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Mainstream, VOL LV No 26 New Delhi June 17, 2017

Request for bringing back the Mortal Remains of Bahadur Shah Zafar

Prem Singh’s Letter To President, Pranab Mukherjee

Saturday 17 June 2017


The following letter, sent to the President, Pranab Mukherjee, from the General Secretary of the Socialist Party (India), Dr Prem Singh, on May 4, 2013, has been resent by Dr Prem Singh, who is now the President of the Socialist Party (India), on May 10, 2017 precisely four years after the first letter in 2013.

His Excellency

Shri Pranab Mukherjee

President of India

Sub.: Request to bring back the mortal remains of Bahadur Shah Zafar

Most Respected Sir,

 The Socialist Party would like to request you to direct the Indian Government to bring back the mortal remains of Bahadur Shah Zafar from Rangoon (presently Yangon), Myanmar, to Delhi. The Socialist Party takes inspiration from the thoughts of Dr Rammanohar Lohia. Dr Lohia had suggested that in case a leader passes away in a foreign country, her/his last rites should be performed there itself. The Socialist Party accepts this view of Dr Lohia that would lead to strengthening the bonds of world brother-hood. But the case of Zafar was altogether different. He was arrested by the imperialist rulers, tried and brought to Rangoon in captivity in 1857. He passed away there on November 7, 1862, at the age of 87, longing for two yards of his motherland for his burial. Zafar, a poet of his own style, expressed his pains of exile in his famous couplet: ‘kitnaa hai badnaseeb Zafar dafn ke liye, do gaz zamin bhi na mili kuu-e-yaar mein’. As you know, it is a long pending demand made by several citizens of India from time to time. The first such request was made by the Bahadur Shah Zafar Memorial Society in 1949. However, the government has not conceded the demand though it knows very well that Zafar had expressed the desire to be buried in India after his death.

One can understand that the colonial rulers kept Zafar, the symbol of revolt and Hindu-Muslim unity, in captivity and then buried him in exile as a non-entity. But it remains unexpl-ained why the rulers of free India are not ready, even symbolically, to undo the insult and injustice meted out to Zafar by at least bringing back his remains to India and put him to rest at the place of his choice—Dargah Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki at Mehrauli, where an empty grave awaits his remains.

Sir, the demand to bring back the remains of Bahadur Shah Zafar to India is not merely an emotional issue for the Socialist Party. Zafar was the leader of our First War of Independence against the colonial powers and a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity. Therefore, it should be the duty of the Indian Government to bring back his remains. Further, a grand memorial should be constructed in the memory of the martyrs of 1857 for the benefit of present and future generations..

We would like to draw your kind attention towards the tribute paid to Zafar by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, addressing a ceremonial parade of INA at his tomb at Yangon. Netaji ended his speech quoting a famous couplet of Zafar: ‘Ghazion mein bu rahegi jab talak iman ki/ Takht-e-London tak chalegi tegh Hindostan ki!’ (As long as there is faith in the heart of the freedom fighters/ The sword of India will pierce through the throne of London!) Netaji declared on that occasion: ‘‘This parade is the first occasion when India’s new revolutionary army is paying homage to the spirit of the supreme commander of India’s first revolutionary army.’’ Sir, we make a sincere appeal to you to kindly take personal interest in this matter of great importance and convince the government to concede to the demand at the earliest.

With best regards,

Dr Prem Singh, [President, Socialist Party (India)]

May 10, 2017

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