Category Archives: Community Involvement / Social Issues

Princess Omdutel of Oude Buried At Paddington Old Cemetery

Awadh, UTTAR PRADESH / London, U. K / Paris, FRANCE :

While walking around Paddington Old Cemetery during my lunch break earlier today, for some reason I felt compelled to read the faded stone slab that marked the resting spot of Princess Omdutel. Instantly my attention was grabbed, a Princess buried in Kilburn, North West London of all places, that sure wasn’t something I was expecting to find.


I have walked past the grave of Princess Omdutel, perhaps a 100 times or more since I moved to Kilburn and never paid it any attention. Now she had my full attention.

The badly worn and faded inscription on the stone slab was barely readable, but after a lot of scratching of my head, I finally managed to decipher the words: Sacred to the memory of Princess Omdutel Aurau Begum, daughter of the late General Mirza Sekunder Hishmut Bahadur, Brother to His Majesty King of Oude, who died 14th April 1858 aged 18 months.

With a little help from Google and, I managed to find the following information: Princess of Oude. Oude, or Awadh, which was the epicentre of the 1857 Indian Mutiny, when the sepoys rebelled against the British after baulking at orders to use cartridges greased in pig and beef fat. Members of the Awadh Royal Family arrived in London soon afterwards, lobbying unsuccessfully for the return of their lands. The princess’s father, Mirza Bahadur, died two months before her and is buried in Père Lachaise in Paris.

The British obviously offered the Awadh Royal Family a haven in London after they were ousted. I’m not sure how long the family had ruled for in Awadh, which is a region in India. But from what I can gather it seems likely that they were a puppets installed by the British Government.

Princess Omdutel Aurau Begum, her life had barely begun, when she died at only 18 months of age. I wonder if any of the family survived and if so what became of them. It is also intriguing that her father died two months before her in Paris. No mention of the mother, which is kinda sad if you ask me…

I find it strange that I have walked past the grave of Princess Omdutel numerous times over the past twenty months and never once read it, until today. Very strange. Maybe she was wanting a mention on London Is Cool

source: / London is Cool – a blog about Life in London / Home> Out and About in London / by William Wallace / February 21st, 2011

Malika Kishwar: A forgotten Indian queen in Paris

Awadh, UTTAR PRADESH / London, U. K / Paris, FRANCE :

The tragic story of Malika Kishwar, who rests in an unmarked grave in France’s most famous cemetery

The grave of Malika Kishwar at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The grave of Malika Kishwar at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

She lies buried amidst sepulchres that house the remains of many who are still famous.

There is Jim Morrison on the premises, the American rock legend whom trains of tourists come to pay homage, like pilgrims bearing flowers. Edith Piaf, the waif who sang her way to greatness, finds her peace nearby, as does Frederic Chopin, the composer whose pickled heart is in Warsaw but whose body dissolves in the French capital. Benjamin Franklin’s grandson rests here, and in the vicinity there is a man believed to have been sired by Napoleon. Oscar Wilde’s sculpted grave competes with Marcel Proust’s neat bed of stone, and many more still are the artists, writers, and persons of esteem who crowd the hillside cemetery that is Père Lachaise in Paris.

And yet, between them all, under a platform of rugged rock, lies this tragic Indian woman. Her name and cause have been largely forgotten, but since 1858, she has been here, longer than many of her revered neighbours. Tourists walk by with cameras, oblivious to her unmarked square existence. But every now and then there is a stray visitor who arrives on a quest: to locate the final resting place of that remarkable woman, the last queen of Awadh.

I was that visitor a few days ago, when I trekked up Paris’ most famous graveyard to look for this forgotten tomb.

The lady appears in yellowed old books by several names. She was to some Malika Kishwar, while others knew her as Janab-i Aliyah, Her Sublime Excellency, mother to the ruler of “Oude”, Wajid Ali Shah.

In 1856, when the British deposed this nawab from his ancestral seat in Lucknow, his family departed for colonial Calcutta, with all the money they could gather and what dignity they had left. But while the son (a “crazy imbecile” in the eyes of his sneering oppressors) prepared to fade quietly into history, the mother was determined to win back that which was her family’s by right.

