Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Civil Servant to Prime Minister

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad

Civil Servant to Prime Minister
By Narendra Luther

Of the 40 Prime Ministers who served the Nizams of Hyderabad, only three were from outside the State. Out of them only one – Akbar Hydari -- was a civil servant in British India.

He was born in 1869 to Seth Nazar Ali Hydari, a Suleimani Bohra businessman of Bombay. His mother was the sister of Badruddin Tayabji, a judge of the Bombay High Court, who later became the president of the Indian National Congress at its third session in Madras in 1887.

Appointment in Hyderabad

After his graduation, Akbar joined the Finance Department of the Government of India and served at Nagpur, Lahore, Alahabad, Bombay, and Madras. In 1905 he was deputed to Hyderabad as Accountant General. Two years later, he was promoted as Finance Secretary. In 1911 he became Home Secretary.

He stayed in what is now called Dilkusha Guest House and is located next to the Raj Bhavan. This building overlooked the Hussain Sagar Lake and had a beautiful rock garden at the back.

Akbar Hydari was responsible for the establishment of the Osmania University in 1918. It was the first university in which the medium of instruction was an Indian language -- Urdu. Beside the University he also had the High Court building constructed. He also established the State Archeology Department which undertook the preservation of many archaeological remains in the State.

He became a Minister in 1921 and held successively the portfolios of Finance, Home and Railways. A landmark reform — first in India -- the separation of judiciary from the executive was effected in Hyderabad in 1922. The Hyderabad Civil Service was established on the pattern of the Indian Civil Service in British India. An Industrial Trust Fund was created for the industrialization of the State. The first public sector unit – Road Transport -- was established in Hyderabad. In 1928 he was knighted and was thereafter known as Sir Akbar Hydari. He was also made a Privy Councilor He represented Hyderabad in three Round Table Conferences in London from 1930 onwards.

The Nizam’s two sons, the Prince of Barar and the Junior Prince were married to the daughter and niece respectively of the deposed Caliph of Turkey on 12th November, 1931 in Nice in France. The Nizam did not attend the joint wedding. Sir Akbar led the delegation comprising the grooms’ party.

As Premier

Sir Akbar Hydari succeeded Maharaja Kishen Pershad as Prime Minister in 1936. The decade of 30’s was a difficult period in the history of Hyderabad. As in the rest of India, political consciousness had risen to new heights. There was demand for responsible and representative government by the people at large. The Arya Samaj and the Hindu Maha Sabha had started agitation against the Nizam. The Indian National Congress was banned even before its establishment in 1938. That led to a good deal of correspondence between Sir Akbar Hydari and Mahatma Gandhi on the subject of political reforms in the State. In spite of their different political standpoints, which could not be reconciled, their correspondence was polite and charming. In one of his letters Mahatma Gandhi enquired about the health of Lady Hydari. In reply, Sir Akbar informed him that Jagadguru Shankaracharya was treating her. In the issue of 17 September 1938 of the Harijan, Mahatma Gandhi referred to Sir Akbar as ‘a great educationist.... and a philosopher...’.

The Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Musalmeen declared in 1938 that in Hyderabad sovereignty belonged to the Muslims community. The Nizam was merely its symbol.

Sir Akbar naturally did not feel at ease in the atmosphere of clashing views and aggressive declarations.

After five years as Prime Minister, his relations with the Nizam seemed to have cooled off. One reason for that was that Akbar could not get the Berar back to the Nizam. In 1941 he was appointed a member of the Executive Council of the Viceroy. The Nizam gave him the title of Hyder Nawaz Jung and relieved him. He was not very happy at going to Delhi. Soon after going to Delhi, he passed away in 1942. His body was brought back to Hyderabad and buried in the Bohra graveyard in Hussaini Alam.

He was a kind person and very simple in his habits. He made people feel at ease with him. On the death of his brother, he adopted his three children and brought them up as his own.

