“Kitna hai baddnaseeb Zaffar daffn kei liye,
Do gazz zameen bhi na milie kooye yaar mein.”
(Bahadur Shah Zaffar, the last Moghul King of India, (1775-1862); exiled by the British to Rangoon in 1858 after the failure of the revolt of 1857; lines written from exile, and translating somewhat as follows):
“How ill-fated Zaffar,
Denied two yards of ground
For burial back in native soil,
Among native sight and sound.”
Zaffar, who knew only India for home, was exiled by the British imperialists at age 83. Since Moslems and Hindus had equally acknowledged his legitimacy and rallied against the colonial power under his uncontested leadership, the British were only too right to think that letting him return home would thwart the new imperial policy of divide and rule.
Thus it came to be that one who had been king was denied six feet of ground for internment in the only earth of his love.
A century and a half later, another iconic Indian, and a monarch in his own right, the renowned painter, Maqbool Fida Husain, has had to exile himself at a still more advanced age, driven this time not by some imperial power from the outside but by self-appointed “cultural nationalists” at home.