Also, to counter the ill effects, BJP has roped in Jagat Singh, the controversial son of Natwar Singh, the former union minister and erstwhile Bharatpur Member of Parliament, who himself is no less controversial. Natwar Singh, a former foreign secretary and a man of letters had been alleged to have received kickbacks from Iraq for the “food for oil” programme of the UN. He is also the brother-in-law of Amrinder Singh, former Chief Minister of Punjab and the scion of the royal family of Patiala. He had been expelled from the Congress party and then he joined the BSP. Again he is shown the door by BSP alleging that he is an opportunist. There have also been differing stories about the mysterious deaths of his daughter-in-law and his own daughter which all happened in the recent past. His son Jagat Singh has many controversies surrounding him.
All the above may be just some more pages from the power-hungry politics we observe practiced in India. But, the history of Bharatpur has more such interesting and shocking episodes.
Bharatpur or Bhurtpore, as the English called it, was once a native state under Rajputana agency which is the present day Rajasthan. Bharatpur, in Rajasthan is situated 50 km west of Agra.
The Bhurtpore fort built by Suraj Mal was intended as a point of resistance against the British. The English under Lord Lake captured the fort of Dieg and besieged Bharatpur, but were compelled to raise the siege after four attempts at storming the fort. A treaty was concluded in April 1805 which guaranteed the raja's territory; but he was to pay two lakhs of British pounds as indemnity to the East India Company. A dispute as to the right of the succession again led to a war in 1825, and Lord Combermere captured Bharatpur with a besieging force of 20,000 men in January 1826. The fortifications were dismantled and the Rajah was deported to Benares. There were heavy causalities on both the sides. An infant son of the raja was then installed under a treaty which was much in favour of the company.
The army of India medal issued by the honourable East India Company for the siege of Bhurtpore (1825-6) bears the clasp Bhurtpore and is a collector’s item which brings back the memories of a great chapter in Indian history.
Ram Singh was succeeded by his infant son Kishan Singh whose eccentricities and extravagance were legion. He reigned under his regency of his mother till invested with full ruling powers in 1918. He was a spendthrift who literally plundered the bourses of his state by spending 8 million rupees, more than twice revenue of Bharatpur of the 1920s. He amassed over 30 Rolls Royces as Maharajah, all custom-made. He had over dozens of custom-built Purdy rifles and a stable for many thoroughbred Arabian ponies. He also reportedly had a private jazz band always in attendance. He was fond of hunting and bought many lions, elephants, leopards and others at astronomical prices and released these into the Bharatpur jungles. All these actions, coupled with allegations of his gross misrule led to his deposition in the 1920s and he died in exile in 1929.
Brajendra Singh, who was the eldest son of Kishan Singh, was a minor, studying in England, when his father was deposed. Till 1939, Bharatpur was administered by Cyril Hancock, the British Resident, and then Brajendra Singh aged 21 took over. He was indeed one of the most colourful maharajahs of the 20th century. He was a good hunter, and hosted duck shoots for the Viceroys and other dignitaries at the famous Keolado Ghana marsh in Bharatpur. He converted this into one of the world's richest bird sanctuaries. Reportedly, the number of birds, mostly ducks, killed during the shoots he hosted exceeded 100000 at times and never went below 20000.
Brajendra Singh who was by reputation quietly eccentric and temperamental became an MP for Bharatpur (1967-71) after independence. Later, he was also elected to Rajasthan's state assembly (1972-73) but resigned a year later, retiring to his stately mansion before his death in 1995. He helped develop the Ghana sanctuary which is now a world heritage sanctuary spread over 29 square kilometers. Today, more than hundred species of birds including the seasonal Siberian cranes could be seen here despite its earlier notoriety as the killing fields of birds.
Vishvendra Singh, about whom we read in the first part of this post, is the son of Brajendra Singh and is technically the present Maharajah. Some fine legacies indeed!
Dubai, 20th November 2008.