Mir Osman Ali Khan Image Credit: Supplied

Hyderabad: A battle royale appears on the cards as 120 descendants of the last Nizam of Hyderabad are ready to challenge in court any move to deny them their due share in £35 million (Dh158.4 million) deposited in a London bank seven decades ago.

With the UK High Court on October 2 ruling in favour of India in the dispute, the focus is on the legal heirs of the seventh Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last ruler of Hyderabad State which acceded to India in 1948.

With some reports suggesting that the money will go to Prince Mukarram Jah Bahadur, the titular eighth Nizam, and his younger brother Muffakham Jah, other descendants of the last Asaf Jahi ruler are gearing up to claim their share.

Najaf Ali Khan, one of the grandsons of Mir Osman Ali Khan, told IANS that it was he who took the initiative to get the money stuck in the bank by digging out old records and holding negotiations.

“If those two grandsons are the only claimants as being claimed, why were they sitting quiet till 2013?” he asked.

He claims that he had a solicitor in London on the case until 2016 but he was persuaded to come under the Nizam Estate to jointly fight the legal battle.

Najaf Ali Khan, who claims to be representing the interests of 120 descendants, said they were party to the agreement between Nizam Estate and the Indian government to jointly fight the case. They were assured that the money will be distributed among all legal heirs of Nizam.

The UK High Court rejected Pakistan’s claim over the funds deposited in a NatWest Bank Plc during Hyderabad’s accession to India in 1948.

After the Partition of India and before the merger of the then Hyderabad state with India, Nizam’s Finance Minister Moin Nawaz Jung had transferred £1 million in the name of then Pakistan High Commissioner in London, H.I. Rahimtoola in the NatWest Bank.

India raised an objection to the transfer, saying the Nizam was not an independent ruler and prevailed upon the bank to freeze the account. Since then, the matter was hanging fire.

The Nizam had refused to accede to India after the country’s Independence on August 15, 1947. He wanted to remain an independent state or join Pakistan. The princely state finally merged with the Indian Union in September 1948 after an operation by the Indian Army.

Pakistan has four weeks to challenge the UK High Court’s ruling. Nizam’s descendants expect some clarity in the case in the next 10 days.

“If the two brothers deny us our share, we will go to court. We will not keep quiet,” said Najaf Ali Khan, son of Prince Hasham Jah Bahadur.

“We will decide after consulting our legal advisers,” he said when asked if they would approach London High Court or a court in India.

Najaf Ali Khan claims that neither the Nizam Trust nor the divorced wife of Mukarram Jah has anything to do with this money.

Najaf Ali Khan claimed that his grandfather never stated that only Mukarram Jah and Muffakham Jah are his two legal heirs. “All his sons, grandsons and granddaughters are his heirs,” said Najaf Ali Khan, who is also president of the Nizam Family Welfare Association.

He said the Nizam used to issue a notification on the birth of his sons and daughters, naming them as his heirs.

Najaf Ali Khan contended if only Mukarram Jah and his brother were the legal heirs, others would not have received the benefits from various trusts formed by Nizam.

He pointed out that all the legal heirs of Nizam got their share in the Rs2.06 billion (Dh106.9 million) received from the government of India in 1995 for the sale of Nizam’s jewellery.

Najaf Ali Khan’s father Hasham Jah Bahadur was one of the 16 sons of Mir Osman Ali Khan. The Nizam also had 18 daughters, of which only one is alive.

Ten of Nizam’s sons and daughters were issueless. He had 104 grandchildren, some of whom have passed away, family sources said.

About 400 family members of the Nizam clan, mostly 5th and 6th generation, are settled in Hyderabad, other parts of India and abroad.

Mir Osman Ali Khan, who ruled Hyderabad State from 1911 to 1948 and was considered the richest man in the world with a fortune of $2 billion.

After Hyderabad State acceded to India, he was appointed Rajpramukh of the state in 1948 and held the administrative post till 1956 when the title was abolished.

Osman Ali Khan had bypassed his eldest son Azam Jah Bahadur, the Prince of Berar, to name the latter’s son Mukarram Jah his successor.

Following Mir Osman Ali Khan’s death in 1967, Mukarram Jah became the titular Nizam.

Mukarram Jah, who turned 85 on October 6, spent most of his life abroad in Australia and Turkey. Married five times, he is said to have lost much of his wealth in divorce settlements.

His cousins find fault with Mukarram Jah for his lavish lifestyle and failing to provide the leadership as the head of the family and get them due recognition.

“He could have done a lot for the family members, many of whom are facing financial problems,” they said.