Explained | The claim for the title of the Hyderabad Nizam

The Nizams ruled one of the largest kingdoms in India that spread over some 82,000 square miles or as big as Iceland and Cuba put together between 1724 and 1948. The palace intrigues and killings for succession have been carefully edited out of history. But a new succession battle when there is no kingdom has intrigued people. 

February 15, 2023 04:11 pm | Updated 05:02 pm IST

Azmat Ali Khan, son of the Eighth Nizam Late Mukarram Jah Bahadur, at Chowmahalla Palace, in Hyderabad. File

Azmat Ali Khan, son of the Eighth Nizam Late Mukarram Jah Bahadur, at Chowmahalla Palace, in Hyderabad. File | Photo Credit: ANI

The story so far:

Hyderabad’s Nizam VIII Mukarram Jah died in Istanbul on January 11. After the merger of Hyderabad into India on September 18, 1948, the title Nizam continued to be used as an appendage without any royal trappings. Mukarram Jah became the eighth Nizam after the death of his grandfather in 1967. On January 25, Mukarram Jah’s eldest son Azmet Jah was named the Nizam IX by his family members. Now, members of a trust started by the Nizam Osman Ali Khan in 1932, have named another family member as the Nizam IX.

Is this significant?

Struggle for the throne is nothing new in human history and was not at all strange in the family of Nizams whose ancestors came from Samarkand in present day Uzbekistan during Mughal emperor Shahjahan’s reign. The fate of the family of warriors changed once Nizam ul Mulk grabbed the subedari of Deccan. He defeated and killed the incumbent named by the Mughal emperor in 1724. As the Mughal empire was disintegrating after the death of Aurangzeb, this was a clever move of Nizam ul Mulk who was born Mir Qamaruddin Khan. Aurangzeb called him Chin Qalich Khan. His writ ran large on a swathe of territory in peninsular India. 

Nizam ul Mulk died in 1748. The same year when the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was signed ending the war in Europe and restoration of Madras to the English. This set off a battle for succession as he had six sons and six daughters. The first to lay claim to the masnad (throne) was Nasir Jung, the second son. The eldest son Ghaziuddin (Ghaziabad near Delhi is named after him) was away in Delhi. But the realignment of forces due to handover of Madras brought the grandson Muzaffar Jung into fray. Muzaffar Jung, the son of Nizam ul Mulk’s daughter, produced a firman from the Mughal emperor proclaiming him the subedar of Deccan. The French vouched for it. This triggered a succession battle. Nasir Jung was killed by a partisan of Muzaffar Jung who had his uncle’s head displayed on a pike for the army to see. On hearing about Nasir Jung’s death, the Mughal Emperor named Ghaziuddin Firuz Jung as the subedar. When he reached the Deccan to lay claim to the masnad, he was poisoned to death in 1751 by his stepmother. Elsewhere in the south Muzaffar Jung was killed by a javelin flung during a chase. In three years, three claimants to the throne were killed. Salabat Jung, the third of son Nizam ul Mulk was named the subedar of the Deccan by the French. 

The earlier claimants and their fate

Not surprisingly, all the four men who briefly became subedars of Deccan have been erased from history. They were erased after Nizam Ali Khan, the fourth son of Nizam ul Mulk, threw his brother Salabat Jung into prison in 1762 and later had him murdered. According to historians, Nizam Ali Khan was the first to adopt the title of Nizam for the role of subedari of Deccan. But this dark grim chapter of fights between brothers, poisonings, murder and assassinations has been swept under the carpet.  

The outcome

It is the descendants of Nizam Ali Khan who ruled the region which expanded and contracted as the fortunes of the rulers changed. Nizam Ali died in 1802 and was succeeded by his son Sikander Jah. Secunderabad is named after him. He was succeeded by Nasir Ud Dowla in 1829 followed by Afzal Ud Dowla in 1857. When the First Battle of Independence reached Hyderabad, Afzal ud Dowla and his minister Salar Jung sided with the British. The grateful British granted a Sanad (No. XX) in 1862 guaranteeing that any succession to his State, which might be in accordance with Muhammadan law and the customs of his family, would be recognised. Afzal ud Dowla’s son Mahbub Ali was named the ruler when he was a three-year-old baby. 

The government of India’s guarantee

Styling themselves as Nizams, seven generations ruled the region till September 18, 1948 when Mahbub Ali’s son Osman Ali Khan’s forces surrendered to Indian Army. 

However, the title of Nizam continued to be used and was agreed upon by an agreement that guaranteed: “His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad and the members of His family shall be entitled to all the personal privileges, dignities, and titles enjoyed by them whether within or outside the territories of the state immediately before the fifteenth day of August 1947”.

Before Osman Ali Khan died, he again brought up the issue of succession in 1954. A decade later, he was allowed to name his grandson as next Nizam in 1964. “On 24th February, 1967 the President recognised H.E.H. Nawab Mir Barkat Ali Khan (formerly known as Prince Mukarram Jah) as the ruler of Hyderabad under Article 366 (22) of the Constitution and this gave effect to the decision taken earlier,” informed the Home Minister Y.B. Chavan on June 2, 1967 on the floor of Rajya Sabha. The 26th Constitutional Amendment ended the system of Privy Purses granted to former rulers in 1971. All the trappings of royalty and titles ended. 

The road ahead

But the claim of the two new Nizams might appear farcical but there are multiple trusts that were created by the Nizam Osman Ali Khan and at the end of his rule he had submitted a list of 98 typed pages of properties to GOI, including one item of land measuring 269736.93 acres. The list included houses, shops, markets, gun foundry, playgrounds, flower markets etc. 

Some of these might have slipped under the radar. The battle of the titles is for a share in this unknown pie. 

The Gist
The Nizams ruled one of the largest kingdoms in India that spread over some 82,000 square miles or as big as Iceland and Cuba put together between 1724 and 1948. The palace intrigues and killings for succession have been carefully edited out of history. But a new succession battle when there is no kingdom has intrigued people. 
Nizam Ul Mulk 1724-1748
Nasir Jung 1748-1751
Muzaffar Jung
Salabat Jung
Nizam Ali Khan 1762-1802
Sikander Ali Khan 1802-1829
Nasir Ud Dowla 1829-1857
Afzal ud Dowla 1857-1869
Mabub Ali Khan 1869-1911
Osman Ali KHan 1911-1948 (d 1967)
Mukarram Jah 1967-2023
Azmet Jah 2023-
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