National

The Nedous Clan That Popped-Up During 'Demolition Times' In Kashmir

Nedous Hotel was the only premier hotel in the city during the reign of the Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh.

A view after fresh snowfall at the world famous ski resort in Gulmarg, Kashmir.
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On a cold hazy January day, as Srinagar streets were set in snow following the previous day’s Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ culmination keeping penmen and lensmen on tenterhooks, news-chasers had to chase another lead in heart of the city.

This time focus of shutterbugs was on a man donning a ‘karakul’ (traditional Kashmiri cap) and a pheran (long Kashmiri cloak) holding papers in front of bulldozers. In ‘times of demolition’ a man from an affluent and high-end political family, Muzaffar Shah, had chosen to stand against the government’s move. Shah had taken a stand for his relatives—The Nedous clan, when former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah seemed to be in trance with Rahul Gandhi’s ‘mohabaat ki dukaan in bazaar of nafrat’ (love shop in the market of hatred).  

Shah is the nephew of Farooq Abdullah and a cousin of Omar Abdullah. In fact, this time Farooq Abdullah’s maternal uncle—Nedouses were “targeted”. It seemed a part of a program of administration led by Lieutenant General Manoj Sinha, who has announced that “big sharks” will be targeted while poor people will remain unaffected in the demolition drive. Many including former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, however, view it as a “class war” launched by the administration. She claims that the move is to “disempower and dislodge” people from their land in Jammu and Kashmir. 

For her, it is a policy of “divide and rule”, wherein she believes Hindus have been pitied against Muslims, Shia against Sunni and now rich against poor. 

On that day, the administration said it retrieved a five-acre plot from the Nedous’, however, they later claimed that the plot was under their “lawful possession” which still has got a 70-year lease period.

In the present ‘demolition times’ in Kashmir, the Nedous clan has faced the brunt. In fact, Nedous' are pioneers of the hospitality sector not only in Kashmir but the entire of India. The association of Nedous’ hospitality chain with Kashmir is centuries old and the clan has its name engraved on Kashmiri’s political map.  

The Nedous clan has its lineage from Dubrovnik in Croatia.        

It was Michael Adam Nedou from Ragusa, a Croatian heritage walled city on the Adriatic sea, who built the Nedous Hotel in Srinagar in the 19th century.

In those times, Nedous Hotel was the only premier hotel in the city during the reign of the Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh.

Prior to it, Michael Adam Nedou had a small property in Lahore. In 1880, Michael Adam Nedou while travelling from Murree hill station, which is now on another side of the Line of Control (LOC) to Gulmarg was left mesmerized by Kashmir’s environs. 

The ‘Valley of Flowers’—Gulmarg had left the Croatian Michael Adam Nedou bewitched. He decided to build a property at Gulmarg, which came to be known as the ‘Nedous Hotel’. He later built another property in Srinagar posh area—MA Road.

Michael Adam Nedou was left charmed by Kashmir truly. He along with his wife Jessie Maria decided to extend his hotel chain to Kashmir.

Later, the couple’s son Michael Henry Nedou aka Harry during his stay at their Gulmarg property fell in love with a local girl—Mir Jan.

Harry’s fascination for Mir Jan was converted into an eternal romance, but like most love stories, there was an impediment.  Mir Jan's father agreed to give his daughter's hand to Harry provided he converted to Islam.

Smitten by Mir Jan’s beauty, Harry immediately agreed. Harry converted to Islam and was named Sheikh Ahmed Hussain. Years later, the couple had a daughter named Akbar Jahan—who came to be known as ‘Madr-e-Meharban’(kindness and compassion).

It was during those times of resistance in Kashmir when all about rebellion against Dogra Monarch Hari Singh had broken out. It was during those times when Kashmiris decided to break the shackles of slavery and penury in their own land. It was during those times when Kashmir’s Sher-i-Kashmir(Lion of Kashmir) was roaring in full swing in the streets of Kashmir. It was during those times that he was highlighting Kashmir’s pathetic plight of injustice. It was when Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was leading the Kashmir resistance.

The echelons of power in Kashmir during those times were shaken by the rebellion led by a ‘rebel’ from Srinagar’s Soura. Sheikh Ahmed Hussain aka Harry Nedou was also fascinated by “tall rebel” S M Abdullah. He decided to marry his daughter Akbar Jehan to the rebellious Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah of that time. 

Many accounts claim that Akbar Jehan was married to an Arab, Karam Shah in 1928, who later disappeared after there were reports that he was actually T.E. Lawrence, a British Intelligence Officer. Akbar Jehan and her first husband had separated in 1929. It was before she married SM Abdullah in 1933. 

Nedous’ Hotel also assumes significance considering it hosted some of the towering personalities of yesteryears. It’s guest list includes the Last viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten and his wife Edwina and Maharajas of various Indian princely states, including Gwalior and Kolhapur.

The Nedous' have also hosted a top-level USSR delegation in 1955. The delegation was led by Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita Khrushchev, both of whom later became USSR premiers.

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Late Congress leader Ahmed Patel was also in relation with Nedous. His son Faisal Patel was married to the daughter of the Nedou clan. Faisal’s wife from Kashmir later died.

During ’90s when the majority of Kashmiris felt “betrayal” at the hands of SM Abdullah, Nedous’ Srinagar hotel too faced the brunt of times. The heritage property housed CRPF barracks, while its Gulmarg hotel continued to remain operational.

Last year, the property was leased out to ITC Group, which had redesigned it for its grandiose launch again.
 

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