That very year, this woman who knew little beyond her sequestered palace, set foot on a ship, determined to sail to England so she might speak—woman to woman—to the English queen in person. After all, declared the middle-aged begum, Victoria was “also a mother”; she would recognize the despair her people had unleashed, and restore to the House of Awadh territory, titles, and its rightful honour. And so proceeded Malika Kishwar, her health already in decline, braving cold winds in a foreign land, to plead the cause of royal justice.

The mission was doomed from the start. Advisers were many and much was the money they sought for the privilege of their counsel. The results, meanwhile, were nowhere to be found.

As historian Rosie Llewellyn-Jones records, Kishwar discovered quickly enough that Queen Victoria, in her “circular dress”, had little power to bestow anything more than polite conversation on her and her Awadhi line—when an audience was granted, they spoke about boats and English mansions, not about imperial treacheries and the unjust business in Lucknow.

In the British parliament, things got worse. A prayer at long last prepared was dismissed on spurious bureaucratic grounds: the begum was to submit a “humble petition”, words that she failed to use in the document laid before the House. While her son accepted British imperium, the mother was obstinate in battle. So, when she wished to travel, they sought to dragoon her into acknowledging their suzerainty—if Malika Kishwar and her ménage wanted passports, she would have to declare herself a “British subject”.

The begum refused to do anything of the sort, prepared, at best, to be under “British protection”, but never anybody’s “subject”. And legal quibbles aside, the Great Rebellion of 1857 compounded matters—there was now no prospect of relinquishing even a fragment of British power when the hour called for a demonstration of obdurate strength alone. Awadh was lost forever.

The tide having turned, in 1858, the begum decided to return at last, defeated and unhappy in the extreme. But in Paris she fell ill and died on 24 January. The funeral was simple, but there was yet some dignity and state—representatives of the Turkish and Persian sultans gave this Indian queen the regard the British denied her and her line.

A cenotaph was constructed by the grave, but it has long since fallen to pieces—when decades later the authorities at Père Lachaise sought funds to repair the tomb, her exiled son decided from Calcutta that it was simply not worth his pension, while the colonial state was even less inclined to honour a difficult woman lying several feet underground in an alien European country. And so, since that time, in a graveyard full of magnificent memorials, the queen of Awadh has remained, a shell of broken stone sheltering her from the weeds and overgrowth that alone have made a claim upon her and the story that she tells.

Others of her suite also suffered. A younger son had come with her, Sikandar Hashmat by name. He died in England, and was carried to join his mother in her unmarked grave. A grandson’s infant child was also buried within, turning the tally in Paris to three.

But it was in London that one more of the delegation fell, this one a baby princess, born to Sikandar Hashmat from his Rajput wife on British shores. I walked around a dull little place called Kilburn to look for this grave. And there, in a cemetery, after an hour between tombs set in the soggy English ground, I found a memorial to the child: Princess Omdutel Aurau Begum, “who died 14th April 1858”, months after her grandmother who was once a queen.

But Omdutel, all of 18 months, had a minor triumph where her royal grandmother had none—lying by a pathway in that cemetery in Kilburn, her grave at least bears her name.

The begum, on the other hand, has become to the passing tourist at Père Lachaise in Paris a plinth on which to rest, smoking a cigarette and looking on to a horizon full of the dead, till a stranger might appear to tell how they have under them.

Medium Rare is a column on society, politics and history. Manu S. Pillai is the author of The Ivory Throne: Chronicles Of The House Of Travancore.

He tweets at @UnamPillai

source: / LiveMint / Home> Leisure> Medium Rare / by Manu S. Pillan / Friday – Jan 12th, 2018

Role of Muslims in freedom struggle

The freedom movement of India was not the sole agenda of a particular political party but it had moved aam aadmi in the form of masses in his/her own capacity. The history of Indian national movement would be biased and incomplete without the presentation of the actual role of Indian Muslims in it, right from the revolt of 1857 to the day of Independence in 1947.

Shoulder to shoulder they fought with the other communities for the Independence of India. The contribution of Muslim poets, revolutionaries and writers is not known today. Instead of secular historiography, it has been communalised.


The Muslims and other minorities never envisaged India as adopted land because Muslims of India have not come from outside but are the converts to Islam and have deep feeling sense of belonging to this country and therefore contributed to the cultural, economic, intellectual and spiritual progress throughout the ages.

