Destitute ‘heir’ of India’s emperors demands royal residence

Sultana Begum works on a garment inside her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
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Sultana Begum works on a garment inside her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
Sultana Begum reacts while holding a picture of last Mughal Emperor of India Bahadur Shah Zafar in her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
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Sultana Begum reacts while holding a picture of last Mughal Emperor of India Bahadur Shah Zafar in her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
In this picture taken on December 22, 2201, Sultana Begum reacts while talking in her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
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In this picture taken on December 22, 2201, Sultana Begum reacts while talking in her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
In this picture taken on December 22, 2201, Sultana Begum walks by an alley in the locality she lives in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
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In this picture taken on December 22, 2201, Sultana Begum walks by an alley in the locality she lives in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)
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Updated 30 December 2021

Destitute ‘heir’ of India’s emperors demands royal residence

Destitute ‘heir’ of India’s emperors demands royal residence
  • Sultana Begum's case rests on her claim that her late husband’s lineage can be traced to Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last emperor to reign
  • After a massive rebellion blamed on an already frail Zafar in the 1850s, British forces executed 10 of the ruler's surviving sons despite the royal family’s surrender

KOLKATA: A destitute Indian woman who claims she is heir to the dynasty that built the Taj Mahal has demanded ownership of an imposing palace once home to the Mughal emperors.
Sultana Begum lives in a cramped two-room hut nestled within a slum on the outskirts of Kolkata, surviving on a meagre pension.
Among her modest possessions are records of her marriage to Mirza Mohammad Bedar Bakht, purported to be the great-grandson of India’s last Mughal ruler.
His death in 1980 left her struggling to survive, and she has spent the past decade petitioning authorities to recognize her royal status and compensate her accordingly.
“Can you imagine that the descendant of the emperors who built Taj Mahal now lives in desperate poverty?” the 68-year-old asked AFP.
Begum has lodged a court case seeking recognition that she is rightful owner of the imposing 17th-century Red Fort, a sprawling and pockmarked castle in New Delhi that was once the seat of Mughal power.
“I hope the government will definitely give me justice,” she said. “When something belongs to someone, it should be returned.”




Sultana Begum reacts while holding a picture of last Mughal Emperor of India Bahadur Shah Zafar in her house in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP) 

Her case, supported by sympathetic campaigners, rests on her claim that her late husband’s lineage can be traced to Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last emperor to reign.
By the time of Zafar’s coronation in 1837, the Mughal empire had shrunk to the capital’s boundaries, after the conquest of India by the commercial venture of British merchants known as the East India Company.
A massive rebellion two decades later — now hailed as India’s first war of independence — saw mutinous soldiers declare the now frail 82-year-old as the leader of their insurrection.
The emperor, who preferred penning poetry to waging war, knew the chaotic uprising was doomed and was a reluctant leader.
British forces surrounded Delhi within a month and ruthlessly crushed the revolt, executing all 10 of Zafar’s surviving sons despite the royal family’s surrender.
Zafar himself was exiled to neighboring Myanmar, traveling under guard in a bullock cart, and died penniless in captivity five years later.

Many of the Red Fort’s buildings were demolished in the years after the uprising and the complex fell into disrepair before colonial authorities ordered its renovation at the turn of the 20th century.
It has since become a potent symbol of freedom from British rule.
India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru hoisted the national flag from the fort’s main gate to mark the first day of independence in August 1947, a solemn ritual now repeated annually by his successors.
Begum’s court case hinges on the argument that India’s government are the illegal occupants of the property, which she says should have been passed down to her.
The Delhi High Court rejected her petition last week as a “gross waste of time” — but did not rule on whether her claim to imperial ancestry was legitimate.
Instead the court said her legal team had failed to justify why a similar case had not been brought by Zafar’s descendants in the 150 years since his exile.
Her lawyer Vivek More said the case would continue.
“She has decided to file a plea before a higher bench of the court challenging the order,” he told AFP by phone.

Begum has endured a precarious life, even before she was widowed and forced to move into the slum she now calls home.




In this picture taken on December 22, 2201, Sultana Begun walks by an alley in the locality she lives in Kolkata. (Photo by Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP)

Her husband — who she married in 1965 when she was just 14 — was 32 years her senior and earned some money as a soothsayer, but was unable to provide for their family.
“Poverty, fear and lack of resources pushed him to the brink,” she added.
Begum lives with one of her grandchildren in a small shack, sharing a kitchen with neighbors and washing at a communal tap down the street.
For some years she ran a small tea shop near her home but it was demolished to allow the widening of a road, and she now survives on a pension of 6,000 rupees ($80) per month.
But she has not given up hope that authorities will recognize her as the rightful beneficiary of India’s imperial legacy, and of the Red Fort.
“I hope that today, tomorrow or in 10 years, I will get what I’m entitled to,” she said.
“God willing, I will get it back... I’m certain justice will happen.”


