Monthly Archives: December 2016

Malayali becomes Major General of Kyrgyzstan


Shaik Rafik Mohammed, Chairman of Gammon Group / image credit: Twitter
Shaik Rafik Mohammed, Chairman of Gammon Group / image credit: Twitter

The Saudi-based entrepreneur of Indian origin, was invited by the Kyrgystan Government to take up the prestigious military position in view of his earlier contribution to the country.

From among more than two million Keralite expatriates present across the world, a notable name is Shaikh Rafik Mohammed, who has now assumed a top position in the defense department of Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian state of the former Soviet Union.

Shaikh Rafik Mohammed, Chairman, Gammon Group (UAE and Saudi Arabia), has been appointed Major General by Ali Mirza, Defence Minister of  Kyrgyzstan, at an official ceremony held in the Central Asian country, Omar Abu Baker, media advisor of Rafik, told Khaleej Times.

It is a rare military position occupied by an overseas Keralite, he said on behalf of Rafik, adding that the Keralite holds Kyrgyzstan nationality conferred by its former President, Kurmanbek Saliyevich Bakiyev, whom he casually met in his 20s while working in Iran. He was conferred the military leadership at a function held in the Kyrgyzstan military head office, his representative told Khaleej Times.

The Saudi-based entrepreneur of Indian origin, whose family resides in Dubai, was invited by the Kyrgystan Government to take up the prestigious military position in view of his earlier contribution to the country.

The inspiring story of the Keralite expatriate who migrated from Calicut Kerala before completing his fifth-grade schooling culminated in his recent appointment as Major General of Kyrgyzstan. While there are scores of successful of business tycoons in the region, this could well be the first time a Malayali has occupying top military leadership of a foreign country.

Mohammed Rafik earlier worked as an advisor to the former Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Saliyevich Bakiyev (2005-1010) whom he met in Iran where the young Indian entrepreneur was developing a major steel plant.

After selling the successful project to the Iranian Government, Rafik went to Kyrgystan and presented a similar project to Kurmanbek, then a governor who was preparing to contest presidential elections.

Kurmanbek promised to green-light the project if he won the election. After he got elected, the new president appointed young Rafik as his chief advisor – a milestone in his career in his mid-twenties. He remained president for two terms and Rafik developed wide network of friends in the Central Asian republic, which has witnessed a rapid flow of foreign investment and reversal of socialist mode of development to a capitalist mode of production.

As an economic diplomat, Rafik could play a key role in attracting foreign investment from many countries to the young nation by suggesting easy tax regimes that kept away foreign investors till then.  From there, he was invited by Saudi Arabia to develop some projects on the free zone model of Dubai. Kyrgyzstan in the Central Asian region maintains close economic, political and strategic relationship with the Gulf region, especially Saudi Arabia. Kyrgyzstan is also a member of the Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC).

Gammon Group has a strong presence in emerging markets such as Asia, Middle East, Europe and North Africa. The diversified group is present in several areas, including infrastructure management and petrochemicals. According to the group’s website, it employs 200,000 employees in 28 countries.

“Rafik had left Kerala at a young age and he could complete only his primary school education. He went to Mumbai where the young man learnt all the tricks of business and from there to the Middle East. He has worked in the UAE, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan,” his media advisor added.

source: / Khaleej Times / Home> News> General / by VM Satheesh, Dubai / December 31st, 2016

‘Resistance is a form of justice’


Drawn into the struggle and trauma of families in conflict-torn Sri Lanka and Kashmir, filmmaker Iffat Fatima says she became a part of it through a process of osmosis

Iffat Fatima an independent filmmaker from Delhi, went to Sri Lanka in 2000 to research a fellowship project on Education and Identity. In the years that followed, she worked at a television channel, Young Asian Television. In 2005, Iffat made a documentary film on conflict in Sri Lanka and what it had done to the lives of people – The Other Side of War and Peace. When she met Parveena Ahanger, the chairperson of the Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in 2006, the urge to make a film on Kashmir’s disappeared was strong. After nine years of travel and research, Iffat made Khoon Diy Bharav, which has moved viewers in all its screenings.



A guest at The Hindu’s festival of literature, Lit for Life, in Chennai in January 2017, Iffat answers a few questions:

Can you please tell us about the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP)?