The role, significance and uprising of Indians against British imperialists can be seen since mid of 18th century in the form of Battle of Palashi (Plassey), June 23, 1757. It was Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah who first awakened Indian rulers and gave a call to oppose the British. He, however, lost the battle and was executed at the young age of 24. This was soon followed by the great Tipu Sultan, who was killed by Lord Wellesley during the fourth Anglo-Mysore war in 1799.

The contribution of Muslim revolutionaries can be witnessed from the first half of 19th century. The Faraizi and the Wahhabi Movements had disturbed the pace of British plan in the initial stages of its expansion in India. The Wahabi movement of Syed Ahmed Barelvi was the most organised one. He appealed to all Hindus and Muslims to overthrow the British and thus he was killed in 1831 at Balakot.

The number of Muslims executed only in Delhi during 1857-58 was 27,000. During this revolt, Asghari Begum (mother of Qazi Abdur Rahim, the revolutionary of Thana Bhawan, Muzaffarnagar) fought against the British and was burnt alive when defeated. It was estimated that about 225 Muslim women gave their lives in the revolt.

Similarly, barely is known about the contribution of Muhammad Ashfaq Ullah Khan of Shahjehanpur who conspired and looted the British treasury at Kakori (Lucknow) to cripple the administration and who, when asked for his last will, before execution, desired: “No desire is left except one that someone may put a little soil of my motherland in my winding sheet.”

Likewise, the present generation does not know about Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, a great nationalist who had passed 45 years of his 95-years of life in jail for the freedom of India and thus awarded ‘Bharat Ratna’ in 1987. Barkatullah and Syed Rehmat Shah of Ghadar Party sacrificed their lives. Umar Subhani, an industrialist and a millionaire of Bombay who, then, presented a blank cheque to Gandhiji for Congress expenses and who ultimately sacrificed his life for the cause of Independence. Maulana Hasrat Mohani, with his poetry, infused zeal of freedom in young hearts.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, at the age of 35, became the youngest person to serve as the President of the Indian National Congress. He was the icon of Hindu-Muslim unity as well as espousing secularism and socialism. Raj Mohan Gandhi in his book ‘Understanding Muslim Minds’ mentioned that Maulana went straight to Congress office just after the funeral procession of his wife, Zuleikha Begum and led Quit India Movement.

Manmohan Kaur in her book entitled as ‘Women In India’s Freedom Movement’ makes reference to only Begum Hazrat Mahel and Bi-Amma out of the hundreds of women who fought the battle of freedom along with their men folk against the British Raj. The history of the Indian national movement would be incomplete without mentioning the heartily services of Abadi Begum (mother of Maulana Muhammad Ali), Amjadi Begum (wife of Maulana Muhammad Ali), Amina Tyabji (wife of Abbas Tyabji), Begum Sakina Luqmani (wife of Dr Luqmani and daughter of Badruddin Tyabji), Nishat-un-Nisa (Begum Hasrat Mohani), Saadat Bano Kitchlew (wife of Dr Saifuddin Kichlew), Zulekha Begum (wife of Maulana Azad), Mehr Taj (daughter of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan), Zubaida Begum Daoodi (wife of Shafi Daoodi, the reputed nationalist of Bihar) and many others.

Santimoy Ray’s ‘Freedom Movement And Indian Muslims’ challenges the many prejudices that generate bias and hatred against the Indian Muslims, particularly their contentions role in Indian freedom movement.

This shows the great sacrifices they made to oust the British rule in all the national uprisings from Sanyasi Movement to Independence, finally led to the withdrawal of British from India in 1947. It is such a pity that their roles in the struggle for freedom has not been adequately presented in the Indian history. The comprehensive study about the role of Muslims struggle for freedom is essential to help eradicating prejudices and many misconceptions against the Muslims grown in the absence of fair historiography.

I’m recalling some of the beautiful lines of Faiz Ahmed Faiz …

Ye daagh daagh ujaalaa, ye shab-gaziida sahar,
Vo intizaar thaa jis-kaa, ye vo sahar to nahiiN,
Ye vo sahar to nahiiN jis-kii aarzu lekar
Chale the yaar ke mil-ja`egi kahiiN na kahiN
Falak ke dasht meN taroN kii aakhiri manzil,
KahiN to hogaa shab-e sust mauj kaa sahil,
KahiN to jaake rukegaa safiina-e-gham-e-dil.
Abhii chiraagh-e-sar-e-rah ko kuchh khabar hii nahiiN;
Abhii giraanii-e-shab meN kamii nahiiN aa’ii,
Najaat-e-diidaa-o-dil ki ghaRii nahiiN aa’ii;
Chale-chalo ke vo manzil abhii nahiiN aa’ii.


