Dr. Rahul Shastri
According to recorded figures, 1431 villages were raided across then Andhra Pradesh, property worth Rs. 103 million was looted, tens of thousands of dwellings destroyed, 921 persons were murdered and 1150 women were dishonoured by April 1948. Unrecorded deaths and molestations may be many times these numbers.
15th August 1947 brought freedom to the people of India but not to 1.76 crore people living in Nizam’s Hyderabad. The Nizam claimed independent sovereignty a week later. The Majlis which had celebrated Independence day on 27th July itself started addressing the Nizam as ‘Your majesty. The flag that flew in Hyderabad those days was the Asif Jahi flag and the song that was heard in the streets was the Asif Jahi anthem.
The Accession Satyagraha started in Hyderabad on 7th August 1947. Over time thousands of people carrying the National Flag were arrested. On 15th August, the police lathi-charged, fired upon and arrested processionists, while Razakars attacked them, tearing down the National Flag. Even the National Flag atop Indian government offices was not spared, attracting condemnation by Pt. Nehru in the Constituent Assembly. When villages revolted at this, with hundreds of village officers resigning, Razvi’s Razakars began raids on villages that had supported the satyagraha (Munshi).
Under the Razakars, ‘looting, arson, torture, murder and rape stalked the land’ (Sundarayya). It is estimated that in 1947-48, in Bidar district alone, 176 villages were raided, property worth Rs. 36 million was looted, houses worth Rs. 6 million were burnt down, 120 persons were murdered. Only fifteen women reported being shamed, but 150 women in the Karnataka region committed suicide that year due to molestation by Razakars (Dr. Palati).
Thus while India celebrated 15th August 1947, Hyderabad wept under the fascist jackboot. Only after the Indian Army entered the city thirteen months later could Hyderabad celebrate. September 17th, 1948 is the Hyderabad Liberation Day. Why is it called the ‘Liberation’ day? In order to appreciate the reason, we have to recall the conditions of Hyderabad under Osman Ali Khan, the last Nizam.
Conditions in Hyderabad under the Nizam
Nizam’s Hyderabad was ruled mostly by Muslims although Hindus were also included in many positions. Sundarayya estimates that Muslims accounted for more than 90% of the higher echelons of the bureaucracy. In administration as a whole, 75% of the jobs were held by Muslims while police and military services were 95% Muslim (Munshi).
Urdu was the language of administration in Muslim rule. Osman Ali Khan also made it compulsory in state schools. This encouraged Muslim students and discouraging others. Thus, although the Muslim population in the state was only 12%, they accounted for two-thirds of the school students of Hyderabad in 1930. On the other hand, Hindus who were 86% of the population accounted for less than one third (Munshi).
Local languages and culture, Indian nationalism and Indian religions were suppressed. Private schools teaching in Marathi, Telugu and Kannada could be started only with the special permission of the government. They were very rare. Indeed most districts did not have more than middle school education. People in border districts used to cross over into British India for education.
Dhotis and Kurtas were banned in the Osmania University. So was the singing of Vandemataram. Thousands of students of the state, including hundreds from Osmania University were rusticated for violating this ban in 1938. They had to go to Nagpur (Jabalpur also) to pursue their studies. Among them was P.V. Narsimha Rao who later became the prime minister of India.
Hindus and Sikhs required special permission to take out religious and social processions, to repair their temples and gurudwaras, or to build new temples. Normally such permission was not forthcoming. They were even prevented from preaching their religion on grounds of ‘offending other faiths’. Even a satyagraha for these basic rights did not bring Hindus these basic freedoms (Munshi).
On the other hand, a professor presiding over Milad un Nabi could openly announce without censure: “I am pained to see the inertness amongst the Muslims, when there still exist 22 crores of gobar-parast (dung worshippers)”. The Deendar Siddiq started a major campaign to cleanse the taint of Hinduism from Hyderabad in order to convert it into Pakistan. He explained: “A bowl containing one-quarter milk and three-quarters dung cannot be called clean…. so long as it contains Kafiristan in its territory, it cannot be called Pakistan”. In 1932 he was restrained a little after he called for a jehad against Hindu shrines, for one lakh volunteers and a Rs. 5 lakh loan for this purpose. But no action was taken and Deendars continued to participate in Razakar raids (Munshi).
