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Mirza Mughal (1817 – 1857) was the fifth son of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor. His mother, Sharif-ul-Mahal Sayyidini, came from an aristocratic family that claimed descent from the prophet Muhammad.

Following the death in 1856 of his elder brother Mirza Fakhru, Mirza Mughal became the eldest surviving legitimately born son of Bahadur Shah Zafar. However, the British refused to recognize anybody as heir to the throne of Delhi, and indicated that the monarchy would be abolished following Zafar's death.

War of 1857

In May 1857, sepoys of the British Indian army rebelled against their British officers and streamed into Delhi. A few days later, Mirza Mughal and some of his half-brothers petitioned their father to be appointed in charge of the rebel troops. Their plea was initially refused but later granted, and Mirza Mughal was designated commander-in-chief. Mirza Mughal had had no training or experience for his new office; however, he energetically sought to organize the troops, make arrangements for their billeting and provisioning, and bring a semblance of order to the edgy city. His inexperience soon became apparent, and he was upstaged a few week later by the arrival, at the head of a large force from Bareilly, of Bakht Khan, a former officer in the British army, who had earned a fine reputation during the Afghan wars. Shortly after his arrival, the emperor appointed Bakht Khan commander-in-chief and left Mirza Mughal in charge of supplies. A few weeks later, following another reshuffle of offices, Mirza Mughal was given charge of administering the city of Delhi.

Death

Following the failure of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the last Moghul Emperor, Bahadur Shah II, was captured by Major Hodson at his camp at Humayun’s Tomb, just outside Delhi. Mirza Mughal and two other Mughul princes were with the Emperor (another son, Mirza Khizr Sultan, and a grandson, Mirza Abu Bakr) and they refused to surrender. The next day, Hodson went back to the camp with one hundred horsemen and demanded the three princes' unconditional surrender. A crowd of thousands of rebels gathered, and Hodson ordered them to disarm, which they did. He sent the princes ahead with an escort of ten men, while with his remaining ninety men he collected the arms of the crowd.

On going after the princes, Hodson found the crowd was again pressing towards the escort. The princes were mounted on a bullock-cart and driven towards the city. As they approached the city gate, Hodson ordered the three princes to get off the cart and to strip naked. He then shot them dead, before stripping the princes of their signet rings, turquoise arm-bands and bejewelled swords. Their bodies were thrown in front of a kotwali, or police-station, and left there to be seen by all. The gate near which the executions were performed is called the Khooni Darwaza, or Bloody Gate.

References

  • William Dalrymple, The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857 published by Penguin, 2006)
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