nizams’ was unceremoniously sacked in 1997.

It is not that every thing is over for Prince Mukaram Jah, the eight Nizam of Hyderabad. He still posses’ huge assets in the city. What is expected from him is to stay in Hyderabad and sort out his litigations.

Its any irony that the man who is still being addressed in his native place as; His Exalted Highness, Sultan, Pasha, Huzoor Nizam, Mai-Bap and Sarkar and many such epithets, prefers a life of recluse in a foreign land.

It is indeed a sad story of wealth lost and squandered, the frailty of human vanity and status, the total inability of a man to cope with great historic changes taking place around him.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He earlier worked as city reporter in Hyderabad. He can be contacted at