Raking up ‘Nizam Culture’ does no good to Hyderabad or India as such

Zeenath Khan

Strange indeed that our honourable Home Minister, Mr Amit Shah is giving the Hyderabad GHMC polls the importance of a Lok Sabha Election. It is doubtful the city’s poor drainage system, perennial water shortage and potholed roads cause Mr Shah that much concern. Since Amit Shah swooped down on the city yesterday, his battle cry has been singular—he says that he wants to rid the city of the Nizam and Nawab culture. Perhaps, Mr Shah hasn’t read his history books. Back in 1948, the Congress party headed by no other than Pandit Nehru ousted the last Nizam of Hyderabad in a four-day war.

That’s only one of the two most prominent promises on his election manifesto. The other being changing the name of Hyderabad to Bhagyanagar. Changing of names should be the last thing on a thinking person’s mind during a pandemic. In case no one told Amit Shah, Bhagmati was supposedly a beloved courtesan of the Qutub Shahi ruler. He gave her the title of Hyder Mahal to elevate her status. A touching story of a great love, but sadly no records exist to prove Bhagmati’s existence.

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The spending of crores of rupees tax on the accompanying red tape which follows changing a city’s name is nothing short of criminal. Is this what we need when millions are starving in India and we’ve no public health system to speak of?

Let’s travel a little further in time to the sixteenth century. Ferishteh, a Persian poet and traveller described the city of Bhaghnagar (the city of gardens), as they called it then, as even more majestic than the Moghul cities of Lahore and Agra. He found the city’s climate to be moderate and agreeable, and its wide roads and shaded trees impressed him. The Qutb Shahi Kings never coerced their Hindu subjects to convert to Islam and were great builders, poets, and visionaries.

Perhaps Mr Amit Shah isn’t aware of Hyderabad’s centuries old tradition of religious tolerance. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists and Christians have lived harmoniously in the city for centuries. Hyderabadis pride themselves on their Ganga-Jamuni culture. A shining example of this interwoven culture is Sir Kishen Pershad. (An early twentieth century Prime Minister of Hyderabad.) He married Hindu and Muslim women, but no one then complained of love jihad or reverse love jihad or whatever nomenclature our Northern friends would like to attribute. Nomenclature it seems is their USP. It may be in some places, but it won’t work in either Hyderabad or Telangana.

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A point we must note is that the Central Government gave no financial assistance to the state during the floods of October 2020. Hyderabad’s citizens would welcome a meticulous agenda of infrastructure development.

The Election Day is today—this election will be decisive. Whoever owns a voting card needs to don his/her mask, and go to the neighborhood polling station. Although the array of candidates might be dismal, the worst we can do is vote for those who propagate division among society and the erasure of history. ‘Bhagyanagar Biryani’ (even if such a thing exists) doesn’t roll off the tongues quite so easily as Hyderabadi Haleem.

Zeenath Khan is a Mumbai-based writer and columnist

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