Last Mughal emperor's descendants to be traced
A trust has been launched to bring back the remains of India's last Mughal emperor and to trace his descendants, many of whom are believed to be living in poverty.
Calls for Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar's body to be returned to India and to be buried along with those of his royal ancestors have steadily grown since 2007's 150th anniversary of the Indian mutiny – when "sepoys" in British army regiments massacred their officers.
The rebellion was eventually put down with great brutality in a series of bloody battles and Bahadur Shah Zafar was sent into exile in Rangoon, Burma, where he died.
Although he has been described as the "Last Mughal", there have been numerous claims from alleged descendants that Zafar's lineage continues to this day. Now a powerful trust, including influential Muslim academics, businessmen and one of India's leading Urdu poets have joined forces to establish how many Mughals remain, and seek the return of the last emperor.
Professor Aslam Pervez, an historian of Zafar's reign and a founding member of the Mughal Trust, last night told The Daily Telegraph its main aim was not simply to reunite the remaining Mughal royals, but to bring back the last Mughal to Delhi.
"There is a move that we should bring back his last remains from Rangoon and make a grave for him here in Delhi, at Mehrauli, where his father and grandfather are buried.
Many are believed to have fled to Calcutta, where 70 descendants have been traced by the trust, and Aurangabad where a further 200 are believed to live. Others are believed to be living in Pakistan and Burma.
Some of them are living in considerable poverty. One woman, Sultana Begum, who claims to be the widow of Mirza Mohammed Bedad Baqht, Zafar's great-grandson, offers a 400 Rupee (£5.40) a month state pension as evidence.
She had run a street tea stand until her husband's death, and now occasionally makes stone bangles for 25 Rupees a day (33 pence). It's a far cry from the riches of an empire which once stretched from Afghanistan to what is today Bangladesh.
The trust's founder, Mohammed Shahid Khan, has raised £40,000 to trace Zafar's descendants and complete the modern Mughal family tree. When it's completed, the trust will lobby the government to "rehabilitate" them.
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