Urban legends and jokes once confined to joke books are now further embellished, furiously forwarded on WhatsApp, and received as gospel truths.
The canard about Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan, the Seventh Nizam of Hyderabad State, that he threw his shoe at Pandit Mohan Malviya when the latter came to ask for donations towards Banaras Hindu University is gaining traction for the last few months. Each new wave of WhatsApp ‘forwards’ added further layers of vilification of the Nizam and just plain anti-Muslim bigotry.
The latest version forwarded on a group of retired bureaucrats claims that the saying Miyan ki jooti, miyan ke sar (Hindustani version of ‘to beat someone with their own stick’) has its origins in the supposed encounter between Nizam and Malviya. This claim is ridiculous as the saying was coined much before the birth of either of these worthies.
The fact is that Malviya never met the Nizam. Malviya never mentioned it in any of his letters and other writings. The request for donation towards the Banaras Hindu University was made through its chancellor the Maharaja of Bikaner in 1938. At the same time the Anjuman Himayat-e-Islam, Lahore based welfare organization, also made a request to support its new educational initiatives to mark its jubilee year.
The Nizam’s Executive Council forwarded both requests to the ruler on September 12, 1938 with a recommendation for Rs 35,000 for Banaras Hindu University and Rs 25,000 for the Anjuman. The Nizam approved Rs 35,000 grants for each of these initiatives to overcome any ‘public objections.’
The Maharaja of Bikaner requested again in 1939 for further donations. The Executive Council recommended and the Nizam immediately approved a further donation of Rs 100,000. A similar amount was given to the Andhra University in the same year.
The Nizam was also a generous supporter of Pune’s renowned Bhandarkar Oriental Institute. Rs 20,000 were donated for the construction of a guest house. A further Rs 125,000 were given in various installments for the publication of a translation of the Mahabharata which was published after many delays.
It is unfortunate that instead of recognizing these contributions, not just the internet mob but highly educated bureaucrat and some descendants of Malviya and members of BHU are indulging in vilification of the Seventh Nizam.
Mohammed Ayub Khan is an Indian origin research scholar based in Canada.