Mughal emperor’s and last Burmese King’s descendants in similar condition i.e. penniless

Mughal emperor’s and last Burmese King’s descendants in similar condition i.e. penniless

KOLKATA, July 4 — A descendant of India’s last Mughal emperor has been rescued from a life of penury in the north-eastern city of Kolkata.

Madhu, the illiterate great-great-granddaughter of Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, has been given a job to run errands at the state-run Coal India.

A letter of employment will be formally handed over to her by the Coal Minister at a function next month, the BBC said.

“It will be great to have Madhu working for us. Actually, it will be a great tribute to the last Mughal emperor, who played a key role during the first war of independence in 1857,” Coal India chairman Partha Bhattacharyya said.

Madhu, 33, and her mother, Sultana Begum, currently run a tea stall in the slums of Kolkata.

The move by Coal India follows sustained efforts by Delhi-based journalist Shivnath Jha, who launched a campaign to rescue and rehabilitate descendants of the forgotten heroes of India’s independence wars.

Jha began promoting the cause of Sultana Begum, the poverty-stricken widow of Muhammad Bedar Bakht, a direct descendant of Bahadur Shah Zafar.

Sultana Begum, 55, has five daughters. All are married, except for Madhu, her youngest daughter.

“My other daughters and their husbands are poor people. They barely survive, so they cannot help us,” she said. “We have been living, but God knows how.”

The tea stall run by her and her daughter earns the pair a subsistence income.

Jha said another industrialist-philanthropist, Madhusudan Aggrawal, owner of Ajanta Pharmaceuticals, has offered to help Sultana Begum with a small house and a job in a school run by his company.

If all works out, Sultana Begum and her daughter can look forward to moving out of the slums of Howrah, a decrepit industrial area.

Bahadur Shah Zafar was placed on the throne in 1837. He was the last of a line of Mughal emperors who ruled India for three centuries.

In 1857, when Indian soldiers mutinied against their British masters, Bahadur Shah Zafar was declared their commander-in-chief.

He was exiled to Rangoon after the British crushed the mutiny in 1858. He died five years later at the age of 87. — Straits Times

My comments in Malaysian Insider with the original article

There are similarities when we look at the fates of the Kings and Royalties of India and Burma. Burma’s last King, Thibaw was arrested, exiled to India in 1885. The Royal family were first sent to Ceylon , then Madras and in Ratnagiri.

The king died of a heart attack at the age of 58 in 1916 and was buried in India. His body was not allowed to bring back to Burma. Likewise, the British treated the King of India in the way and  even made a top secret of the burial place of the Moghul King in Rangoon because they were afraid of people using their bodies as icons to rebel against them.

The eldest daughter of Burmese King, Phaya married her father’s former servant and by him she had two further children. She returned to Yangon in 1947 following the independence of India. However she was unwelcome because of her marriage to a commoner and an Indian Hindu and was compelled to return to the only home she knew in Ratnagiri.

When Phaya died, shortly after she returned, she was so poor that the local villagers  had to collect money for her funeral. She left behind the daughter, named Tu Tu, was brought up in poverty uneducated and so forgot all about her royal heritage.

Tu Tu married a local mechanic and had at least six or seven children, all of whom became more and more Indian in religion and culture as well as appearance. Tu Tu, for whom Burmese is a forgotten language, still lives in Ratnagiri as an old woman and speaks fluent Marathi with a rural Maharashtrian accent. She used to sell paper flowers to make a little money for her family. (Hindustan Times)

Zafar was an Urdu poet. The following is the English translation of his famous poem.

The days of life are over, Its evening of death,

Now I can sleep without any stress forever in my tomb
How unlucky is Zafar!

For burial
Even two yards of land were not to be had, in the land (of the) beloved.

Source Wikipedia

Atal Behari Vafpayee, the Foreign Affairs Mnister, in the first Janata raj, around 1975, had visited Burma with an offer to exchange the remains of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Moghul King buried during his exile in Burma with the remains of King ThiBaw. Attention was then drawn to the
forgotten fate of the Burmese royal family and their annihilation at the hands of their British captors.

But the offer remained unimplemented because the Janata government was disbanded within a year of election. Tu Tu’s petition too, was relegated to the dusty shelves of the government’s records. It is
learnt that later she was given some property and an allowance of Rs 250 or so per month.

While Tu Tu lives with her many children and innumerable grandchildren in Ratnagiri. Some of her family, now totally Indian, have spread to nearby cities for employment. Among such members is a
young woman, Jayu Kule who is married, has a daughter Prachi, and works in central Bombay as a companion in a family.

Jayu’s husband has a job in the city and the family lives in a tiny one room home in a traditionally Maharashtrian area of Bombay. Jayu is hardly aware of her heritage, hergreat-grandfather had umbrellas of Busrah pearls for his Buddha idol and when his dragon festival attracted thousands to Ratnagiri.

For all practical purposes, fate has made her family and herself fully Indian in language, behaviour, culture and religion. There is not even a glimpse of any Burmese heritage in her daughter Prachi’s
features. In her own countenance, however there in an almost exact resemblance to her grandfather, King Thibaw.

Jayu’s story proves that destiny is a supreme power. It takes ordinary people to the pinnacle of wealth and fame. By the same token, it crashes the richest and most regal rules to a state of
unbelievable penury and anonymity without even the simple benefit of nostalgia and memories.

(The Hindustan Times / 16.9.1995)

Thai King Rama 5 or Chulalongkorn had visited Europe two times in 1897 and 1907; the latter time is to cure his kidney disease. In one of the visits he was invited to the British Royal Palace. When Burma’s last King, Thibaw, heard about the Royal invitation, he protested to the British officer that the Thai Kings were just the heads of a small kingdom under his Burma’s protection or appointment. He protested, why he was forced to stay in a small hut like a bullock shed and had to sleep on the piles of hay but his subordinate Thai King was invited to the British Royal Palace. He demanded that he wish to travel to London to see the British Crown. But after choosing to fight back and lost who would care to entertain the looser? If he just agreed the British Officers appointments as his ‘advisors’ he could countinue to ‘rule’ Burma.

During General Ne Win’s socialist period all the remaining Rajas or Sultans or Sawbuas in Burma’s Shan State, Chin and Kachin States were totally dethroned and some compensation was given later. The political power of the Rajas were taken over by British and the Successive Indian Governments.

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