A royal scandal
n January 12, 1925, there was regular traffic on Malabar Hill, then the most affluent area of Bombay. Abdul Kadir Bawla, along with his manager, Mathew, and a woman passenger, was driving along the road. Suddenly, a car bumped into them. Seven armed men got out, surrounded them, and tried to kidnap the woman. When Bawla tried to protect the woman, he was shot dead; the woman got severe knife injuries on her face and screamed for help. Suddenly, another car drove up, and three officers of the British Indian Army came to the rescue. They overpowered the kidnappers and handed them over to the police. The woman gave testimony in court and it turned out to be a royal scandal! Her name was Mumtaz Begum, and she was a Muslim danseuse in the harem of Maharaja Tukojirao Holkar III of Indore. After ten years of slavery, the 25-year-old Mumtaz managed to escape and reached Bombay. She sought refuge with Abdul Kadir Bawla and started living with him. The Maharaja saw his paramour’s escape as an affront to his royal dignity, and a conspiracy was hatched to bring her back to Indore and avenge the insult. But their plan was foiled, with consequences for all concerned. The attackers were found guilty, some sentenced to death. The Maharaja was forced to abdicate in favour of his son.
In the Malabar Hill Murder case, the defense attorney for the Maharaja’s brigade of assassins was a famous lawyer whose residence on Malabar Hill was near the site of the murder. It was recorded that the lawyer tried his best to defend the Maharaja and his minions; he managed to appeal to the privy council, where the case was dismissed. In today’s Hindutva-obsessed India, it is doubtful whether anyone would care to see the irony in the fact that the lawyer who defended the honour of Hindu royalty accused of exploiting a Muslim woman would later become the founding father of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah.