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 firstname.lastname@example.org