UK court ruling over a huge bank deposit is a victory for the princes, but descendants want their shares in the wealth.



Hyderabad: A historic victory in a Lonwdon court over a bank deposit of around 35 million British pounds of the erstwhile Seventh Nizam of Hyderabad this week may have brought a big smile on faces of his two grandsons, Prince Mukarram Jah and his brother Prince Muffakham Jah. But, now the princes have a new headache from close to 120 descendants of the Nizam, living in Hyderabad.

These 120 descendants, now formed into a association of sorts for long, have assembled in Hyderabad as soon as the UK court ruling was out on 4 October and resolved to fight for their share in the wealth, if not equally with both the princes who were supported by the Indian government. The money won by the two princes is now worth Rs 302 crore in Indian currency.

The UK court ruling is a sort of sweet revenge not only for the princes, but also for India as it came against Pakistan which sought ownership of the funds deposited by Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur, the Seventh Nizam in late 1947, and then about one million British pounds. The money was handed over to a Pakistani who in turn deposited the amount in a London bank on behalf of the Nizam.

There are conflicting claims over the purpose of this amount. Pakistan, which is a party to the case, all along argued that the money was a payment against some arms and ammunition supplied to the Nizam, head of an independent princely state at the time. However, the Nizam subsequently denied purchasing any arms from Pakistan. Nizam’s Hyderabad state was merged with India on 17 September 1948.

At one stage, the Indian government entered as a party to claim the money, but it strategically sidestepped and allowed both the princes, as legal heirs of the Nizam to fight the case. Prince Mukarram Jah is officially coroneted as the Eighth Nizam, his grandfather, Seventh Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan. As head of the family, Jah presides over a wealth worth around Rs 15,000 crore in Hyderabad and elsewhere.

However, besides princes Mukarram Jah and Muffakham Jah, there are scores of other family members, both wives and children and their relatives who claim inheritance to legacy and wealth of the Nizam properties, now in legal wrangles. Since the mid-1980s, they formed into a group, the Nizam Family Welfare Association and started fighting for their due share in the Nizam properties.

They shot into prominence in 1985 when some of them held a hunger strike in the streets of Hyderabad claiming that they suffered starvation and poverty, due to neglect of the dominant heir of the Nizam, that is Mukarram Jah. There is a Nizam Family Trust headed by Jah, but he stays abroad, mostly in Turkey and rarely visits India; so the descendants’ pleas left unattended.

Another problem is that most of the Nizam’s wealth is in fixed assets, palaces or sprawling lands and gold and jewellery and a very few of them generate liquid income which could have been distributed as monthly pension or assistance among the poor descendants of Nizam. Some of the descendants are really in a poor condition and leading a hard life, said the association sources.

Nawab Najaf Ali Khan, one of the grandsons of the Seventh Nizam, is now elected as president of the association and he was entrusted with the responsibility of negotiating with both the princes, now abroad, to settle their share in the wealth awarded by the London court. Khan told the local media on Friday that he was trying to contact both Muharram Jah and Mufffakham Jah.

Khan even hinted at knocking the doors of the courts in case the princes refuse to part with any share to the 120 descendants. However, the issue would be sorted out through negotiations and with the help of the Government of India. The Nizam Family Welfare Association is planning to call on Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy who hails from Hyderabad for a negotiated settlement.

However, this process would begin only after a month or so as Pakistan has got a month time to go for an appeal against the London court in the UK. Once the window period is over, the Association would send a delegation to Prince Mukaarram Jah to negotiate a deal. “All other options would be considered only after that,” a source in the association said.

Khan, as well as some of the eminent members of the Association, is planning to persuade the princes to set aside a portion of the Rs 302 crore wealth as a corpus fund so that interest generated out of it can be doled out to needy members. “We are not asking a lion’s or equal share in the money, we are only asking for a portion of it to meet our legal rights,” said a lawyer who looks after cases of some of the members.

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