Hyderabad: You can love him or hate him but you can’t ignore him. That’s Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam, for you. The maker of modern Hyderabad evokes extreme passions. But, so immense are his contributions to the city that no one is immune to his greatness. Even his detractors grudgingly acknowledge the role he played in giving Hyderabad the infrastructural head-start.
Some call him narrow minded, some communal, and a few dub him a miser. But, the last of the Asif Jahi rulers defies definition. The Nizam, whose 50th death anniversary falls on Friday, is best remembered as the architect of modern Hyderabad. One just couldn’t gloss over his vision in developing a planned city. His 37-year old rule saw the expansion of roadways, railways, and postal services. Industries such as the Shahbad cement factory and Nizam sugar factory were set up during his time.
All the important buildings that one sees in Hyderabad were the result of his enlightened policies. The High Court, Assembly Hall, Osmania General Hospital, Nizamia Unani Hospital, Nampally railway station, Jubilee Hall, Osmansagar, Himayatsagar – the list is endless. The Osmania University remains the Nizam’s greatest contribution to education.
What’s more, many revolutionary reforms found their way into the princely Hyderabad State much before they were adopted by the British India. For instance the ban on ‘begar’ (forced labour) was made during the birthday of Osman Ali Khan on March 20, 1922 while the ‘farman’ separating judiciary from the executive was issued on May 8, 1921. He is generally perceived to be an autocratic ruler, but can one dismiss facts which speak otherwise?
This benevolent miser was generous with his money for the right cause-be it for Muslims or Hindus. In fact he proclaimed them to be his ‘two eyes’. Many educational institutions benefited from his liberal donations. Even institutions outside the country profited from his largesse.
He would use the 185-carat Jacob diamond as a paperweight and at the same time settle for a sherwani with torn collar. That’s the enigma the last Nizam was.
Stories of his frugal habits are dime a dozen. Once during a chilly winter night he sent his ADC to buy a blanket. But, he puts a rider that the price should not exceed Rs 25. Soon the ADC returned crestfallen and informed that the minimum price of a blanket was Rs 35. The richest man of his times dropped the idea and decided to make do with his old blanket.
But a few hours later a request came from the Maharaja of Bikaner seeking donation for the Benaras Hindu University. Without thinking twice he ordered a sanction of Rs. 1 lakh. Sounds incredible. That’s the way the Nizam functioned.
Of course one can’t overlook the atrocities perpetrated by the Razakaar movement and the vicious influence exercised by its leader, Kasim Rizvi, on the Nizam. But, this doesn’t take away the good work done by him. His Exalted Highness ceased to be the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1948 when the State acceded to the Indian Union following the Police Action. But as a gesture of goodwill he was appointed the Raj Pramukh, a position he held from January 26, 1950 to October 31, 1956.
On February 24, 1967 at the age of 81, the Nizam passed way. And with this the prophesy of sufi saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin, came true that the Asif Jahi descendants would rule over the Deccan for seven generations.
After his death, the Nizam’s grandson, Mukkaram Jah Bahadur, was asked whether he planned to raise a monument for his grandfather. Pat came the reply “Go around Hyderabad and you will find so many of them.”