Khilafat Movement Bhopal

By 1910, Little Hamid had enrolled in the famous Muslim University at Aligarh; this represented an historic step for the Bhopal royal family, as he was the first of its members to be given a formal university education. He made his mark as an outstanding sportsman, a capable student and a natural leader of men. Soon, the short, stocky but handsome prince gathered around him a group of young Aligarh students who were academically high achievers and politically aware.

At Aligarh, a deeply emotional but vaguely focused solidarity with Turkish people absorbed the Muslim student body. At the time, Turkey was seen as an enemy by Britain and ended up opposing the allies in the First World War. Eventually, the Ottoman Emperor was vilified and deposed which led to the rise of the Khilafat movement among the Muslims of India. This movement calling for restoration of Ottoman sultanate, was a much anti British as it was based on nostalgia for the glory that the Indian Muslim had lost with the fall of the Moghul Empire. A similar fate was now being dealt to the magnificent Ottoman Empire. Therefore, decadent or otherwise, a surge of sympathy and support welled up among the Muslims of India in favor of the Turkish Emperor. Hamid and his Aligarh became deeply embroiled in the Khilafat movement whose leaders, Maulana Mohammad Ali, and his brother, Shaukat Ali, were frequent visitors to Bhopal as the young prince’s guests. Even the Begum felt sympathetic towards the Khilafat movement, partly because her favorite son had espoused their cause and partly out of a spiritual commitment to pan-Islamism and because of her memories of the affectionate treatment that the Turks had accorded to her during to Turkey.

Delicate warnings were conveyed by British officials to the Begum about the company that Hamid kept and about his political inclinations, but the Begum could see no wrong in her youngest son and was almost as much under his spell as Shajehan had been under Siddiq Hassan. She paid little heed to these warnings, but reaffirmed her loyal support for the British imperial power by providing troops, cavalry and guns from Bhopal to the allied war efforts, on condition that they would not be used in the Turkish theatre of operations. The Bhopal military contingent fought with the allies in France and Mesopotamia. In fact the heir apparent accompanied the troops as far as Aden where he fell ill and had to be evacuated home. The Begum also raised 330,000 pounds, as a contribution from Bhopal to the Allied war efforts.
By the time Hamid graduated from Aligarh in 1915, the war was at its height and the Khilafat Movement in full swing. The Congress Party under Gandhi and Nehru was engaged in galvanizing educated Indians into supporting the independence movement while Mohammad Ali Jinnah was beginning to channel Indian Muslims in a similar direction.

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