Friday, March 1, 1996

Musa Ram or Musa Rahim

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad - 11 :

Musa Ram or Musa Rahim
by Narendra Luther

Late in the 18th century, French mercenary soldiers were very spectacular rise of the French general, Bussy, in the Deccan. With a handful of men he routed armies ten times larger than his. That was because his troops were well-trained, disciplined and motivated, which in turn, was due to regular payment of salaries to them. On the other hand, the Indian soldiery was always in arrears of pay and consequently their morale was low.

A romantic French soldier of fortune came to India in 1775. His name was Michel Joachim Marie Raymond. He was barely twenty when his father, who was a merchant in France, sent him to Pondicherry with a consignment of goods to sell. Having made some profit in the deal, Raymond decided to start on a career of adventure. He therefore joined the corps of General de Lasse serving under Hyder Ali of Mysore. From there he moved on to join Bussy when he returned to India in 1783. On Bussy's death two years later, Raymond joined the French force under Basalat Jung, the Nizam's brother who had a jagir at Guntur. When the English compelled Basalat Jung to dismiss this corps, it was taken over by the Nizam and Raymond was placed at its head despite the protest by the English. By 1795, the corps had grown into an army of 15,000 men formed into 20 battalions and officered by 124 Europeans. Raymond was given a jagir in Medak to enable him to pay the salaries of the force regularly - the main reason for its high state of efficiency. Raymond made it self-sufficient in every respect. He established a gun foundry at Hyderabad to manufacture his own guns. Its ruins can still be seen in the locality with the name of `Gun Foundry' near the Fateh Maidan. The Nizam depended heavily on this force and because of this he was confident of tackling the Marathas, who were a constant source of harassment to him.

The battle of Khadla with the Marathas took place in 1795 midway between the forts of Parenda and Khadla near the river Manjira. The English remained neutral because of the provisions of the Treaty of 1768. Captain Kirkpatrick, the English Resident at Hyderabad, who accompanied the forces to the front, observed neutrality so meticulously that when his opinion was asked for on the strategy and tactics adopted by the Nizam's forces, he refused point-blank to give any comments. The Nizam lost the battle.

The Nizam was very sore with the English for not helping him in this battle and he therefore asked the English force to be withdrawn. This done, the Nizam's reliance on Raymond grew, increasing the latter's influence. He was assigned new jagirs to maintain a larger force.

In 1795, the Nizam's eldest son, Ali Jah fled from Hyderabad and raised the banner of rebellion at Bidar. He achieved some measure of initial success. The Nizam dispatched Raymond to subdue the delinquent prince. Raymond captured the rebel prince easily and the diwan, Mir Alam was sent to bring him home. He was brought on an elephant, but the diwan had the howdah of the elephant covered, a practice adopted only in the case of women. The prince could not stand this implied indignity and committed suicide on the way.

When Raymond was at the height of his powers and had ambitious plans, he suddenly died in 1798. He was then only 43. The British, seizing the opportunity, ordered the disbanding of Raymond's corps.

That needed great care and tact because Raymond had been a very popular leader, and the corps provided well-paid jobs to 15,000 families directly and many more indirectly. When the rank and file came to know of the proposal, they gheraoed Pirron and other officers. A mutiny was likely to break out, with consequent bloodshed. However due to exercise of tact and some luck they surrendered peacefully.

By the next evening, Raymond's legendary `paltan' - platoon - had been demobbed. It was now replaced by the English contingent.

Raymond had became a legend in his own life-time, and as time passed, this legend only grew. He was beloved alike of the ruler and his subjects; he was revered by his soldiers of all faiths because he drilled them, marched them, made men out of pariahs, paid them regularly and led them to victories. Even the mercenaries of the English were drawn towards him because his soldiers were paid one rupee a month more than their counterparts in the English army.

And as often happens in such cases, the name Monsieur Raymond was corrupted by its sheer popularity, into Musa Rahim by the Muslims and Musa Ram by the Hindus. He belonged to all and till this day an annual gathering - an urs - is held at his grave in Asmangarh. Lamps are lighted, flowers offered and tributes are paid by the descendants of his soldiers. Two centuries after his death, the name continues tosurvive. It is assured of immortality because there is now a locality called Moosa Ram Bagh which reminds its inhabitants every day of this plucky French soldier of fortune, who, to fulfill history's design was taken away at the prime of his powers.

However, their reverence for this man has not prevented people of the surrounding areas from encroaching upon the land reserved for the obelisk and the pavilion to commemorate him. Every day Raymond's mausoleum gets hemmed in more and more. Already it is difficult to reach it. The day does not seem to be far when the celebrated soldier will have to make do with just the minimum allowed to a dead-man - six feet by three - so that the living around him can also have a shelter over their heads. There is, after all, a limit to what will be spared for the dead. The living, must live till they die. And then it doesn't matter.


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