This stain-covered daybreak, this night-bitten dawn,
This is not that dawn of which there was expectation;
This is not that dawn with longing for which
The friends set out, (convinced) that somewhere there we met with,
In the desert of the sky, the final destination of the stars!
Somewhere there would be the shore of the sluggish wave of night,
Somewhere would go and halt the boat of the grief of pain.
The lamp beside the road has still come no lessening,
The hour of the deliverance of eye and heart has not arrived.
Come, come on, for that goal has still not arrived.

(Author is currently preparing for civil service examinations.)

source: / / Home> Articles> Indian Muslim / by Shaik Amer Arafath / August 14th, 2015

The Prince is Dead. Long Live The Legend


They are not the only one calling the Malcha Mahal prince an imposter. Many old families of Lucknow that have for long maintained their discernment for the Royal family concur.

King Wajhid Ali Shah in Matiaburj. (Image: News18)
King Wajhid Ali Shah in Matiaburj. (Image: News18)

New Delhi:

The Prince who died in Malcha Mahal was a pauper. Not just in the life he lived but also in the claims he made about his family lineage. At least that’s what the descendants of Wajid Ali Shah and Begum Hazrat Mahal, currently living in Kolkata, will have you believe in.

They are not the only one calling the Malcha Mahal prince an imposter. Many old families of Lucknow that have for long maintained their discernment for the Royal family concur.

Taken aback by the media reports which referred to one Ali Raza— who died in New Delhi’s 14th century’s Malcha Mahal— as Prince, the living members of the Royal Family of Oudh are trying to clear the air on Nawab’s lineage. 

“We want to assert our credibility as the real heirs to the title. We have in the past dealt with the menace of impersonation. My uncle also raised the issue with the government of Uttar Pradesh and the Prime Minister when the impersonator – the mother of the deceased ‘prince’ called Vilayat Mahal got an allotment in Malcha Mahal on the false claims of royalty,” said Manzilat Fatima from Kolkata, who is the “great, great grand-daughter of Wajid Ali Shah. She lives in Kolkata and spends her time working to “preserve Awadh cuisine”.

The Malcha Mahal, Fatima claims, was a Mughal hunting-house or shikargah given to Vilayat Mahal and her two children including the ‘ the dead Prince’ when the family arrived in Delhi after many a unsuccessful bid to claim the Nawab’s title in Lucknow.

The family spent days in the waiting-room of the New Delhi Railway Station before their petition to the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for temporary accommodation in Delhi was acceded to by the government.

Fatima’s 89-year-old father, Dr Kaukub Qudr Meerza, is not surprised by the reports of ‘Prince’s death’, because he knows the real Prince is still alive. His Highness, and yours truly, Dr Meeraz, says “our family has witnessed the hoax for years now.”

The family says one of the immediate relatives— Prince Anjum Qudr had in-fact challenged the false claims of Vilayat Mahal before the government.

Qudr wrote a series of letters in 1975 to the UP government and then again in 1985 to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi informing him about the “impersonation” being done by Vilayat Mahal calling it “hoax”. The letter is available on the website of their Oudh family to keep people informed about the legend of impersonation. Qudr wrote Begum Hazrat Mahal had only one son Birjis Qadr, who was crowned in 1857.

Details regarding Qadr’s children from different wives are available in Kaiserut Tawarikh Vol-2 and other books on the history of Oudh. An auto-biographical Masnavis (illustrated stories) of Wajid Ali Shah Huzn-e Akhtar or Tarikh-e Pari Khana also describe the Nawab’s lineage in some detail.
These details corroborate with other sources of information on the exiled King from the poems and Diwan of Birjis Qadr- the only son of the Begum of Oudh.

The original claimants say that there are records of the Political Pension Office of the District Collector of 24 Parganas, West Bengal, from where all heirs of Birjis Qadr drew a political pension after Qadr was assassinated in 1893 in Kolkata. Wajid Ali Shah in his will has named only one son Birjis Qadr (and no daughter) that Begum Hazrat Mahal bore him.

