It has been decades since India was a land of kings, kingdoms and royalty. While the Privy Purse, which granted privileges to the royal families of erstwhile princely states was abolished in 1971, the wealth and lineage of these families continues to, arguably, live on.
One such claim to a royal lineage has emerged from Hyderabad. Prince Yakub Habeebuddin Tucy, a self-proclaimed descendant of Bahadur Shah Zafar, has staked claim to the controversial Babri Masjid site.
Addressing the media in Lucknow on Tuesday, the 42-year-old said that he had sent an application to the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board, seeking mutawwali (caretaker-ship) of the site.
If you watch the video below from 4:30, Yakub, dressed in princely attire, says, “I told the Sunni Wakf board that you make me the caretaker, and I will take decisions regarding my property.”
He adds that he would wait for a response from the Wakf board till November 15, after which he will move to Supreme Court. “This is not the first time I am staking claim of mutawwali-ship to my ancestors' property. A civil court in Hyderabad also acknowledged my lineage and the Wakf board should adhere to my application," he said.
Speaking to news channel National Voice, Yakub points out that according to law, the Sunni Wakf Board cannot directly manage a property and there has to a caretaker and a committee. “They should declare me the muttawali immediately, I have given them a 15-day notice,” he says.
When asked about the proof of his lineage, Yakub says he has a court decree which declares him and his family the heirs of Bahadur Shah Zafar, and there is also a DNA test to prove the same. “If someone doesn’t agree, it is contempt of court,” he notes.
Yakub’s claim to Babri Masjid site comes at a time when the matter on the disputed land is being heard in the Supreme Court, with the next hearing scheduled for December 5.
In news interviews, Yakub has said that by taking over as the caretaker of the site, he wants for the Ramjanmbhoomi issue to be resolved amicably between Hindus and Muslims.
He also told the media that he would be going to Ayodhya to get the pulse of what both Hindus and Muslims living there want. “We will take their wishes into consideration and then sit down with religious leaders. We will try to come up with a solution that will ensure that India’s mohabbat (love) remains intact, inshallah,” he told Times Now.
This is not the first time Yakub has made news for claiming ownership on an ‘ancestral’ site. In 2005, he had also staked claim to the Taj Mahal as the last living descendant Bahadur Shah Zafar and Mughals.
When asked why he didn’t claim ownership to the Taj if it was indeed his inheritance, he told Nona Walia from TOI that the “ASI takes care of the Taj and I was happy with that. But then, when a person called Irfan Bedar of Agra, who has nothing to do with my royal lineage laid claim to the Taj, I felt annoyed.”
Yakub added that if the Taj’s ownership was to be transferred at all, it should be to him as the direct descendant of Shah Jahan, on whose direction the monument was built.
He also reportedly introduced himself as "the second son Yaqub Arifuddin Tucy, who is the son of Laila Ummani, a great-granddaughter of Bahadur Shah Zafar, who had 49 sons and daughters. Thereby, I'm the great-great grandson of Bahadur Shah Zafar.”
Image courtesy: Prince Yakub - Screenshot/YouTube, Babri Masjid - file photo