In 1994, with the support of legal professionals and human rights activists, the families of the victims of Enforced Involuntary Disappearances (EID) in Jammu and Kashmir organised themselves into a collective: The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). Over the years APDP has become a movement – an important space for a continuous engagement on issues of justice and accountability. Drawing attention to the trauma of the families engaged in a gruelling struggle against the Indian security establishment, APDP has succeeded not only in breaking the silence over the issue of enforced disappearances in Kashmir, but has also sustained and kept alive a public discourse on resistance and what it means to resist against all odds. APDP, in the very act of its being, poses a challenge to the official discourse of erasure that is being systematically imposed in the public domain in Kashmir.

Your film Khoon Diy Bharav was made over a period of nine years? Can you speak about the work that went into the film? It must have been extremely traumatic for you — living the horrific stories all over again. How did you manage to sail through it? Can you narrate some of these incidents?

I was, in a sense, introduced to the trauma and the grief of the families of the disappeared through the making of my film, Lanka – the other Side of War and Peace. In 2006, almost a year after I finished the film I began working on the issue of enforced disappearances in Kashmir. I had been in touch with Parveena Ahangar whose son became a victim of enforced disappearance in 1990. Parveena had been largely instrumental in bringing the families together under the banner of APDP. She became my constant companion and I travelled all over the valley with her, meeting the families. I was drawn into the struggle, the continuous trauma, the continuous torture the families were going through. Through a process of osmosis, I internalised their struggle and became part of it. I cried and laughed with them, carrying a camera and recording their struggle became an organic process. I was not thinking of the end product.

Through these many years, 2006 to 2010, the movement for azaadi in Kashmir was also going through a tumultuous period. People were coming out into the streets in thousands, young boys were being killed. Resistance was acquiring a new form and people were expressing their agency, reclaiming the movement, so to say ‘snatching it away from the gun’. The affected families kept using the term “Khoon Diy Baarav” which eventually became the title of the film. What they were implying is that blood has flown, it has congealed and sedimented into memory and transformed into resistance. So resistance is a form of justice, while there is no hope of justice from the Indian state. After 2010, I felt I had to come to grips with my material and give it a tangible form. I had more than a 100 hours of material. The editing process was long and agonizing, I made several cuts. Friends were very supportive and their suggestions and feedback was very valuable in shaping the final film.

Army, in Kashmir, is above law so to say. How did they react to your film? I have read of the demonstrations held in certain campuses during the screening of your film.

“If there is a rule of law, why are the armed forces exempt from it?” is a question that Parveena poses in the film several times. This is a challenge that many people find difficult to confront, especially in the current atmosphere of hyper-nationalism in India. They would rather not see it. But I must say that I have extensively screened the film in India and most audiences have been moved by the film and have responded in a very humane way. I get a sense that it reaches out to people rather than raising their hackles.

You have been arrested several times. Can you speak about it?

I haven’t been seriously arrested but have been apprehended several times. Majority of people in Kashmir have experienced that and most certainly anybody roaming around the streets with a camera has to be prepared for it. It is very disconcerting and rather scary, I must admit. But maybe part of being a filmmaker or a journalist is to learn to negotiate and work around these difficult situations. As a director there is also the added responsibility of the crew and the expensive equipment. I think being a woman might have some advantages as you are seen to be less of a threat. It is important to be cautious and to create a certain safety network.

Over 8000 men have disappeared in Kashmir. How are the women coping? Have they reshaped their lives?

The disappeared are all men and the women are left behind to cope. They don’t have a choice, many of them have children, they have to survive and carry on with their lives and are doing that very courageously. They have brought up their children, done their best for them. The women and the families are supportive of each other and APDP is there for them. However, it has taken a big toll, most of them have health problems — physical as well as psychological. There are some women who have remarried and moved on with their lives, but those with children largely have chosen to stay single. Keeping alive the memory of the disappeared is very important, in fact it keeps them going.

Your film about Sri Lanka also explores memory and violence. Do these two experiences – Sri Lanka and Kashmir — have any similarity?

In both cases- Sri Lanka and Kashmir- the conflict has been protracted and the state has used brute military power to repress people’s aspirations and political demands leading to a cycle of violence.

