On his 50th death anniversary, the last Nizam of Hyderabad is a forgotten king
Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh and last Nizam of the princely state of Hyderabad, died on this day 50 years ago. Half-a-decade later, the city has forgotten its last “monarch”, who is considered the architect of modern Hyderabad.
The Nizam breathed his last at the King Koti palace at 1.20pm on February 24, 1967, after suffering from pneumonia for a brief period. The Masjid-e-Judi, near the palace where he was buried, also lies in a state of neglect.
Born on April 6, 1886, Osman Ali Khan ruled the princely state of Hyderabad from 1911 to 1948. After Hyderabad acceded to the Indian Union, he was appointed the rajpramukh of the state in 1948 and held the administrative title till 1956 when the post was abolished.
The death and the funeral of the Nizam, who was considered to be the richest man in the world during his time, is one of the most remembered events for the old-timers of Hyderabad.
“Lakhs of people from different parts of the state poured into the city in buses, bullock carts and trains to have a last glimpse of the king’s mortal remains kept in an ice box on the palace premises,” Nawab Shahamath Ali Khan, a septuagenarian who witnessed the last rites of the Nizam, told Hindustan Times.
“Barricades were put up all along the road to enable the people to move in a queue. People were crying and remembering the services of the Nizam,” he added.
Then prime minister Indira Gandhi flew down to Hyderabad along with her younger son Sanjay Gandhi to pay her respects to the Nizam. Former president Rajendra Prasad and several other VIPs also came to play their floral tributes, Khan said.
His funeral procession the following day was the largest ever witnessed in the city – the five kilometre-long stretch between Mecca Masjid near Charminar to Masjid-e-Judi near King Koti was jam-packed with people cutting across religion silently followed the gun carriage carrying the body.
“As per the estimates of the police, more than eight lakh people participated in the funeral procession,” Khan recalled.
The then Andhra Pradesh government issued a special gazette notification on February 25, 1967. Government offices remained closed as a mark of respect and the national flag was flown at half-mast on all government buildings throughout the state. A mourning was observed all over the state and no public programmes were held on the day.
The Nizam’s family said that was the last time the state government remembered him.
“There is neither a day to mark his remembrance nor a statue of him installed to garland. There is not even a lesson in history books in educational institutions to remember the great contributions made by the Nizam,” Nawab Najaf Ali Khan, his grandson and president of the Nizam Family Welfare Association, said.
While the Telangana government remained silent on the Nizam’s 50th death anniversary, Hyderabad-based Deccan Heritage Trust is planning an exhibition of 100-odd rare photos of the Nizam’s death, funeral procession and public congregation.
“He is the unsung king of Hyderabad despite his huge contribution to the city’s development in all spheres,” Mohammad Safiaullah, managing trustee of the Deccan Heritage Trust, said.
“It is unfortunate that the governments have forgotten him,” he regretted.