He was a devout Muslim but many people have testified to his broad, liberal outlook. His house was somewhat of a cultural centre and artists and writers used to visit it frequently. Ravi Shankar’s elder brother, Uday Shankar came and stayed with him.

He offered his farmland in Shamsabad for housing the Aurobindo Ashram, which was later established at Pondicherry

In order to facilitate instruction in Urdu in the Osmania University, a Bureau of Translation was established and many men of letters from all over India were appointed to translate important books from other languages into Urdu. One such person was the great poet Josh Malihabadi. Josh records in his autobiography that when he was presented to Hydari, Josh made an insolent remark about him. However, later when Josh was dismissed from service due to Nizam’s displeasure, Sir Akbar, ignoring the incident, sanctioned a pension of 1000 rupees a month to him.

Once, when the agitating students of the University marched to his residence, he arranged refreshments for them and thus cooled their tempers.

Lady Hydari was a woman of substance. She was involved n social service and was awarded the Kaiser e- Hind medal for her work during the Floods of the Musi in 1908. The Lady Hydari Club for women commemorates her. She passed away in 1940.

His Hobbies

Sir Akbar had two interests. He used to have boxing sessions with an American physical instructor Weber and the children found it quite amusing to see the burly American with the somewhat puny minister punching each other. His other hobby was collection of miniature paintings. He willed them to the Prince Albert Museum in Bombay, and the State Archaeological Museum at Hyderabad, which he had himself founded. Such of those as were not taken by either of these were given to his children.

He had four sons and two daughters. One of his sons -- his namesake -- rose to be the Governor of Assam. His adoptive daughter, Laila’s son, I.H. Latif became successively, Chief of Staff of the Indian Air Force, governor, and ambassador. His wife Bilkees, stepdaughter of Sir Akbar’s son, Ali has some of the miniature paintings and pieces of exquisitely carved furniture – mementos from a bygone era. And of course lots of fond memories.

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Vivek said...

This account of Sir Akbar Hydari is very interesting. Until I read it I was not aware that the Governor of Assam who signed the Nagaland Accord was not he, but his son, who had the same name.

It would be interesting to see a family tree of the Hydaris and the Tyabjis, showing the alliances that were forged between these two important families.

I remember reading somewhere that the Golconde guest house at Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, is so named in gratitude for the funding by Sir Akbar to build it. Designed by Anotnin Raymond, it is possibly the first work of architecture in the so-called International Style to be built in India.

Mahirzz said...

Indeed a brilliant work on Sir Mohammed Akbar Hydari. I'm a community geneaologist, but in reality such details are often skipped while building gridlined family trees. With all pleasure, you can view the family tree's of the inter-married Hydari, Tyabji, Futehally, Latifi, Ahmedi, Mohamedi, Lukmani & Abdul Ali Families on the following link.;i=2881

abhishek said...

I had the opprtunity to meet his grand daughter Aditi Rao Hydari. She is an actress and has starred in a Hindi film recently called Delhi 6.

It would be interesting to touch base. you could reach me on

Vivek said...


Regarding Aditi Rao Hydari, I think you are out by one or two generations. She is the great grand-daughter of the second Sir Akbar (i.e. the Governor of Assam).

Her maternal gradmother is the renowned writer Shanta Rameshwar Rao (not to be confused with Santha Rama Rau).

Amena Jayal said...

Correction, Vivek! Aditi Rao Hydari is not the great grand-daughter of my father, the second Sir Akbar Hydari, (i.e the Governor of Assam). Aditi is the his brother Iqbal's son, Ahsan, and the great granddaughter of the first Sir Akbar.

Amena Jayal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amena Jayal said...
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Unknown said...

Thank you for the correction, Amena. I had in fact wanted to double-check, but the Hydari Family Tree that I had stumbled upon on the internet just a couple of months earlier, had by then been withdrawn from the public domain. I got there while checking out the marital alliances between the Akbari, Tyabji and Futehally clans.

Unknown said...

For some mysterious reason, in the response to Amena Jayal's correction, my name is appearing as "Anonymous".