It is inevitable; brute military power can only lead to a shattered social fabric with deep wounds and scars. The state seems to be impervious to that. It doesn’t care.

source: / The Hindu / Home> Entertainment> Movies / by Deepa Ganesh / December 29th, 2016

Aamir’s Dangal remonetises the box office

Analysts expect the movie to become one of the top grossers


Aamir Khan’s Dangal, which opened on Friday, has come as a boon for cinemas in the era of demonetisation. Analysts and multiplexes believe the movie could notch up ₹100 crore in the opening weekend itself and become one of the top grossers.

The movie, from the studios of Disney Pictures, UTV Motion Pictures and Aamir Khan Productions, has been released across 4,300 screens in India and about 1,000 screens internationally.

Trade analyst Komal Nahata said the movie will appeal to both the masses and the classes as well the urban and the rural consumers.

“It is expected to see historic box-office collections on the opening day. Going by early indications, the movie is also expected to see record lifetime collections,” he added.

According to some analysts, a reason could be that the film is based on a popular sport, wrestling. Besides, earlier this year, the audience had given a thumbs-up to Salman Khan’s Sultan, also based on the same sport. Known to set new records at the box office, the last Aamir Khan-starrer, PK, had raked in an estimated ₹331 crore, becoming the highest grossing bollywood film.


PV Sunil, CEO and Director, Carnival Cinemas, said, “Dangal is a boon to the film exhibition industry, especially in the current economic conditions. Our first-day occupancy of around 50 per cent in the matinee shows seems very promising and hints towards a big domestic weekend collection of the film.”

Ticketing platform BookMyShow said it has already hit its fastest one million ticket milestone for a movie with Dangal clocking sales of over ₹20 crore.

Devang Sampat, Director – Strategic Initiatives, Cinépolis India added, “The movie is expected to see a long run at the box office as it is benefiting from a strong word of mouth.”

Tinku Singh, Group President & Chief Strategy Officer SRS Group, said: “Since demonetisation, we have seen a drop in ticket sales at our cinemas, especially in tier-2 cities. But with Dangal, we are seeing average occupancies of 60-65 per cent on the first day.”

The film has brand association tie-ups with Bournvita, Vivel and Nissan Datsun.

source: / The Business Line / Home> Variety / by Meenakshi Verma Ambwani / December 23rd, 2016

Mumbai lawyer Afroz Shah to receive top UN environment award for Versova Beach clean-up



Highlights :

  1. Shah and his 84-year-old neighbour Harbansh Mathur had started manually cleaning Versova Beach in 2015.
  2. The clean-up grew into a massive volunteer movement that saw 4,000 tons of garbage being picked up.
  3. UNEP has hailed the movement as an example of the key role of citizen action in protecting the environment
  4. ______________________________________________________________



New Delhi :

The largest beach clean-up in the world would be a reward in itself. But for spearheading it, Mumbai-based lawyer Afroz Shah has been named as one of winners of the top environmental honour of the United Nations. Shah will be among those bestowed with the Champions of the Earth award for leading the clean-up of Mumbai’s  Versova Beach.

Shah will receive the award under the ‘Action and Inspiration’ category for kick-starting a volunteer campaign to pick up, by hand, all the plastic bags, cement sacks, glass bottles, pieces of clothing, and shoes, that covered the entire 2.5-km stretch of the Versova Beach, even rising many feet high in some places.

The movement grew and grew over the past year and picked up a whopping 4,000 tons of garbage.

“Shah’s efforts, and the hundreds of volunteers he’s inspired, is a wonderful example of citizen action and reminds the rest of the world that even the most ambitious, global agreements are only as good as the individual action and determination that brings them to life. His outstanding leadership is drawing global attention to the devastating impacts of marine litter,” said United Nations Environment Project (UNEP) chief Erik Solheim, who had joined Shah in the clean-up for a day in October.


Lewis Pugh, the United Nations Patron of the Oceans, too, congratulated Shah in a twitter. “So delighted that Afroz Shah has won the UN’s highest award for his incredible efforts to clean Mumbai’s beaches!!” he tweeted.