Rise of Majlis and Kasim Razvi
In late thirties, the campaign for Islamic rule in Hyderabad was taken over by Bahadur Yar Jung, the second president of Majlis. Targetting depressed and backward classes, he converted 24,000 Hindus to Islam in three years (Luther). He also built support groups among Hindus led by so-called ‘ittehad depressed class leaders’ like Venkat Rao and Sham Sunder.
Majlis ittehad-ul Musalmeen was started in 1928 to gather support for Nizam, with his blessings. It used to propagate that the Nizam was the shadow of god (Zil-e-allah, Sundarayya).
Later, Osman Ali Khan encouraged Bahadur Yar Jung, whom he had elevated to nobility, to take over the presidentship, possibly hoping to consolidate his own hold on Muslims. Instead, Bahadur Yar Jung rewrote the Majlis constitution making the Muslims of Hyderabad the true sovereigns of the state, its true rulers, while Nizam was reduced to their ‘emanation’ to be ‘maintained forever’ (Anal Malik).
Under the Razakars, ‘looting, arson, torture, murder and rape stalked the land’ (Sundarayya). It is estimated that in 1947-48, in Bidar district alone, 176 villages were raided, property worth Rs. 36 million was looted, houses worth Rs. 6 million were burnt down, 120 persons were murdered.
This idea got the Razakars and Nizam the “support of vast sections of Muslims in towns and cities” (Sundarayya). The demagogy of Bahadur Yar Jung was a great draw but a frequent worry to the Nizam. Within a few years, the Nizam seemed to slide from a self-proclaimed sovereign to a mere symbol of Muslim power. Even though Bahadur Yar Jung coughed over a hookah and died in 1944, his successor Kasim Razvi, handpicked by the Nizam, was an even greater demagogue and organiser.
Aiming to convert Hyderabad into a state ruled by the Muslim community, to recover control over the circars, and even to capture Delhi, he started 52 military training centres across the state for Razakars, raising their strength to 30,000 by January 1948 and then to over one lakh. As he gathered strength, he became more explicit and vocal about his aims and ideology.
In his infamous “Weapons Week” speech he declared: “Hyderabad is an Islamic State … Remember that there are four-and-a-half crores of Muslims in the Dominion, looking to us to raise the banner of this Islamic State…. Qoran is in one hand and the sword is in the other, let us march forward; cut our enemies to pieces; establish our Islamic supremacy … A Hindu who is a Kafir, a worshipper of stone and monkey (laughter), who drinks cow’s urine and eats cow-dung in the name of religion (renewed laughter), and who is a barbarian in every sense of the word, wants to rule us! .. .. They are not capable of ruling. That is the reason why they lost it to the Muslims. ..” (Munshi). Later on June 10 he said: “We are the grandsons of Mahmood Ghaznavi and the sons of Babar. When determined, we shall fly the Asaf Jahi Flag on the Red Fort.” (Munshi)
Islamic terror under the Razakars
Razvi’s Razakar raids underlined the raw reality of Islamic terror that the Nizam unleashed on the people of his state. According to recorded figures, 1431 villages were raided across the state, property worth Rs. 103 million was looted, tens of thousands of dwellings destroyed, 921 persons were murdered and 1150 women were dishonoured by April 1948 (Dr. Palati). Unrecorded deaths and molestations may be many times these numbers. For instance, in one incident around Wadlakonda alone, nine villages were reduced to ashes, thousands of men killed, numerous women molested, hundreds of houses and granaries looted and burnt (Munshi)
Muslim government officials, police and army were all involved in the Razakar drives, sometimes accompanied by ‘ittehad’ Hindus. One Hindu officer reported that blood-stained bundles of gold earrings, mangal sutras, and nose-rings were put under the tables of his office by his staff and Razakars after the raids. They were shared amongst themselves the next day (Kulkarni). In the border districts, Razakars knew no control and “no non-Muslim woman could venture into the streets without being molested by them.” (Munshi)
Razvi’s reign of Islamic terror extended from prison to palace. Not even jails were safe. In Nizamabad jail, officials assisted by Muslim inmates and Razakars attacked Hindu prisoners resulting in 123 casualties.
Government servants were trained in arms use in Tiparti. Along with the police and military, they practised their skills on unarmed villagers. In Bhairavunipalli after raping the women and burning houses, 92 men were bound and lined up. A contest was conducted to find out how many men a 303 bullet could cut through. Standing the tied villagers in a single file, an army man shot through four, a police officer through three. However, the deputy collector of Bhongir Eqbal Hashim drilled through 8-10 men with a single bullet and won the competition. The survivors were shot dead with a stengun (Kulakarni).
