कितना है बदनसीब ‘जफर’ दफ्न के लिए
दो गज जमीन भी न मिली कू-ए-यार में।
In the midst of pompous celebrations over the 150th year of India’s First War of Independence, a fact that rankles is that the heirs of the Mughal’s last emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, Sultana Begum, continue to languish in squalor and anonymity.
The story of middle-aged Sultana Begum brings tears to one’s eyes. She runs a tea-stall in Howrah to earn a living for her family. Bahadur Shah Zafar’s heirs are struggling to take out a bare survival. Due to the poverty, daughters in the family were deprived of higher education.
During their six months efforts, the Jha couple has collected all historical official documents about Sultana Begum. Living in a 8 feet x 8 feet room at Cowies Ghat’s slum located near Foreshore Road in Howrah district of West Bengal, Sultana Begam, the direct descendants of the last Mughal emperor has narrated her miserable conditions and governments both centre and state apathy.
Sultana Begum gets a pension of Rs 400 a month from the Centre and lives in a pathetic condition in a Howrah’s slum. Bedar Bakht, Sultana Begum’s husband died in 1980.
Sultana Begum is Howrah line of descent. From Howrah line, Sultana Begum is wife of late Muhammad Bedar Bakht, son of Jamshid Bakht and grandson of Jawan Bakht. According to official records, there are three lines of descent from Bahadir Shah Zafar.
From Delhi line, Bahadur Sha Zafar’s son was Mirza Fathul Mulk Bahadur alias Mirza Fakhru had one son Mirza Farkhunda Jamal, who had a son late Hamid Shah and late Begum Qamar Sultan, who married a commoner. While from Hyderabad line, Bahadur Shah’s son was Mirza Quaish, who had one son Mirza Abdullah who had one son Mirza Pyare who married with Habib Begum. Bahadur Shah’s great-great-granddaughter was Begum Laila Ummahani who married with Yakub Habeebuddin Tucy.
There are also descendants of other Mughal kings beside Bahadur Shah-II Most of them used to have or inherited governor’s or courtier’s positions; some were viziers or worked in the court of the Shah. When the 1857 Mutiny came most of them fled the capital and changed their family name from Mirza, Mughal, Beg, etc. to something more common. Some escaped to distant principalities and held courtier’s positions there. Examples include Jalaluddin Mirza’s line of Bengal zamindari under the Maharaja of Dighapatia and the Toluqari family, which claims to be Baron Gardner’s descendants as well.
In July 2009, she was handed over a draft worth Rs 200,000/- to take care at the winter of her life.