Pugh has for long hailed the Versova clean-up as the ‘largest beach clean-up in history’. He had made it a point to visit Mumbai and take part in the clean-up in July.


“This award is in honour of the hundreds of volunteers who have joined me over the past year to clean up our beach and ocean. I am an ocean lover and feel that we owe a duty to our ocean to make it free of plastic,” said Shah as part of the announcement on the UNEP website.

“I just hope this is the beginning for coastal communities across India and the world – we have to win the fight against marine dumping and that involves getting our hands dirty. We humans need to reignite our bond with the ocean and we don’t have to wait for anybody else to help us do that,” he added.

Shah and his 84-year-old neighbour,  Harbansh Mathur, had started picking up garbage off the beach in July 2015. This grew into a movement, with a rising number of volunteers, outliving Mathur.

source: / The Times of India / News> India News / TNN / December 03rd, 2016

Hindustani Sitar-Vocal Concert


Ustad Hafiz Balekhan is seen presenting a Sitar recital in city recently accompanied by Ustad Nisar Ahmed on Tabla and Pandit Harikrishna Purohith on Harmonium.
Ustad Hafiz Balekhan is seen presenting a Sitar recital in city recently accompanied by Ustad Nisar Ahmed on Tabla and Pandit Harikrishna Purohith on Harmonium.

Pandit Taranath Foundation is the brainchild of the famous Sarod Maestro Pandit Rajiv Taranath, who is its Managing Trustee – named after his father. Besides being a leading Sarod player himself, Rajiv Taranath has a penchant for organising music festivals in Hindustani style in Mysuru and Bengaluru.

He is presently stationed in Mysuru and organising three or four music programmes here every year, thus encouraging youngsters in the line and also with a sprinkle of stalwarts once in a way. He has pupils in America also and he visits that country every year. I have the privilege of offering a venue for small baitak kacheris in the first floor hall of my residence in Saraswathipuram (chairs and squatting capacity to about 80 connoisseurs). The sessions are usually in the mornings for two-and-a-half hours from 10 am onwards. I am beholden to Rajivji for this.

In the above series, the Foundation had organised a grand Hindustani Sitar-Vocal concert by the famous youngster Ustad Hafiz Balekhan on Sunday, the 25th instant, at the above venue. Ustad Hafiz is the younger brother of Ustad Rais Khan (settled in Pune) and the brothers give individual and duet concerts also. Ustad Nisar Ahmed from Dharwad gave Tabla support while Pandit Harikrishna Purohith was on the Harmonium.

Ustad Hafiz commenced his Sitar concert with a number in the beautiful ‘Ahir Bhairav’ Raga and delineated in detail all the beautiful strands of this number on the string instrument, over which he seems to have mastery. The next number was in raga ‘Pilu’ and came out very diligently. I do not know why it was that while he played Ahir Bhairav the only accompaniment was Tabla and Pandit Purohith joined him on Harmonium afterwards.

A ‘Thumri’ followed and was elegantly handled by the Ustad. A Ghazal “Chupke Chupke” followed in quick succession.

At this juncture, Pandit Taranath asked Hafiz Khan to turn to vocal keeping the string instrument on his lap for support and lo! a surprise sprang on the over seventy-five strong connoisseurs when the Ustad started to sing “Nara Janma Bandaga Naalige Iruvaga Krishna Enabarade,’ a Purandara Dasa number in Raga ‘Mishra Charu Keshi’. Wide applause greeted this number. This proves, if proof if necessary, that music knows no religion or language and we have ample evidence for this in our own Jesudas, American John Higgins Bhagavathar and Ustad Fayaz Khan, all of whom have enthralled the connoisseurs by their singing. The concert ended with the usual Bhairavi.

source: / Star of Mysore / Home> Feature Articles / December 29th, 2016

Discoverers worry for the ‘ World’s Longest Cannon ’


Researchers hope the government will act to protect the cannon at Gulbarga Fort

Mohammed Ayazuddin Patel, Dr Rehaman Patel and Mohammed Ismail measuring the Bara Gazi Toph
Mohammed Ayazuddin Patel, Dr Rehaman Patel and Mohammed Ismail measuring the Bara Gazi Toph

The three researchers, Mohammed Ayazuddin Patel, the national award winner, artist and photographer, Dr Rehaman Patel, artist and researcher at Indo-Islamic Art, Kalaburagi, and Mohammed Ismail, Bahmani researcher and coin collector who recently discovered a cannon in a fort in Kalaburagi, which they say is the longest in the world, are worried over its preservation.

