Obaidullah Khan Bhopal

By the time Hamid graduated from Aligarh in 1915 and returned to Bhopal, Mohammad Ali Jinnah was beginning to channel Indian Muslims towards supporting the independence movement. Hamid was given the special responsibility of acting as Chief Secretary to the begum of Bhopal. Being educated, democratically inclined, outstanding sportsman and shikari, Hamidullah emerged as an outstanding figure. Moreover, his wife, Maimoona Sultan was an accomplished, graceful and urbane lady. Sultan Jahan Begum arranged to teach her English, French, the piano and violin by English governesses. Maimoona Sultan also learnt to ride, shoot and play tennis. Hamidullah and Maimoona made an impressive modern couple. Sultan Jahan gave Hamid full latitude, which led to increasing signs of frictions between the households of the older brothers, Nasrullah and Obaidullah, against Hamidullah. Even the Bhopali public began resenting the influx of Aligarh outsiders to posts that had been traditionally been held by Bhopalis themselves, at the behest of Hamidullah. The mild, obedient heir apparent Nasrullah’s resentment was expressed towards his mother by his withdrawal to his jagirs for months. His sons, Habibullah and Rafiqullah were less restrained and openly expressed their opposition to Hamidulah’s growing influence.
The second son, General Obaidullah, was known as General Saab. Mercurial in mood and frequently breathing fire, he expressed his anger volubly by throwing fits of temper, stopping just short of in subordinating his mother. Birjees Jahan was Sarkar Amman’s eldest grandchild. Daughter of General Obaidullah, she died at the age on ten years, apparently from an operation of appendicitis. However, the palace sources have a different story to tell. Birjees Jahan was mortally afraid of her father. General Obaidullah would ask Birjees Jahan to recite some part of the holy Quran to test her progress. On the last day, he flew into a usual temper as Birjees mispronounced some words of the Quran. He slapped her so hard that she lost her balance and fell. Cursing loudly he left, giving the prostrate figure a parting kick. For a couple of days, Birjees refused all food, complaining of pain in stomach. When her father was informed of her condition, he decided it was appendicitis and dispatched a car to Indore to fetch the Agency surgeon for an immediate operation. Prince Hamidullah was commissioned to administer chloroform. When the surgeon operated and found no appendicitis, he quickly stitched her up and hurried back to Indore. But Birjees Jahan never regained consciousness.
In 1923, General Obaidullah’s eldest son Wahid was married, rather secretively and unceremoniously to a local girl Sheher Bano. Rumors spread that Sheher was pregnant with Wahid’s child and this led to a shotgun wedding. Sheher Bano was imprisoned in a single room in the Shamla kothi, residence of General Obaidullah. She could not survive the horrendous treatment, and was ultimately brought to Sultan Jahan’s residence, where she died. Even Wahid used to get flogged mercilessly by his father even in the presence of outsiders. Sultan Jahan used to restrain from interfering, as Waheed was few days short of turning 18 years old, when he would attain the right to take his own decisions. After a particularly merciless flogging, Wahid ran away to his grand mother who was visiting Chiklod, a suburb of Bhopal known for dense forest and the associated hunting. Sultan Jahan Begum however persuaded him to return with her to Shamla Kothi. On reaching the Shamla Kothi Wahid shot himself with his father’s 450 mm pistol. General Obaidullah sat impassively on his chair, and forbade his wife Shaharyar Dulhan, to ‘shed a single tear for the sinner who had taken his own life’. General sahib had fatwas of the state Qazi and Mufti circulated, declaring participation in his funeral as ‘un-Islamic’. However, General Obaidullah himself died soon after this incidence of liver cancer, on 24th March 1924, just five months before his elder brother Nasrullah Khan died of advanced diabetes in September 1924, at Eidgah kothi.
Death of these two elder sons of Sultan Jahan left the question of hierarchy open to debate, with the Jalalabadi clan and many prominent families of Bhopal supporting the claim of Nasrullah Khan’s elder son Habibullah, while Sultan Jahan and the barru kat pathans supporting the youngest son of Sultan Jahan, Hamidullah Khan.

4 thoughts on “Obaidullah Khan Bhopal”

  1. Thanks for the visit. You are looking for the closing years of H.H. Sultan Jahan Begum. The books authored by her – Hayat e Shah Jahani – available in Persian and Urdu should be helpfull. However the book is not available online. Best of luck

  2. Thanks for the interesting post! Wondering if you can recommend any historical sources about the Administration of Bhopal State between 1919-1931. I am researching the life of a Bhopal State official of this era but can't find any Bhopal State documents online. I even looked for a website of the Bhopal State Archives but nothing came up.


  3. Dear sir,
    Your visit to the blog is indeed a privilege. Most of the historical articles in this blog are collected materials, from different sources like Memoirs of Abida sultan and her son Mr. Shehryar Khan's Begums Of Bhopal.

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