Killing with guns was mercy killing. Sometimes more gory methods were employed. In one case near Kodakandala, five brahmins returning from a shraddha feast were hung from a tamarind tree and roasted alive on the suspicion of being ‘agents of Indian government’ (Kulakarni).
People of Hyderabad welcome the Indian troops as Hyderabad was liberated from the clutches of the Nizam’s troops and the Razakars.
In order to counter the furore over the atrocites on Hindus, ‘peace committees’ were formed with Hindus and Muslims. These were ornamental bodies meant to make a show of ‘communal harmony’. They had to accompany the Razakars on their raids and be a mute witness. The Hindu members especially were terror-struck rubber stamps.
In one instance, M.N. Reddy a supervisor in the Industries Department, and Shat Gopalacharya, an irrigation supervisor were appointed to a peace committee. Gopalacharya took his job too seriously and made the mistake of complaining against the mistreatment of Hindus. For his trouble, he was taken to Jangaon Siddipet road and shot dead. M.N. Reddy learnt the safety of silence when he was warned with the same ‘disciplinary action’ (Kulakarni).
Razakar rowdies brandishing arms would go around in lorries shouting slogans, proclaiming supremacy of Islam and Muslim sovereignty. One of the ditties that they used to sing was:
“Nizam ke kadmon pe Nehru ko jhuka denge;
Patel Munshi ko kabron me gad denge.
(We shall force Nehru to bow at the feet of the Nizam;
We shall bury Patel and Munshi in their graves.)”
No dissent was allowed in this reign of terror. Zain Yar Khan who represented Hyderabad at Delhi was called a ‘gaddar’ and marked for liquidation. Shoebullah Khan, the editor of Imroze, who ran a vigorous campaign exposing Razakar atrocites and official connivance, was killed near Kachiguda and his hands were chopped off. Even Salar Jung confided to K.M.Munshi: “Our lives and properties are at the mercy of Razvi, If you want to solve the problem, do not remove the army from Secunderabad. I have served the State for years: I am the premier nobleman; but all the time I am afraid for my life.” The next time Salar Jung met K.M. Munshi, he was carrying a revolver. There was freedom neither to dissent nor to mourn. A large public meeting organised to mourn the death of Gandhiji at the Nizam College was attacked and dispersed by the Razakars.
Razvi’s reign of Islamic terror extended from prison to palace. Not even jails were safe. In Nizamabad jail, officials assisted by Muslim inmates and Razakars attacked Hindu prisoners resulting in 123 casualties. Even K.M. Munshi, the Agent-General of the Government of India, himself was a marked man, carrying a reward of Rs. 5000/- put on his head by a mullah in a neighbourhood mosque. It is possible that Razvi’s eyes and swords were present in the royal palace itself.
Initially the azakar terrorists were the ‘secret weapon’ of Nizam’s government, his bargaining tool in negotiations with India. In all negotiations, Nizam’s government pretended that the Razakars were the spontaneous reaction of Muslims out to protect themselves from communists and the Indian government. The Razakars were ‘victims of false propaganda’. They would be reigned in only if the demands of Hyderabad were conceded.
However, in truth the Nizam was riding a tiger that would eat him if and when he tried to get off. So when he tried to get rid of Laik Ali hoping to build bridges with India, he had to eat his words within two days, possibly because he was warned that he could not be protected if he went out of line. The army was divided, and the police and administration were with Razvi’s Razakars. The Islamic terror that he had unleashed on the Hindus and dissenters of his state, finally turned Nizam himself into a prisoner in his own palace. In truth, terror has no true master.
Such were the Nizamian times of terror, riven by rape and rapine, the long decades of death and dis-honour, that were finally ended by the Indian Army that marched into Hyderabad city on September 17, 1948. This is why September 17 is celebrated as the Liberation Day of Hyderabad.
– Kulakarni Khanderao (2016) Liberation Struggle of Hyderabad: Some Unknown Pages, Centre for Cultural Studies, Samvit Kendra, Hyderabad.
– Luther Narendra (2006) ‘When the Nizam Wept’, Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad: 30, Narendra Luther Archives.
– Munshi K.M. (1957) The End of an Era: Hyderabad Memories, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
– Palati Dr. Venkat Rao Role Of Freedom Fighters In Bidar District (1890 -1948), internet.
Sundarayya P. (1972) Telangana People’s Struggle and its Lessons, CPI (M).