It was their visit to Gulbarga Fort in search of the name of the first Bahmani sultan, Alauddin Hasan Bahaman Shah among the Persian inscriptions on the Jama Masjid that led to its discovery. Speaking of the cannon to Bangalore Mirror, Mohammed Ayazuddin Patel said, “Since 2010, I have been researching on the subject. The existing world record is in the name of Tsar Cannon that is 17.5 feet long and was built in the 15th century in Russia. The cannon has been named in Guinness Book of World Records, when the fact remains that the top three longest cannons exist in India. It is a matter of pride for the people of Kalaburagi and the Hyderabad-Karnataka region that the longest cannon in the world is located in Bahmani Fort and was manufactured during the reign of Bahmani Empire in the 14th century. It is made of the alloy Panch dhatu.”

The cannon is known as Bara Gazi Toph and measures about 29 feet in length. Its circumference is 7.6 feet and diameter 2 feet. The barrel is 7-inch thick. In India, the largest recorded cannon is about 23 feet long and is located in Koulas Fort in Nizamabad district of Andhra Pradesh. Asaf Jah-1 (first Nizam) granted the Koulas Fort to the Rajput king Raja Kunwar Gopal Singh Gaur in 1724 AD for his bravery in the battle of Balapur and Shakkar Keda. The biggest cannon on wheels, built by Raja Mansingh, is in Jaipur and measures 20.6 feet in length.

“The Jaipur cannon weighs about 50 tonnes. We assume that the weight of the Kalaburagi cannon could be around 70-75 tonnes. While, the firing range of the Jaipur cannon is about 35 kilometres, that of Bara Gazi Toph could be 50-55 kilometres,” Ayazuddin Patel said.

The Bahmani monarchs, who ruled from the present Kalaburagi (Ahasnabad), stand out among other rulers for their contribution to the city. The founder Alauddin Hasan Bahaman Shah (1347-1422) made Gulbarga the capital and before his death he became the master of a vast empire. Even as they extended their territory, the rulers made significant contribution to the fields of art, architecture and literature.

The Bahmani sultanate was the first independent Islamic state of the Deccan in South India and one of the larger medieval Indian kingdoms. They ruled for 191 years (1347-1538 AD). Their other capital was Bidar.

The Gulbarga Fort was significantly expanded in 1347 by Alauddin Hasan Bahmani after he cut off ties with the Delhi sultanate. Islamic monuments such as mosques,
palaces, tombs, and other structures were also built later within the refurbished fort. The Jama Masjid built within the fort in 1367, is a unique structure of Persian architectural. It is fully enclosed, and has elegant domes and arched columns, which is unlike any other mosque in India.

The biggest challenge about historic monuments in the state is their protection, a fact not going to be any easy with the region being a backward area. “The Archaeologi-cal Survey of India and state archaeology department should take steps to protect the cannon at the Bahmani Fort and it should be included in the world record list. It should be fenced. The cannon is filled with sand and pebbles, so should be properly cleaned. Also, a signboard stating its details as the longest cannon in the world is a must. The fort and Jama Masjid must be declared heritage centres,” added Ayazuddin.

The team submitted a memorandum with their pleas to the district in-charge minister Sharan-prakash Patil, the deputy commissioner, regional commissioner, as well as the departments concerned.



Jagadamba Bhavani Tope: Located at the historic Koulas Fort in Andhra Pradesh is believed to be the largest cannon in the world. The cannon (left), which is 23 feet in length and weighs 70 tonnes, is predominantly made of iron. It has a 16-inch calibre with an explosive head of 150 kg.