“Fraud of the present claimant is obvious from her very name “Begum Vilayat Mahal” because Mahal is not really an inheritable work,” said Qudr in his appeal to the various government. Mahal is a title which used to be awarded by a Muslim King or Emperor in India to his wife after she bore him a son.

Thus when Birjis Qadr was born to Begum Hazrat, that King Amjad Ali Shah awarded the revered title Mahal to the wife of his Crown Prince. Just as Mumtaz, Mughal Emperor Shahjahan’s wife acquired the title after bearing successor to the Mughal throne.

Nawab Ibrahim Ali Khan of Shish Mahal, Lucknow, where Vilayat Mahal lived briefly before leaving for New Delhi, told News that the veracity of the claims can be established from the family tree or shajra of Nawab Saadat Khan who established the Oudh dynasty in the early 16th century.

He adds, further that King Wajid Ali Shah, when he was exiled to Matia Burj, Calcutta [now Kolkata] in 1856, took all his sons and daughters with him and only his siblings, divorced wives and close relatives were left behind. Some of his progeny migrated to Pakistan and England later on. Every descendant of King Wajid Ali Shah is registered with the Kolkatta office.

For the record, any title of Maharaja, Raja, Rana or Nawab recognized by the East India Company and later by Her Majesty’s government was registered with the British Indian Association or Anjuman e Hind in 1861.

The documents are still available at Lucknow Baradari.

source: / / Home> News 18> India / by Eram Agha / November 19th, 2017

PBD 2018 celebrated in Riyadh with fervor



Riyadh :

Indian Charge d’Affaires Dr. Suhel Ajaz Khan, during the recent Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) 2018 celebrations held at Indian Embassy auditorium here, advised Indian nationals to help each other and participate in assisting the community when needed.

Dr. Suhel, in his opening remarks while welcoming the gathering, said that the number of Indians living illegally in the Kingdom is very minute compared to its population after the completion of the recent Amnesty period. The Saudi officials, rounding up illegal residents, have revealed that so far among 250,000-300,000 rounded up in their sweep, that just 1,000 were Indians.

Even though this number is very small when compared to the overall figure and the number of Indians working here, Indian Embassy officials are regularly visiting deportation centers to see if there are any Indian still there needing their help, or is there any fresh Indians detained.

Dr. Suhel also said that during the amnesty period around 75,000 Indians were deported while adding, “It is a matter of satisfaction for us that Indians are very few among illegals.”

Highlighting the community outreach program of the Embassy, the DCM said that the Indian Ambassador traveled length and breadth of the Kingdom to meet the Indian nationals.

Embassy of India has actively implemented the flagship program of Indian government Madad and Emigrate.

He also said that the Indian Embassy would be merciless towards unscrupulous agents who send people to Saudi Arabia through illegal ways.

DCM disclosed that upon the request of Indian Prime Minister Narendera Modi, the Saudi government had issued royal pardon to 291 Indians during last year, the highest for several years.

The DCM also had a message to aspiring job seekers in India to come to Saudi Arabia through legal means and work here with honesty and dedication.

The event started with the playing of recorded speech of Indian Prime Minister Narendera Modi. Dr. Suhel briefed community members on the highlights of the speech.

This is a historic occasion as on this day the greatest Pravasi (traveler) of all time Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, returned to India and this day commemorated as PBD,

Every year, Jan. 9 is celebrated as Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD), an annual celebrations that marks the contribution of overseas persons with Indian Origin towards the homeland.

This year PBD is held at Singapore and the theme is Ancient Route, New Journey — Diaspora in the Dynamic ASEAN India Partnership

The Embassy of India selected four prominent members from the community to speak on the various flagship programs of the Indian government. The speakers included Salman Khaled, Yogacharya Soumya, Magesh Prabhakara, and Taqiuddin Mir Fazal.

The speakers stressed on various topics specially the flagship programs of the government like Digital India — Power to Empower, Yoga, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, Gram Jyothi Yogna and Beti Bacho-Beti Padhaao.

The speakers were widely applauded for their depth and understanding of the government initiatives and its implications on Indian expatriates abroad, particularly from the Gulf region.

Anil Nautiyal, counselor, Embassy of India, conducted the proceedings and proposed the vote of thanks. Embassy staff actively participated in this event.

