Family dispute, ignorance and disinterest on the part of successive governments all contributed to the phasing out of an important part of history and heritage from Murshidabad.
The house of the first President of Pakistan, Iskandar Mirza, was located in Lalbagh. But owing to the lack of initiative on the part of both central and state governments, the house is now completely ruined and some new buildings and hotels have come up there. Iskandar belonged to the Nawab family of Murshidabad and his house was located in Murshidabad, around 200 km from Kolkata.
Historians said Iskandar was born in Murshidabad city (now known as Lalbagh town) on November 13, 1899. His father, Md. Fateh Ali Mirza, was the grandson of Nawab Mansur Ali Khan, the last Nawab of Bengal.
But after the Partition of India, Iskandar opted to live in Pakistan with his family and didn’t return to see his ancestral property. Also, his father Fateh Ali Mirza, who is popularly known as Nawab Mirza in Murshidabad, turned the property into a personal estate. As a result, the house was practically not repaired by anyone after Independence.
Iskandar, a great grandson of the ‘infamous’ Nawab of Bengal Mir Jafar, served as the President of Pakistan between 1956 and 1958. He was also the last Governor General of Pakistan between 1955 and 1956. He died in 1969.
Dr Reza Ali Khan, former teacher of Nawab Bahadur Institution and the author of Murshidabad Abong Banglar Nazim and a distant relative of Iskandar, said, “The place where the house of Iskandar Mirza was situated (just opposite Dakshin Darwaja, only few meters from Hazarduari Palace) was once known as Tikiyatoli. But at present it is in ruins.”
“Iskandar’s association with Murshidabad’s history is very weak. But the house was historically important as it was the birthplace of Pakistan’s first President and once the family of Bengal’s Nawabs resided there. The house built was spread over 4-5 bighas and there were several rooms in the mansion,” he said.
The Nawab Mirza Estate still exists in Murshidabad town but there is no information whether the estate sold the house of Iskandar. Illegal encroachers have made houses there or gobbled up the land. But the government didn’t do anything to save the property.
Iskandar Mirza spent 5-6 years of his childhood in Murshidabad. Later, his mother took him to Bombay for better education and he studied at University of Bombay. He did his graduation from Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.
Subhara Roy, a local historian, said: “During the regime of the Nawab family, some houses of the Nawab family in Murshidabad town were collectively called as ‘Kella Nizamat’. But owing to the lack of proper preservation the ‘Kella Nizamat’ is almost ruined. Now, one can only see the Wasif Manzil building of the Kella Nizamat.”
He added, “Mirza family was an influential family of Murshidabad before the Partition of India. As Iskandar’s father, Nawab Mirza was in favour of Pakistan and his relative Wasif Ali Mirza wasn’t in favour of the division of India. So this could be a reason that no one in the family was interested in preserving the home of Iskandar.”