Posh paws: UAE pet shop launches $10,000 diamond dog collars

The UAE’s Pet Corner store has launched a must-have accessory for all the posh pooches out there. (Shutterstock)
The UAE’s Pet Corner store has launched a must-have accessory for all the posh pooches out there. (Shutterstock)
Updated 04 July 2022

Posh paws: UAE pet shop launches $10,000 diamond dog collars

The UAE’s Pet Corner store has launched a must-have accessory for all the posh pooches out there. (Shutterstock)

DUBAI: The UAE’s Pet Corner store has launched a $10,000 accessory for all the posh pooches out there – a diamond-studded dog collar.

The collars will go on sale as part of the chain’s new Pet Corner Elite Club offering, which features a range of luxury accessories.

(Supplied)

Billed as the UAE’s first diamond and gemstone studded exquisite collars for dogs of small to medium breeds, the Haute Hound collection features a bow-shaped centerpiece brooch with 2.6 carats of certified natural diamonds and 6-7 carats of natural rubies encrusted in 18 carat gold.

Priced from $ 10,074 upwards, every collar comes with a certificate of authenticity, diamond grading and gemstone identification.

“Dogs are man's best friends and diamonds/gems are truly one of nature's most precious and beautiful creations — making it a perfect accessory for any pooch. We see our customers wanting only the best for their precious pets. This collection offers comfort and style to make any pup stand out from the crowd. We will be introducing many more elite products and supplies in the coming months,” Sidarth Mahindra, Pet Corner’s chief pet officer, said.


Flamethrower used to torch Pan-African flag flying on pole in Florida

Flamethrower used to torch Pan-African flag flying on pole in Florida
Updated 03 July 2022

Flamethrower used to torch Pan-African flag flying on pole in Florida

Flamethrower used to torch Pan-African flag flying on pole in Florida
  • Group likens attack to the massacre of 10 Black people at a supermarket Buffalo, New York in May

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida: A person using a flamethrower set fire Saturday to a Pan-African flag flying on a pole outside the headquarters of the Uhuru Movement, a Black international socialist group based in Florida.
Security video released by the group shows the driver of a white Honda sedan pulling up outside the group’s St. Petersburg headquarters, removing a flamethrower from the trunk and shooting a tower of fire at the flag flying about 30 feet (9 meters) above the ground. The group says the man stopped when a worker inside the building yelled at him. The video shows him putting the flamethrower back in the trunk and then driving away. A photo supplied by the group shows the flag with a large hole.
St. Petersburg police said they are investigating the fire and are working to identify a suspect.
The Uhuru Movement is part of the African People’s Socialist Party, which says it is “uniting African people as one people for liberation, social justice, self-reliance and economic development.”
Akile Akai, the group’s director of agitation and propaganda, said the attack is in the same vein as the May killing of 10 Black people at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket. Police say the arrested suspect in the Buffalo massacre is a white nationalist.
Akai said such attacks are caused by the decline of a “social system and facade of normalcy based on oppression, colonialism and exploitation.”

 

 


3-year-old boy dies after fall from 29th floor NYC apartment

3-year-old boy dies after fall from 29th floor NYC apartment
Updated 03 July 2022

3-year-old boy dies after fall from 29th floor NYC apartment

3-year-old boy dies after fall from 29th floor NYC apartment
  • Officers found the injured toddler lying on a 3rd floor scaffolding after receiving a 911 call at 11:09 a.m

NEW YORK: A 3-year-old boy died after falling from a 29th floor balcony of a New York City apartment building on Saturday morning, police said a preliminary investigation shows.
Officers found the injured toddler lying on a 3rd floor scaffolding after receiving a 911 call at 11:09 a.m. The boy was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“We believe the child exited through a window, but exactly how that occurred is under investigation at the time,” a police spokesperson told The Associated Press. The apartment is located in the Taino Towers residential complex in Harlem.
New York City law requires owners of buildings with three or more apartments to install window guards if a child age 10 years or younger lives there or if a tenant or occupant requests them. It’s unclear whether window guards were installed in this particular apartment.
The spokesperson said the child’s death is under “active investigation” and police are speaking with two individuals who were inside the apartment when the boy fell.
Nidia Cordero, who lives on the 34th floor of the building, told the New York Post that she suddenly heard what she believes was the mother of the child screaming.
“And I looked,” she said, “and the baby was in the scaffolding.”
Richard Linares told the New York Daily News he was outside the apartment complex when the toddler fell.
“We heard a big bang,” he said. “My boy that was here ran to the front. He ran up the scaffold to find the baby. The baby was still crying and breathing when he got there.”
He later added: “By the time the paramedics brought him down, they had a towel over his face.”
Tanjelyn Castro, a neighbor, described to the Daily News a frantic scene as police and residents tried to reach the child.
“Everybody that was outside was running, climbing,” she said. “Every man you saw was trying to get to the scaffold. It was a whole bunch of emotion.”


