Among the young Muslim leaders that got catapulted to the pinnacle of fame and popularity during the late 1930s and the early 1940s, Nawab Bahadur Yar Jung was unique – and among the most distinguished. He belonged to a princely state (Hyderabad, Deccan), yet he rose to prominence as one of Muslim India’s few front rank leaders. He literally herded the somnolent Muslims in the princely states into the surging Muslim political mainstream; he fashioned a political platform for them in the All States’ Muslim League; above all, he helped to cause a measure of interaction and integration between the Muslims of British India and those of the princely India, in respect of their long-term political goals and aspirations. For the first time he articulated eloquently the Muslim grievances in the Indian States; he aggregated and processed their demands; he built up incrementally and assiduously British Indian Muslim interest in their problems and support for their resolution. The most sought after speaker in the Muslim League camp, he was in demand everywhere and all the time. His addresses in Urdu after the close of the All-India Muslim League sessions were listened to with rapt attention as Jinnah’s were in English. And when he died rather suddenly on June 25, 1944, he was widely mourned throughout the subcontinent.
At the time of his death, Bahadur Yar Jung was barely 39 years old. He was born in 1905 in a family of Panni Pathans that had originally come to India along with Ahmad Shah Abdali in the mid-18th century. First settled at Bara Basti in Jaipur state, his forefathers had later migrated to Hyderabad (Deccan) during the time of Sikandar Jah early in the 19th century, and subsequently received honors (with titles and jagirs) for their distinguished services during the Maratha wars. Named Bahadur Khan at birth, Bahadur Yar Jung had little by way of formal schooling. His mother had died when he was hardly seven and his father when he was barely eighteen. The management of the jagir and the clearance of his father’s debts amounting to some five hundred thousand rupees, an astronomical amount at the time, fell upon his young shoulders. But sheer hard work, steely determination and an adroit management of affairs enabled him, finally, to achieve the impossible in barely eight years. After accomplishment of this initial vexatious task, he felt like offering his immense gratitude to Almighty Allah: he went on Haj. The return journey took him on an extended tour of the Middle East and Afghanistan, marking a significant landmark in his life and career. He came into live contact with the problems and plight of the people in the Muslim heartland, his travels helping him to widen his mental horizon, accentuate his interest in the region, and introduces him to some of the leading figures in the Middle East. With accredited leaders such as Mustafa Nahas Pasha (President of Egyptian Wafd), Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt, and Al-Haj Emin el-Hussaini (the Grand mufti of Jerusalem), he became well acquainted. And, with them, for several years, he kept up a regular correspondence, diagnosing and discussing the ailments of the Muslim people, and exploring the way out of their current predicaments. Bahadur Yar Jung began his public life in Hyderabad. He founded the Majlis-i-Tabligh-i-Islam in 1927 to counter the Arya Samajists in Hyderabad, enlisted and trained a missionary corps, organized a campaign for Tabligh and converted some five thousand people to Islam. The number of people who turned to Islam through his indirect influence runs to about 20,000. Second, he joined the Khaksar movement and organized it in Hyderabad (Dn.). Third, in the late 1930s, he joined the Majlis-i-Ittihad-ul-Muslimin, becoming its President in 1939, and took upon himself the more difficult task of organizing it at the grass root level. And, finally, in 1939, Bahadur Yar Jung founded the All India States’ Muslim League, after coming in close touch with Jinnah and the Muslim League. As noted earlier, Bahadur Yar Jung was attracted to the Khaksar movement, founded by Allama Inayatullah Khan Mashriqi, but only for a while. During its most critical phase, in the tragic aftermath of the March 19, 1940, firing in Lahore and the subsequent ban on the organization in the Punjab, Bahadur Yar Jung stood steadfast by it. However, subsequent to a Khaksar’s dastardly attack on Jinnah on July 20, 1943, he realized that, instead of strengthening and bolstering Muslim ranks, Allama Mashriqi’s policies had caused division and dissension among them. He, therefore, left it for good in November, 1943. By the late 1930s, Bahadur Yar Jung had caught the eye of Jinnah, then feverishly engaged in the Herculean task of effecting unity among disparate Muslim ranks and organizing Muslims on the Muslim League platform, of evolving a uniform all-India policy for the entire Muslim India, and of making the claim of a pan-Indian Muslim constituency and a ‘third force’ in India’s body politic a fait accompli. But, in view of Jinnah’s inability to speak in Urdu to vast crowds, he needed a leader of impeccable integrity and outstanding ability, who could carry the League message to the remotest corner in the subcontinent. And for this his choice inevitably fell on Bahadur Yar Jung. And superbly apt was the choice became all too evident, before long. By founding the States’ Muslim League in 1939, his greatest contribution was to get the Muslims of Indian States associated for the first time with the politics and policies of Muslim India and the Muslim League. Besides, the States’ Muslim League fought for the protection of the legitimate rights of the Musalmans in the various states, including