Saturday, July 1, 2000

How Hyderabad’s Last Premier Fled

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad -59

How Hyderabad’s Last Premier Fled
By Narendra Luther

Most of us have heard the story of the ingenious escape of Sivaji from Aurangzeb’s captivity in 1666. We also tend to believe that such a thing could only happen in the distant past.

But the story of the dramatic escape of the last Prime Minister of Hyderabad from house arrest in 1950 is equally, if not more, interesting. It was a plot brilliantly conceived and superbly executed. It embarrassed the government acutely and amused the rest of the world.

Laik Ali

Mir Laik Ali was the last Prime Minister of Hyderabad. He was appointed on 1st December 1947. He was an engineer who had become an industrialist. At the time of his appointment, he was the Representative of Pakistan in the United Nations.

After the Police Action, in September 1948, he was put under house arrest at Begumpet where Amruta Mall now stands.

Time passed. India promulgated its new Constitution on 26th January 1950. He expected to be released then, but nothing happened. His wife and sister along with some friends then prepared a plan. An advocate, Abdul Quvi made frequent visits to Pakistan and prepared the necessary documents for his escape to Pakistan.

‘Illness’ of Laik Ali

Though police guard was kept at his house, Laik Ali’s family including his wife was free to come and go. The ladies used to come in car, which had purdah on the windows according to the custom of those days. Every time the car went out of the house, a female guard used to look into it to check who was inside. In course of time the security became lax because it was mostly Mrs. Laik Ali who was coming in or going out.

One day Mrs. Laik Ali announced that her husband had been taken ill. From then on Laik Ali started behaving like a sick man while his wife started making frantic trips to consult his physician and to bring medicines. Her assumed nervousness and the flurry of traffic made the illness known to everybody including the guards within the house and at the gate. This went on for about a fortnight and even the guards started making inquiries about their important detainee.

Meanwhile it was announced that a marriage was about to be celebrated in the house of one of the relatives of Laik Ali. A lorry came and carried utensils and other things from the house. The lambadas started coming daily and performing dance. They were given tips on behalf of Laik Ali and often some sweets were also distributed. That provided welcome diversion to the guards.

The Purdah Car

On the morning of 3rd March 1950 the maid called for the car saying that the Begum was ready to go the doctor. When the car pulled in under the portico, Laik Ali quietly slipped in. The unsuspecting guards were on the other side. Some pillows had been so arranged in his bed as to give the impression that the patient was lying under the sheet. Mrs. Laik Ali hid herself in the upper portion of the house. Laik Ali drove straight to his sister’s house. From there, he drove away to the house of Abdul Quvi I another car. The original car then returned to the house and the maid casually announced that her mistress had come back with medicines. Mrs. Laik Ali then emerged from her hiding place and went to her husband’s bedroom. She addressed the covered pillows and told them that the physician had changed the medicines. She then pretended to administer the medicine to the patient. The female sleuth posted at the window did not take any notice of that.

A taxi with curtains was waiting at the residence of Abdul Quvi. Laik Ali and his sister’s son joined him and the threesome drove towards Gulbarga. After they got out of the city, the curtains were drawn and Laik Ali had a look at the countryside for the last time.

A four-berth first class compartment had been booked in the train at Secunderabad with instructions that the passengers would board at Gulbarga. Though there were only three passengers, it was thought prudent to reserve the entire compartment so that nobody else entered the compartment.

The party offered prayers at the shrine of the saint of Gulbarga and then proceeded to the railway station. The train took them to Bombay early in the morning. After bath and breakfast, they left for the airport. Laik Ali flew under the name of Gulam Ahmed.

Police chief pushes the car

Back in Hyderabad, for two days the charade was kept up. Mrs. Laik Ali kept on administering medicines to the pillows. Groups of Holi revellers came and were given tips on behalf of the ‘ailing’ ex-premier. On the next day, Mrs. Laik Ali made a number of neat bundles of currency notes. She gave them to her old trust Arab servant with instructions that they should be disbursed to the named servants on Sunday. She then drove to her brother’s house. From there she went to the airport in a purdah car to catch the flight o Bombay. Just short of the airport, the car broke down. The driver got down to pushes it. From behind came the car of the Inspector General of Police, Jetley. Noticing a purdah car stalled, the chivalrous police chief got down to give it a push!

As Laik Ali boarded the flight to Karachi, his family took the boat ‘S.S.Sabarmati’ to Karachi

The first news about the escape came from Radio Pakistan. It announced that Laik Ali attended a reception at the India House. Sri Prakasa who was the High Commissioner of India in Pakistan rang up the then Home Minister of India, Sardar Patel to ask whether Laik Ali had been released. Patel said no and then checked with Hyderabad. It was only then that the administration came to know what a hoax had been played on them.

Case against Shoukatunissa

The Government initiated action against the negligent officials. A case for abetting the escape was also filed against Laik Ali’s sister, Shoukatunissa Begum. However the court held that since the Hyderabad Public Safety and public Interest Regulation and the Hyderabad Penal Code under which Laik Ali had been detained had lapsed after the promulgation of the Constitution of India, the detention itself was illegal. There could therefore be no abetment to a non-existent offence. She along with other accused was acquitted.

Laik Ali expired in New York during his Morning Prayer on 24th October 1970. His body was brought to Madina and laid to rest there.

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