British daredevil shares clip of stunt atop Dubai skyscraper

British daredevil shares clip of stunt atop Dubai skyscraper
Updated 01 July 2022

British daredevil shares clip of stunt atop Dubai skyscraper

British daredevil shares clip of stunt atop Dubai skyscraper
  • Lockwood, 21, posed as a construction worker to reach the top of the building

LONDON: British free-climber and Instagram star Adam Lockwood has released a video on YouTube showing him climbing and hanging off a Dubai skyscraper.

Lockwood, 21, posed as a construction worker to reach the top of the building — the 390-meter residential apartment block Il Primo in Downtown — and had to evade genuine laborers on the way up.

In his video, the Manchester native is seen being challenged by a site worker and attempting to explain using Google Arabic Translate he had forgotten something in the building.

He is told to leave by the site worker.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ΛDΛM (@nuisance69_)

Instead, Lockwood used a different staircase to continue his ascent to the 77th floor, stopping at certain levels to wet his head with water from taps to cool himself down.

Once at the top, he hung off a crane and does one-handed stunts with no safety equipment, with the Burj Khalifa visible in the background.

Of the experience, Lockwood said it was “surreal” but “almost peaceful” as his “brain is blank” while he carries out his stunts, the Independent reported.

On his Instagram channel, which has more than 21,000 followers, Lockwood has videos of him performing stunts in the San Siro Stadium in Milan, climbing the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris and walking the edges of buildings in London’s Canary Wharf.

Dubai Police have issued warnings to daredevils in the past against scaling buildings and performing stunts that could endanger themselves and other members of the public.


Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar

Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar
Updated 01 July 2022

Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar

Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar
  • Bachman said all guitars are special, but the orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins he bought as a teenager was exceptional
  • When it was stolen from the Toronto hotel in 1977, “I cried for three days. It was part of me,” he said

TOKYO: Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman’s long search came to an end Friday when he was reunited in Tokyo with a cherished guitar 45 years after it was stolen from a Toronto hotel.
“My girlfriend is right there,” said Bachman, 78, a former member of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, as the Gretsch guitar on which he wrote “American Woman” and other hits was handed to him by a Japanese musician who had bought it at a Tokyo store in 2014 without knowing its history.
He said all guitars are special, but the orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins he bought as a teenager was exceptional. He worked at multiple jobs to save money to buy the $400 guitar, his first purchase of an expensive instrument, he said.
“It made my whole life. It was my hammer and a tool to write songs, make music and make money,” Bachman told AP before the handover at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.
When it was stolen from the Toronto hotel in 1977, “I cried for three days. It was part of me,” he said. “It was very, very upsetting.” He ended up buying about 300 guitars in unsuccessful attempts to replace it, he said.
Bachman talked frequently about the missing guitar in interviews and on radio shows, and more recently on YouTube programs on which he performed with his son, Tal.
In 2020, a Canadian fan who heard the story of the guitar launched an Internet search and successfully located it in Tokyo within two weeks.
The fan, William Long, used a small spot in the guitar’s wood grain visible in old images as a “digital fingerprint” and tracked the instrument down to a vintage guitar shop site in Tokyo. A further search led him to a YouTube video showing the instrument being played by a Japanese musician, TAKESHI, in December 2019.
After receiving the news from Long, Bachman contacted TAKESHI immediately, and recognized the guitar in a video chat they had.
“I was crying,” Bachman said. “The guitar almost spoke to me over the video, like, ‘Hey, I’m coming home.’”
TAKESHI agreed to give it to Bachman in exchange for one that was very similar. So Bachman searched and found the guitar’s “sister” — made during the same week, with a close serial number, no modifications and no repairs.
“To find my guitar again was a miracle, to find its twin sister was another miracle,” Bachman said.
TAKESHI said he decided to return the guitar because as a guitar player he could imagine how much Bachman missed it.
“I owned it and played it for only eight years and I’m extremely sad to return it now. But he has been feeling sad for 46 years, and it’s time for someone else to be sad,” TAKESHI said. “I felt sorry for this legend.”
He said he felt good after returning the guitar to its rightful owner, but it may take time for him to love his new Gretsch as much as that one.
“It’s a guitar, and it has a soul. So even if it has the same shape, I cannot say for sure if I can love a replacement the same way I loved this one,” he said. “There is no doubt Randy thought of me and searched hard (for the replacement), so I will gradually develop an affection for it, but it may take time.”
Bachman said he and TAKESHI are now like brothers who own guitars that are “twin sisters.” They are participating in a documentary about the guitar on which they plan to perform a song, “Lost and Found” together.
They also performed several songs at Friday’s handover, including “American Woman.”
Bachman said he will lock the guitar up in his home so he will never lose it again. “I am never ever going to take it out of my house again,” he said.