India’s decision over Nizam’s wealth comes under flakApril 12th, 2008 - 6:43 pm ICT by admin
By Mohammed Shafeeq
Hyderabad, April 12 (IANS) The Indian government’s decision to seek out-of-court settlement of the dispute over the Hyderabad Nizam’s wealth lying in a London bank has come under flak from a former adviser of the ruler’s successor and grandson Mir Barkat Ali Khan Mukarram Jah Bahadur. The union cabinet Friday decided to solve the 60-year-old dispute through talks with the government of Pakistan and the Nizam’s heirs.
However, Begum Scheherazade Javeri, once principal adviser to the scion of the former royal family, argues that the money locked up in the bank was Nizam’s personal wealth and Mukarram Jah alone had the right to it.
“India has no locus standi. The money belonged to the Nizam and this has already been made clear by the House of Lords in 1959,” she told IANS Saturday.
After the partition and before the merger of then Hyderabad State with the Indian Union in 1948, Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan’s finance minister Moin Nawaz Jung had transferred 1,007,940 pounds sterling and nine shillings in the name of then Pakistan high commissioner in London H.I. Rahimtoola in the National Westminster Bank.
India had raised objection to the transfer of funds saying the Nizam was not an independent ruler. Since then the matter is hanging fire between the two countries.
The money, which is now estimated to be 30 million pounds sterling (Rs.3 billion), is proposed to be divided among the governments of India, Pakistan and the Nizam’s heirs. While the Nizam’s heirs are likely to get 20 percent, India will get the lion’s share.
Scheherazade claims it was part of the Nizam’s personal wealth invested in the bank. Before the partition, Rahimtoola was an Indian representing the Nizam in London. He later migrated to Pakistan and became that country’s high commissioner in London.
Scheherazade pointed out that Pakistan never claimed right over the funds. “The House of Lords ruled in 1959 that legal title to the funds vests with Pakistan but the beneficial owner of the funds is the Nizam of Hyderabad,” she said.
The efforts to solve the dispute during the Nizam’s lifetime failed as the government of Pakistan never came forward to help unlock the funds. Osman Ali Khan, who was the world’s richest man in his times, died in 1967.
The Nizam had refused to accede Hyderabad to India after the country’s independence Aug 15, 1947. He wanted Hyderabad to remain an independent state or join Pakistan. The princely state finally merged with the India in September 1948 after a military operation.
“In view of the political instability after the partition, the Nizam transferred the money. Perhaps he did not want to transfer it directly to the Pakistan government and he did it through an individual,” Mohammed Safiullah, cultural advisor to the Nizam Trust, told IANS.
Scheherazade and her late husband Sadruddin Javeri, who too served as Mukarram Jah’s advisor and also held power of attorney for him, took up the issue with successive Indian governments and urged them to convince Pakistan to help in transferring the funds to the Nizam’s successor. They met prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi, Chandra Shekhar and P.V. Narasimha Rao.
She hopes that Turkey-based Mukarram Jah would challenge the Indian government decision in a British court and plead for settling the dispute in line with the observations of the House of Lords.
However, others feel that the scion of the royal family and other legal heirs of the former ruler would accept 20 percent of the money being offered by the Indian government. “This will come to Rs.60 crore (Rs.600 million) and going by their poor financial condition I feel they will latch on to it,” said Muhammad Safiullah.
He said that while the Nizam’s heirs should have got the entire amount, they have no other option. “If they don’t accept this the dispute will continue for many more years,” he said.
The Indian government’s decision to hold negotiations with the Pakistani government and the Nizam’s heirs to solve the dispute over the next 18 months is likely to trigger a flurry of activity among the Nizam’s legal heirs here.
There are more than 300 legal heirs of the Nizam. “There are only eight main claimants who are direct descendants of the Nizam. Mukarram Jah, being the successor to the title of Nizam and his properties, will get the biggest share,” said Safiullah.
Shahmat Jah, the grandson of the Nizam and cousin of Mukarram Jah Bahadur, has already staked claim to the money. “We should get our share,” he said.
Three granddaughters of the Nizam said they would also make efforts to get their due share.
Mir Osman Ali Khan had formed several trusts to safeguard his properties and interests of his descendants.
Safiullah is not sure that the dispute will be solved soon. “There is political instability in Pakistan and that government is not likely to come forward for talks in the near future,” he said.