The Assassination of Wajid Ali Shah ?
The people of the Metibruz locality of Kolkata, that comprised migrants from different parts of Uttar Pradesh, chased a senior official of the King’s Court and his family out of the precinct in 1887. The reason being his association to Wajid Ali Shah’s death.
While the official, a Langra Munshi, was leaving, the residents cursed him that he would go blind and become a leper.
His family were not spared either in that volley of curses that hastened his departure. Langra Munshi and his family left and were never seen again.
The wrath of the people was justified. According to the popular belief, Langra Munshi was guilty in their minds to have murdered the ousted King of Oudh, Wajid Ali Shah.
This thought has persisted since the death of Wajid Ali Shah in 1887 and the accusations and speculations have never been laid to rest. Langra Munshi was the name given to Munsarim-ud-Daula, probably from Fars in Persia. He was the chief wazir looking after the administration of Metiabruz’s Royal Palace.
There is no proof of a murder as such unless one takes into account the findings by Prince Anjum Quder of the Oudh royal family, who in his many of his interviews claimed that were hundreds of people in Metiabruz with the same belief.
On 22nd September, 1996 Anjum Quder Chairman, Wajid Ali Shah Trust wrote that when he was appointed as a Trustee of King Wajid Ali’s Trust by the West Bengal Government in 1974 and later became its chairman, he began to read the documents and papers that were in the various rooms of the Mausoleum.
During this research, he stumbled upon framed elegies that had been recited by contemporary Urdu and Persian poets at the Chehlum ceremony, (held after 40 days after a demise). There were many elegies such as:
“Khal rahi thi iss asiri mae bhi
Zahr us-e dilwaya mauqa pa ke
Langrae Munshi ne sipahr-e manzilat par ki jafa,
Roz-o shab unka namak kha kha ke
The elegies describe that fateful night by stating that “Wajid Ali Shah’s long life, even in detention, was becoming increasingly intolerable to his incarcerators. He was killed by poisoning, which was mixed with edibles that killed him instantly. This was done by Langra Munshi.”
The report of the Oudh Pension Papers of 1913, mentions an uprising in Metiabruz after the death and about the public anger against Langra Munshi. Acting quickly the British authorities imposed strict censorship with the penalty of prosecution and prison. No one dared to talk or write about the murder which was assumed to been orchestrated by the British Agent Lt Col Prideaux who was in charge of the affairs of Wajid Ali. It was Prideaux who strongly recommended that Langra Munshi should be granted a life time pension of Rs 500. It is but natural that this was questioned by the local public as to how the pension to an employee of the court could equal that amount which was paid to the sons of the King.
Meanwhile, Anjum Quder writes in 1996:
“No conclusive evidence of a murder committed a hundred years ago can be possible now. All witnesses are dead, and no post mortem can be done. But the contemporary elegies, which from recorded documents, corroborated by universal public belief coming down three generations in the locale along with circumstances is enough to draw the only possible inference. If indictment and conviction are possible under English jurisprudence only on circumstantial evidence, then this is it. There is no reason whatever for the poets to depose in such detail of the murderous acts committed, and for the audience to accept it in hushed silence unless the same were true. There is no contradiction but complete unanimity in the different contemporary versions. The conclusion therefore is irresistible that Wajid Ali Shah did not, die a natural death, but was murdered.”
The sequence of the crime as discussed was as follows: Exhausted by the activities of the day that included attending a majlis, the King asked for some hakimi medicine. After taking the medicine, the king told his aide Fatheh Makandar to prepare his ‘hookah’. This is when Langra Munshi came in with another bowl of medicine in his hand and insisted that the Nawab would feel better with another dose.
The King consumed the same and began gasping for breath. It was at this instant that the aide came in with the hookah and raised an alarm. It is said the King asked for paper and ink as he wanted to write a message but Langra Munshi did not grant him that last wish and watched his King die in minutes.
Two motives for the assassination were voiced. The first assumption was that after the mutiny, the Company had thought the King would not live long and had sanctioned the annual pension of Rs. twelve lacs that, three decades later, seemed too much to pay. Furthermore, in the event of his death the surviving family was to get much less.
The other reason could have been the concern by the British of his growing popularity in Metiabruz and its ripples in Oudh.
Biographers skip his death and mention his death in a line or two ascribing it to old age or ill health. Some even write that the suggestion that he was assassinated ” be dismissed” ! They ignore that the king had walked earlier that fateful day from his residence and attended a majlis. He had shown no signs of any illness. His death at 10 am was not informed to the family till the next morning.
The matter has been kept as a mystery for over the last 13 decades. However, a little effort and a dip into British archives and records should reveal more. As the pension was paid to Langra Munshi for life, the British Government must have known his whereabouts. It can now be found out where Langra Munshi went after the death of Wajid Ali Shah.
A reopening of the case is required, even if the findings would now be purely academic but an in-depth research to ferret facts is required.