The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tenant nawab in Rs 2,000 defence
- Sister claims right to use estate

It’s a googly worthy of a man who captained India’s legendary spin quartet. In his property dispute with sister Sabiha Sultan, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi’s logic is: he can’t let her in because the palace isn’t his.

The former India skipper today told a local court he was merely a tenant at Flag Staff House ' where his maternal grandfather Hamidullah Khan, the late Nawab of Bhopal, lived ' paying a monthly rent of Rs 2,000. He does not have the right to let anyone else stay there.

So who does he pay the rent to' The tenancy papers Pataudi’s counsel, Akhtar Saeed Khan, placed before the court had the answer: his grandmother, the Begum of Bhopal, who has been dead for years.

The wrangle is the latest in a series of squabbles involving royal houses with ties to cricket. The Gaekwads ' who produced India captain Dattajirao and Test batsman Angshuman ' are fighting over the Rs 3,500-crore Laxmi Vilas palace, spread over 700 acres in the heart of Vadodara.

Jyotiraditya Scindia ' whose late father Madhavrao was Indian cricket board chief ' is pitted against his three aunts: Vasundhara Raje (the Rajasthan chief minister), Usha Raje and Yashodhara Raje. The prize: prime properties in Mumbai.

The Bhopal royal family has been locked for decades in a legal battle over the entire property ' including 23 prime ones worth hundreds of crores ' that belonged to the late Nawab.

The sonless Hamidullah, who died in 1960, left behind three daughters ' Abida, Sajida and Rabia. Since Abida, mother of former Pakistan foreign secretary Shaharyar Khan, had already emigrated to Pakistan, Pataudi’s mother Sajida was declared successor to the title and property.

The sons of Hamidullah’s brothers weighed in with a wave of litigation, arguing that the Muslim law of inheritance provides for a hefty share for paternal nephews. Most of the cases are pending in Jabalpur High Court, which has stayed any buying or selling of the property.

Now Sabiha has moved court after Pataudi barred her from Flag Staff. She argues she has a right to stay there as Sajida’s daughter. Earlier, whenever she and her husband travelled to Bhopal from their home in Hyderabad, they would stay at the mansion.

“All of a sudden, Nawab Pataudi said you can’t stay,” she said.

“I filed a suit claiming that as per Muslim law, Nawab Pataudi gets half of the property and his two sisters get one-fourth each,” Sabiha’s counsel said. “Till the property is divided, every co-owner has the right to use it.”

“Where is the question of settling property when the high court has' (ordered) status quo'” Pataudi’s counsel told The Telegraph.

Pataudi is no stranger to sister trouble, though. Faiza Sultan, daughter of his youngest aunt Rabia, was deported from Bhopal last year after trying to get a finger in the property pie.

Faiza, a Pakistani, was on a visit with husband Sardar Akbar Khan and their two sons. Before being bundled out of the country, the Sardar pointed fingers at “someone politically influential” for the “forced deportation”.

He had said his wife had a “rightful claim” to vast tracts of land at Koh-e-Fiza, Khanugaon, Chicklod and Firdaus Farm, all once owned by Hamidullah. The Sardar also alleged that Pataudi was violating his mother’s undertaking to a court by selling off parts of the land in collusion with some local builders. Pataudi’s lawyer denies the charge.

The average Bhopali, watching from the sidelines, isn’t amused. “The Nawab (Hamidullah) built schools, hospitals and mosques. His descendants would sell them off too if they could,” said Fatehullah, a man who claimed to have served at Flag Staff.

Another resident, Azizullah, wondered why Pataudi was barring his sister from a palace whose only occupants are the dozens of servants. “Perhaps he is afraid she will refuse to leave and stake a claim,” he said.

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