Jaivana: Recorded as the world’s largest cannon on wheels, Jaivana was manufactured during the reign of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II (1699–1743) at a foundry in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Jaivana’s barrel measures 20.19 feet in length and 11 inches in diameter. The 50-tonne cannon is mounted on four wheels. The rear wheels are mounted on roller pin bearings, to turn it 360° and fire in any direction. It was designed to fire a 50 kg cannon ball to a distance of 35 km. This cannon was never used in any battle as the Rajput rulers of Amber had friendly relations with the Mughals.

source: / Bangalore Mirror / Home> News> State / by Deepthi Sanjiv, Bangalore Mirror Bureau / December 28th, 2016

Standup comic bags film role



Comedian Ahmed Shariff  will soon be seen in the upcoming Kannada film, Humble Politician Nograj, which stars Danish Sait as a manipulative politician.

Telling us more about this, Ahmed says, “I went for the audition two weeks ago after seeing the ads, and thought that I fared badly because the lines were in Kannada, and I am not a native Kannada speaker. However, they liked how I acted and I got a call when I was in Hyderabad for a show. I still don’t know the role that I will be offered.”

He added that he will be going for a screen-test soon. Ask him if his being a comedian helped him get the role and he says, “Not at all. I stood in line with hundreds of people. There was no special privilege.”

source: / The Times of India / News> Entertainment> Kannada> Movies> News / by Stuti Agarwal / TNN / December 28th, 2016

Majlis to remember city’s noted nawabs


Friday's majlis in progress
Friday’s majlis in progress


Lucknow :

In a unique step, from now on Lucknow will pay obeisance to its nawabs who played an important role in starting and continuing with the Muharram rituals that took the city’s name to the world.

Paying tribute to their souls, every Friday after Jumah prayers, a majlis (religious sermon remembering the martyrdom of Imam Hussain  and the tragedy of Karbala) will be organised at the Bara Imambara.

 Earlier,majlis for a few nawabs were organised by their descendants or caretakers of the respective Imambaras set up by them. This is the first time that tribute will be paid in a systematic manner. A list with 25 names has already been drawn which will further be expanded to include descendants who, even in poverty, continued Muharram rituals, and clerics on whose advice the nawabs ruled Avadh.

On Friday, Maulana Kalbe Jawad presided over the majlis in memory of Nawab Ghasiud-din Haider while also talking about the latter’s and his role in Lucknow’s Muharram.

source: / The Times of India / News> City News> Lucknow News / TNN / December 24th, 2016

Telugu writer brings out calendar of Indian Muslim freedom fighters


Telugu writer Syed Naseer Ahamed, with the help of Mohammed Farookh Shubli, Founder President of Youth Welfare, Vijayawada, has brought out a calendar for 2017 bearing photos of India’s Muslim freedom fighters.

Syed Naseer Ahamed has been consistently writing about Muslim freedom fighters including his pictorial album The Immortals. The calendar consists of 6 pages. Each page of two months has four photos of Muslim freedom fighters who are less known to general public. A total of 24 freedom fighters have been accommodated in six pages. Role of Muslim freedom fighters in India’s Independence has been printed often in the print edition of The Milli Gazette.



This calendar is in English. Syed Naseer Ahamed is trying to release the calendar in various centres across the country in order to inform people about the part played by Muslims in the freedom struggle of India.

For more information, please contact Syed Naseer Ahamed at syednaseerahamed2015$

source: / The Milli Gazette / Home> Online News> Community News / The Milli Gazette Online / December 23rd, 2016


The generous Sultan


A GEOGRAPHICAL LANDMARK - A part of Delhi ridge along which Buddha Jayanti Park has come up | / Photo Credit: HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES
A GEOGRAPHICAL LANDMARK – A part of Delhi ridge along which Buddha Jayanti Park has come up | / Photo Credit: HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES

The news of a maulvi living in an alcove of the Ridge area makes one reflect on the legacy of Feroz Shah Tughlaq who respected men of divinity

Police accosting a maulvi in a forest bordering the Bodyguard Lines of the President’s Estate recently should cause little wonder. Ghazi Norool Hassan, say reports, was found living in an alcove of the Ridge area along with his son, claiming to be the caretaker of a mazar. This shrine is supposed to be very old and in keeping with the legacy of the reign of Feroz Shah Tughlaq. A large part of Delhi was forest area in the 14th Century and this helped the Emperor to indulge in his favourite past-time of hunting. Right from Mehrauli to North Delhi there is evidence of the Sultan’s hunting lodges where he sometimes rested at night too.

While in North Delhi he built an observatory, besides a hunting lodge, a Pir of his time also set up abode in the area and, after drawing a lot of devotees, disappeared one fine day, leaving his admirers shocked. The place has come to be known as Pir Ghaib. On the Ridge near Karol Bagh is the ruined gate of Bhuli Bhatiyari-ka-Mahal. Though Sir Syed Ahmad Khan thought it was a distortion of the name of a nobleman, Bhu Ali Bhatti, there are not many takers for this assertion.

If oral history is to be believed, Bhuli Bhatiyari was the comely daughter of a dhaba owner (Bhaitiyara) with whom the Sultan fell in love while passing that way. There is incidentally a Bhuri Bhatiyari-ki-Masjid (dedicated to a fair innkeeper) opposite the Khooni Darwaza. Another story says Feroz Shah actually fell in love with a gypsy girl for whom he built a palace as she had stolen his heart after offering him a drink of water on a hot summer day while the Sultan was out hunting.

Historian Ishwari Prasad says that Feroz Shah was a pious man, despite being an orthodox Sunni who ill-treated the Shias and non-Muslims. But at the same time he was generous and not fond of shedding blood, like his cousin and mentor Mohammed Bin Tughlaq, whom he had succeeded. Feroz was a great devotee of dervishes, many of whom flourished in his empire. One of them probably was the Pir Sahib of the place where the maulvi was found living secretly for 40 years. The forest area of which the shrine is a part, had many other dargahs which were demolished when New Delhi was built. Raisina Hill was also covered with a forest where wolves, leopards and hyenas were found. So a Forest Ranger’s bungalow was set up there. In later times, this bungalow became part of the Sacred Heart Cathedral and now after renovation, is known as Maria Bhawan.

Some old mosques still exist in nearby areas which may be dating back to Tughlaq times, for that matter the place where now stands Gurdwara Rakabganj was also a jungle once in which during Aurangzeb’s time lived a contractor, Lakhi Singh of the Mughal court. When Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded on the orders of Aurangzeb, there was a violent storm, taking advantage of which Lakhi Singh and his eight sons (who had come on horses and bullocks) took the body away, while the Guru’s head was taken away by a man named Jatha. Lakhi Singh drove all the way from Chandni Chowk to the forest where he lived and putting the body in his house set it on fire to avoid suspicion. Later Gurdwara Rakabganj came up there.

But to come back to Feroz Shah, the number of mosques and dargahs that were set up in his reign rivalled the inns, gardens and hospitals. He is said to have laid 1,200 gardens around Delhi and nearby areas in each of which a Sufi found refuge. The Sultan lived up to the age of 90, the longest living ruler of Delhi after Aurangzeb. He was so generous at heart that even while laying siege to a city he would often turn back on hearing the cries of women in distress and suffering from the pangs of hunger, along with their children. Even while on shikar, Feroz Shah would pay obeisance to saints who had set up abode in his empire. Many of them were helped by him to set up khankahs or hospices, and when they died the Sultan was always ready to build a mazar for them.

Once while visiting a dervish he was puzzled on seeing a goat and a tendua (panther) lying in the courtyard of the jungle abode. Seeing his amazement at the sight the dervish told him that in the royal darbar this may not be possible but in his khankah the goat and the panther could lie side by side, forgetting their enmity. When the British built what is now President’s Estate, they reclaimed a lot of forest land in which wild animals roamed. But still a lot of the area acquired by Lutyens and Baker was left as forest land. The mazar of which Noorol Hassan claims to be caretaker is only one among many hidden away from the public eye. Don’t be surprised if in course of time the mazar becomes a regular shrine with an annual Urs. But for this the history of the mazar and of the saint buried there would first have to be determined. Until then Ghazi Noorol Hassan can continue to be caretaker of the legacy bequeathed to him by Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. The late President himself preferred to be buried outside the New Delhi Jama Masjid, opposite Parliament House, where once the heart-broken poet Hasrat Mohani of “Chupke, chupke aansoon bahana” fame had made his bachelor’s quarters.

source: / The Hindu / Home> Society> History & Culture / December 25th, 2016