First Secretaries Venkateswaran Narayan, Dr. Hifzur Rahman Azmi, community members Architect Abdul Rahman Saleem, 2017 PBD recipients Zeenat Jafri, Shihab Kottukad, Ahmad Imthias, Deepak, Suhail Ahamad, Kundan Lal Gothwal, senior AGM Air India, principals of all Indian schools, managing committee members of various and large number of Indians and their families attended.

Students of Indian International Public School, Riyadh presented colorful cultural program depicting the unity and diversity of India.

source: / Saudi Gazette / Home> Saudi Arabia / by Mir Mohsin Ali / January 16th, 2018

Nazeer Ahamed Mohamed Zackiriah



Brunei :

Mr. Nazeer Zackiriah, Permanent Resident of the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam, is an Indian-origin entrepreneur who has strengthened the links between India, Brunei and the Indian community of Brunei.

He has actively supported Government of India initiatives and events and has ensured meaningful interactions with local and Indian entrepreneurs for visiting Indian delegations.

He has heightened respect for the Indian community in Brunei by his active charitable endeavours, both in his individual capacity and as President of the Indian Chamber of Commerce of Brunei.

By virtue of the recognition that he has obtained from His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei for these charitable and community-building efforts, he has been instrumental in raising the prestige and profile of the Indian community in Brunei.

Mr. Nazeer Ahamed has achieved notable success in the textile retail sector in Brunei.

From humble beginnings, through hard work and acumen, he has built up the largest chain of textile stores of Brunei which is now providing significant employment and promoting trade.

He has contributed towards strengthening the link between the Indian community and Bruneians by organizing the active participation of the Indian community in Bruneian national events like the National Day of Brunei and the Birthday Celebrations of His Majesty the Sultan.

source: / Pravasi Bharatiya Divas / Home> Profile of Awardees / 07-09 January 2017, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India

A hero who comes to the rescue of the dead



Until December 2016, UAE-based businessman has helped transport 3,886 bodies to 38 countries

Heroes are often made out to be those who save lives, but here is one who comes to the rescue of the dead and their families. Ashraf Thamarassery, a UAE-based businessman, is credited with helping the final journey of the dead to their home countries.

The 41-year-old, a native of Kerala, was in Bengaluru to participate in the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, an event which saw him being conferred the Pravasi Bharatiya Award in the past.

“It was 2002 when I saw the struggle of a family I knew when the father passed away,” he said, recalling how his tryst with the dead began. As he learnt of the money involved in transporting bodies to their home countries, the lengthy procedures, and the large amount of paperwork, he decided to dedicate a significant amount of his time to helping those in similar situations.

Until December 2016, Mr. Ashraf is said to have helped transport 3,886 bodies to 38 countries. Transportation to India is one of the most expensive, he said. This is because Indian airlines charge per kilogram of weight of the body, which often ends up becoming a huge financial burden on the grieving families.

“What if it is a poor worker here? Their families will have to contact around 16 departments and pay hefty airline charge,” he said, advocating for government intervention on this.

Though often perceived as morbid, his family is completely in support of what he is doing, Mr. Ashraf said, making it clear that he will continue to remain a call away for those who want his help at one of the most difficult times of their lives.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Bengaluru / by K. C. Deepika / Bengaluru – January 09th, 2017

Awarding PIOs in recognition of their services


President Pranab Mukherjee honours Dr. Antonio Costa, Portugal Prime Minister, who received the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, as Suriname Vice-President Michael Ashwin Adhin and Union Minister V.K. Singh look on, in Bengaluru on Monday. | Photo Credit: G R N SOMASHEKAR;G R N SOMASHEKAR -
President Pranab Mukherjee honours Dr. Antonio Costa, Portugal Prime Minister, who received the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, as Suriname Vice-President Michael Ashwin Adhin and Union Minister V.K. Singh look on, in Bengaluru on Monday. | Photo Credit: G R N SOMASHEKAR;G R N SOMASHEKAR –

Winners of Pravasi Samman Awards include Portugal Prime Minister Dr. Antonio Costa

Her son was three years old when she realised that there was no school she could send him to. British and American schools were too expensive and she didn’t want to send him to a local school.

That prompted Zeenat Jafri to start the second Indian school in Saudi ArabiaInternational Indian School — in 1982 with her husband. She was among the 30 people feted for her achievement on Monday during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, when the Pravasi Samman Awards were given away by President Pranab Mukherjee.

The 64-year-old MBA graduate from Bhopal, who was given the award for her contribution to the field of education, said she started the school from her house, gradually scaling it up   to now educate 12,000 people.