their language and culture. If only because of Bahadur Yar Jung’s vigorous efforts and his extensive tours, the States’ Muslim League became popular with the Muslims in the princely states such as the States’ Congress was with the Hindus. And from 1940 onwards the sessions of all India States’ Muslim League came to be held along with the sessions of the Muslim League, after its conclusion. Although Bahadur Yar Jung was a State subject and as such had no locus standi in the deliberations of the All India Muslim League (which concerned itself with British India), yet he was always there on hand at the League sessions, to explain its viewpoint and, since 1940, to elucidate the Muslim demand for Pakistan. Among his addresses, his December 26, 1943 address, after the conclusion of the last League session at Karachi, is by far the most outstanding. It has often been invoked while discussing the role of Islam in Pakistan. Jinnah was, of course, present on the occasion. Great indeed were the services rendered by Bahadur Yar Jung to the cause of the Muslim League and Pakistan. His was the voice that had inspired millions upon millions to swell the League’s ranks. His were the arguments that had induced thousands of Muslims to vote for the League in most of the bye-elections to Muslim constituencies between 1938 and mid-1944, especially in the four crucial bye-elections that were fought in the Khan Brothers’ dominated West Frontier Province in 1943. This tour of the Frontier he had undertaken after he had read Jinnah’s reply to Sirdar Aurangzeb Khan, who had earlier sent a message of sympathy to Jinnah on the murderous, but luckily, unsuccessful, attack made by a Khaksar on the latter’s life. Therein Jinnah had told the Frontier leader, “Until such time as the League comes out triumphant in the Frontier my wounds would not be healed”. Bahadur Yar Jung was an extremely persuasive speaker. This first became exceedingly evident when he had to bring the infuriated Khaksars to reason in March 1940. The Khaksars had come in clash with the Punjab Government on March 19, 1940, barely three days before the League’s session was due to meet in Lahore. Provoked by police excesses, the Khaksars had launched upon a sort of civil disobedience movement, with the situation getting worse every day. There were even talks of postponing the session, but Bahadur Yar Jung would not listen to anything of this sort. He took upon himself the task of pacifying the enraged Khaksars and creating a proper climate for the holding of the historic League session where the “Pakistan” resolution was to be adopted. By all standards, Bahadur Yar Jung was a brilliant orator. The first time he spoke at Aligarh’s famous Strachey Hall, he spoke till 3 a.m., and still the audience showed no sign of restlessness or boredom. At the League’s Allahabad session (1942) when Bahadur Yar Jung appealed for funds, no less than Rs. 125,000 was contributed on the spot. At the next League session at Delhi (1943), he spoke till 4 a.m. and on his appeal for funds, the large contingent of women in the audience gave away all their jewelry amounting to some ten lakh rupees. The Quaid was, of course, hugely overwhelmed by their generous response; but, characteristically, insisted upon the jewelry being returned to their owners. But the vexatious problem was: how? No one knew which one belonged to whom. And in Lahore, he alone could have pacified the enraged Khaksars who were in such an extremely agitated mood. Bahadur Yar Jung’s activities and popularity, however, caused alarm to the power brokers in his own native State. Instead of turning to the King’s Kothi (Nizam’s palace), the Muslims had come to look to Mahdavi Manzil (Bahadur Yar Jung’s residence) for both guidance and inspiration. In order, therefore, to curb his activities, the Nizam issued an edict, prohibiting jagirdars from taking part in politics. In response, Bahadur Yar Jung coolly and characteristically returned his titles and surrendered his jagir. Politics, which paved the way for Muslim empowerment and welfare, meant for him much more than power and belf. Even so, it did mean for him a good deal of hardship, but, again, characteristically, he remained undaunted to the last breath of his all too brief a life. This episode and this posture made him the first Muslim League leader to renounce titles and surrender his jagir for a political cause – a step which other League members would take after the adoption of the ‘Direct Action’ Resolution by the All India Muslim League Council at Bombay on July 29, 1946. Although a very selfless and sincere man himself, Bahadur Yar Jung had quite a few opponents in Hyderabad and elsewhere. During the last years of his life, he was a victim of intrigue and malice; he was also prohibited from making any public speech in Hyderabad itself. He also died in extremely suspicious circumstances: it is widely held that his Huqqo was poisoned. Although the Muslims all over the subcontinent were agitated at these reports, no proper inquiry was held. Nor did the Ittihadul Musslimin demand an inquiry till three years after his death when Syed Qasim Rizvi became its President. “In him, Islam and the Mussalmans have lost one of their staunchest and sincerest workers”, said Jinnah in his condolence message. His death was, of course, mourned throughout Muslim India, and his absence was acutely felt during the rest of the Pakistan movement, especially during the 1945-46 general elections, when the fate of Muslim India hung in the balance. To keep the memory alive, the first wave of immigrants from Hyderabad (Dn.) after its traumatic fall, were imaginative and committed enough to set up an Academy named after him, in Karachi.