Did India really forget the role of Begum Hazrat Mahal in the first war of independence to overthrow the British rule?
Amidst the euphoria of the celebrations of 150 years of the Indian Freedom Movement, the ‘mazar’ (grave) of Begum Hazrat Mahal is lying neglected in downtown Kathmandu.
After the British annexed Awadh in 1856 and Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was exiled to Kolkata (then Calcutta), the Begum led the rebel soldiers against the East India Company’s Army from Lucknow. She placed her 14-year-old son Birjis Qadr on throne and fought to regain the territory lost to the British.
For six months, she defended Lucknow from the British army. The people of Awadh supported her and she proclaimed independence from the British rule.
Like Rani Laxmi Bai, Begum Hazrat Mahal was among the lead female protagonists of the 1857 struggle.
After losing her battle, she migrated to Nepal and settled in Kathmandu, with support from Jung Bahadur Rana, the then powerful Prime Minister of the Himalayan Nation.
She died in 1879 and a stamp was issued in her honour in 1984.
Unfortunately, the ‘mazar’ of the brave wife of the last Tajdaar-e-Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah, has now become a dumping ground for beer bottles and waste.
Neither the Nepal government nor New Delhi ever thought of preserving it as a pride of India.
Located at Baghbazar Chowk (near Ratna Park), the neglected ‘mazar’ at night, often becomes a public toilet for the pedestrians. Unfortunately, people in Nepal do not know anything about Begum Hazrat Mahal’s role in India’s Freedom Movement.
"It is really unfortunate that Indian government never bothered to take care of Begum Hazrat Mahal’s grave," Mehboob Shah, president of Nepal Muslim Ekta Sangh, told the Hindustan Times on Thursday.
Shah said at a time when India was the largest donor in Nepal, it was unfortunate that it shows “little respect” to the braveheart of the 1957 freedom movement.
The Indian government invited many Nepali political leaders to the celebration. Surprisingly, none of the Nepalese political leaders raised the issue with New Delhi to preserve Begum Hazrat Mahal’s ‘mazar’.
"It is really bad to see our Begum’s ‘mazar’ in such a poor condition," Humayun Ali Mirza, a Kolkata-based descendent of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, said, adding both India and Nepal should preserve it as a national monument.
A multi-storied commercial complex, constructed a few years ago, has almost engulfed the ‘mazar’ of the valiant Begum. Most traders in the area do not know the importance of the resting place.
"We will definitely look into it, and try to preserve it," Gopal Baglay, the spokesman of the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, said, adding New Delhi did not know that the ‘mazar’ was in such an awful shape.