Another person of Indian origin who was recognised with the award was Ariful Islam, coordinator and nodal point in the Embassy of India in Libya.

The electrical engineer relocated from India to Libya in 1980 following a pact between the two nations. He has seen his adopted country go through the worst of times, but continues to live there alone, though his family has moved back to Aligarh. “I have spent half my life there. We have successfully rescued many Indians,” he said.

The rescuer

The most recent episode he was involved was in the rescue of three abducted Indians from the IS in a dramatic operation in 2016 from the deep Libyan deserts.

Among the organisations that were awarded were the Singapore Indian Association in the category of community service.

The event saw double the number of awardees as it was being held after an interval of two years.

Among the other prominent winners of the award were Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Luis Santos da Costa, Labour Member of the European Parliament representing the West Midlands Neena Gill, British politician Priti Patel and Mauritius Minister of Finance and Economic Development Pravind Kumar Jugnauth.

Nisha Desai Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs in the United States Department of State, who was also among the 30 awardees, said persons of Indian origin, who were building bridges and connecting in an “increasingly divided world,” retained strong ties with India, she said.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> National / by K.C. Deepika / Bengaluru – January 10th, 2017

Ariful Islam

Aligarh, UTTAR PRADESH / Benghazi, LIBYA :


Libya :

Mr. Ariful Islam resides in Benghazi, the second largest city of Libya.

Mr. Islam has been providing selfless service to Indians in Libya and has been instrumental in building trust between the Libyans and Indians.

Mr. Islam helped during the evacuation of Indian nationals from Libya during the civil unrest in 2011 and was amongst the last to leave from Libya.

His assistance in extricating Indian nationals from the eastern region was invaluable and was appreciated and recognized by Indian as well as the Libyan authorities.

He facilitated repatriating 287 Indian citizens from Benghazi by ship to Malta in August 2014.

He again helped the Mission in December 2014 January and February 2015 to evacuate subsequent batches of Indian nurses from Benghazi and arranged for their safe passage till Labrak airport, about 250 km from Benghazi, while the security situation was very fragile.

Although, he does not have active business now due to the civil war like situation and continuous fighting in Benghazi, he returned to Libya to assist in the evacuation of our nationals and to attend to other consular matters of our citizens and to follow up with the local authorities.

source: / Pravasi Bharatiya Divas / Home> Profile of Awardees / 07-09 January 2017, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India

School for expats in Saudi Arabia wins Muslim woman top award


Zeenat Mussarat Jafri with her sons at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Bengaluru on Monday
Zeenat Mussarat Jafri with her sons at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Bengaluru on Monday

Bengaluru :

“A Muslim from Saudi Arabia being recognized and awarded by the BJP government. This is India.” This is how Syed Mohsin rejoiced when his mother was conferred the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman  017 in Bengaluru on Monday.

Zeenat Mussarat Jafri, 65, was given the award by President Pranab Mukherjee for providing quality education to children of Indian expatriates in Saudi Arabia. She started the first Indian school in Riyadh in 1982. “My mother is also the first woman of Indian origin from Saudi Arabia to get the Pravasi Samman,” Mohsin’s elder brother Syed Mudassir told TOI.

A native of Lucknow and a former teacher at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Zeenat went to Saudi Arabia in 1979 with her husband Musarrat Jafri, a former DRDO scientist who later joined the Saudi government as a chemical expert.

Zeenat said: “I was moved by the plight of Indians living in Riyadh. Most of them had left their children behind in India because of a lack of educational opportunities. We wanted to do something and that’s when we met Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi when she visited Riyadh in 1982. We requested her to speak to Saudi authorities and get permission to start a school for Indian children. We got the green signal.”

Zeenat established the International Indian School in Riyadh from the family’s savings. From the first batch of 20 students in 1982, the school now has 12,000 students and is affiliated to CBSE. “I get angry when people pull their children out of schools. I want them to complete graduation,” said Zeenat, who is running the school for the past four decades.

But what’s more Indian about Zeenat and her husband Jafri is that they haven’t given up their Indian citizenship.Since Saudi Arabia does not allow for dual citizenship, they have accepted permanent resident status. “I am an Indian and I will always be an Indian,” she said.

source: / The Times of India / News> City News> Bangalore News / by Rakesh Prakash / TNN / January 10th, 2017