Raja of Mehmudabad: A legacy worth remembering.

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By Saba Rizvi, Edited By Adam Rizvi, The India Observer, TIO, NJ: In the quiet and historic town of Mahmudabad, an era has come to an end. A man of many accomplishments and enduring resilience, the Raja of Mahmudabad, Mohammad Amir Mohammad Khan, passed away on a somber Wednesday morning, succumbing to a prolonged illness at the age of 80. He was buried at Karbala Mahmudabad, Sitapur district, Uttar Pradesh.

Enduring values of philanthropy, cultural preservation, and devotion to his faith.

Raja Mehmudabad, affectionately known as Uncle Suleiman, left behind a profound legacy marked by kindness, compassion, and integrity. His life story is a testament to the enduring values of philanthropy, cultural preservation, and devotion to his faith. We lost   a person who was a host to a version of history who preserved past and  energized present with his majestic aura.

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Born in  November 1943 in Mahmudabad, the Raja’s educational journey spanned across continents. From the hallowed halls of La Martiniere College in Lucknow to the intellectual sanctuaries of Iraq and England, he emerged as a scholar of repute. His intellectual curiosity knew no bounds, encompassing both Indian poetry and Western philosophies. A man of elegance, he carried with him a faint trace of a British accent, a testament to his cosmopolitan upbringing.

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A Raja’s 43-year battle to reclaim ancestral property

Yet, his life was not merely an academic pursuit. He was a tireless litigator, embarking on a four-decade-long battle to reclaim his heritage, which had been seized by the government under the Enemy Properties Act. The magnitude of his holdings, including the majestic Butler Palace, the bustling Hazratganj, and the storied Mahmudabad Qila, ran into several thousand crore rupees. These properties bore witness to a legacy dating back to the 16th century, under the patronage of Emperor Akbar himself.

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The saga of his struggle unfolded when the government invoked the Enemy Properties Act during the 1962 India-China war, confiscating properties belonging to individuals and entities classified as “enemies.” Among those affected was Mohammad Amir Ahmed Khan, the former Raja of Mahmudabad, who had left India in 1947 for Iraq and subsequently acquired Pakistani citizenship. His son, Mohammad Amir Mohammad Khan, steadfastly petitioned for the return of these properties since 1974.

In a moment of triumph, the Supreme Court, in 2005, ruled in favor of the Raja, declaring him a bona fide citizen and restoring his properties. However, this jubilation was short-lived, as subsequent amendments to the Enemy Property Act led to the government once again reclaiming his holdings.

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Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in London and a life member of the Astronomical Society of India.

Despite possessing the means to live a life of luxury anywhere in the world, the Raja chose to return to his beloved Lucknow, for his heart was forever intertwined with the city. His humility knew no bounds, and he seamlessly mingled with people from all walks of life, transcending the confines of his royal lineage.

Uncle Suleiman was not only a philanthropist but also a devout Muslim actively involved in his local mosque. . He was a pillar of the community, always ready to support local charities, educational programs, and those in need. His generosity knew no bounds.  He held a deep reverence for Islam and played a pivotal role in preserving and popularizing Shia religious traditions and rituals.. His patronage helped these traditions percolate to the masses, and to this day, Mahmudabad and Bilehra are unparalleled in North India for their Azadari ceremonies.

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His engagement with politics was also not superficial; he served as a two-term Congress MLA from Mahmudabad, earning respect and admiration across political lines. His impact extended beyond politics, as he left an indelible mark on the cultural fabric of Lucknow, embodying the essence of its heritage.

Not only was the Raja a scholar, but he was also an astrophysicist, conducting research on stellar oscillation and stellar structure at prestigious institutions such as the University of Cambridge. He was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in London and a life member of the Astronomical Society of India.

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Azadari in Mahmudabad

Beyond his academic and political pursuits, the Raja remained committed to preserving his family’s cultural and religious traditions. The Qila of Mahmudabad stood as a testament to these customs, hosting traditional observances and processions that transcended religious boundaries, drawing people from various faiths. His grandfather, Raja Muhammad Amir Ahmad Khan, was also an idealist who associated with prominent figures like Mahatma Gandhi and Jinnah. He was deeply religious, a poet, and a philosopher. However, his idealism prevented him from migrating to Pakistan after independence, and he returned to India.

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In his passing, the world has lost not just a noble individual but a custodian of history and culture. His life was a chronicle of restless tales and unfortunately despite living a magnificent life  in every spheres of his life still  he couldn’t achieve for he fought for years. His legacy will continue to resonate, reminding us of the enduring spirit of a man who fought tirelessly for justice and upheld the cultural heritage of Mahmudabad.

 As we bid farewell to the Raja, we recognize that his contributions to society and his unwavering commitment to his roots will remain etched in the annals of history It is said that he had .numerous rare books in his personal library, a testament to his dedication to intellectual pursuits but his intellect ,his personality was beyond the syllabus of  the printed books.

Curated and Compiled by Humra Kidwai

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