— K Raka Sudhakar Rao
Almost 75 years after it happened, Hyderabad’s liberation – the story of how the common man triumphed over tyrant Nizam and his Razakar henchmen in a fight of right against the might – is now a mere bleep on the vast radar screen of Indian history. The memories of those who were wronged against have faded. The generations who bore the brunt of tyrannical Nizam have passed into the bottomless pit of history. The literature they produced is now tucked in the dusty and inaccessible labyrinths of rusted racks in ramshackle libraries. Interestingly, several books and autobiographies, mostly written in Telugu, Marathi, Kannada or Hindi by the freedom fighters are out of circulation now.
We have a whole new generation that does not know about what it meant to be a subject of despot Nizam’s Hyderabad state. We now have an amnesiac set of people with no collective memory of the time they were physically, socially, politically, psychologically and intellectually asphyxiated by the rampaging Razakars.
This is a perfect recipe for spreading half-truths and white lies about the story of a bygone era, particularly by forces inimical to the unity of India. The divisive forces that lay low all these years, are now rearing their heads and are spewing venom. They are making a concerted attempt to falsify history and glorify the heinous perpetrators. There is systematic effort aimed at portraying the perpetrators as victims. This is happening unabated as we speak and write about Hyderabad state’s history. The saddest part of the whole story is that the political class, with an eye on vote bank politics, is trying to obfuscate facts and obliterate history. The result is an utter confusion about the story of Hyderabad’s liberation and its subsequent integration with India.
Barely 75 years ago, Razakars, aided by the Nizam, his administration and his police forces, let loose a reign of pillage, loot and plunder on the hapless majority population of Hyderabad. There was a trail of death and destruction. Rape and disrobing of womanhood were the order of the day. Houses going up in flames and marauding razakars descending in drones were daily occurrences. Hindus fled from Hyderabad to neighbouring Maharashtra and Andhra region to save themselves. Had it not been for the Indian Army’s march into Hyderabad state, there would have been a massacre of the Hindus on the lines of the holocaust of the Jewish people.
Pertinently, the Jews were a minority in a vast sea of European Christendom, but the Hindus of Hyderabad state were actually a majority who suffered untold torture at the hands of an armed and ruthless ruling minority. And this was not a sudden and mindless partition-eve communal frenzy of the sorts witnessed on India’s eastern and western borders. This was methodical murder and cold-blooded mayhem performed with clinical precision and careful planning over two decades.
Painting Razakars in secular colours
Yet, attempts are afoot to obscure the tragic saga of Hindu subjugation. Take for instance, Chennai-based journalist Syed Ali Mujtiba’s article “Hyderabad’s fall and Sundarlal Report” published on pro-Left digital platform Counter Currents on September 23, 2013. He said thus in a clear attempt to absolve the Nizam: “Meanwhile, an armed militia called Razakar, sprung up to protect the Hyderabad state. Some say, it had tacit support of the ruler, but apparently, it was the armed wing of a Muslim political party, that had issues with the princely rule.” 1 Expressions such as protection of Hyderabad state tell a tale. He further rights: The members of the militia supposedly held drills in and around Hyderabad and terrorized the non-Muslim population. These incensed the people and New Delhi was seized of the matter. “2
According to the writer, the Razakars ‘supposedly’ held drills, when the fact is that there was a massive arms training and a humongous ‘arms procurement week’ programme ahead of the Operation Polo. In the same writeup, the author, who conveniently used the word ‘non-Muslim population’ used the word ‘Hindu armed gangs’ while describing the above-mentioned anti-Razakar retaliatory violence.
Another author Sheikh Mahmed Ali speaks glowingly about Kasim Rizvi, the chief of the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM). Eulogising the supposedly heroic qualities of Rizvi, he writes: “When Bahadur Yar Jung appealed to the Muslims for funds, he donated all his properties to Majlis. Bahadur Yar Jung himself gave him the title of ‘Siddiq-e-Deccan’; for this act. By donating whatever he owned, he emulated the first caliph of Islam Hazrath Abu Bakar Siddiq who donated everything for Islam. Many historians described Qasim Razvi as an honest and brave person, but a highly emotional politician.”3
Similarly, MA Aziz, author of ‘Police Action’ tried to portray Kasim Rizvi as a subaltern whose meteoric rise was not to the liking of the Nawabs and Jagirdars. He claims that they have deliberately vilified Rizvi. Rizvi’s associate Mohammed Mazaruddin goes a step further in painting Rizvi as a pro-Hindu secular leader. He writes in his Urdu tome “Police Action Ke Khaufnaak Mahaul Mein” that Rizvi did not have any animosity towards the Hindus. He virtually gives a certificate of good conduct to Rizvi by claiming that he has asked the Razakars not to extort from the Hindus. 4
In his book “Muslim leadership in India,” Sheikh Mohammad Ali vouches of Rizvi’s ‘secular’ credentials. He quotes Rizvi’s address at Goshamahal in Hyderabad on September 13, 1948, the day when Indian Army launched its Operation Polo, to prove his ‘love’ for Hindus. The meeting was held to condole the passing away of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. According to Sheikh Mohammed Ali, Rizvi told the Muslims and the Razakars thus: “You should ensure that you do not harm any non-Muslims of our country (Hyderabad). Remember, our war is against the Indian Union, and not against Hindus. You should not attack women, children or elderly people. Don’t attack the unarmed and helpless enemy. Allah never helps those who do atrocities.” Despite the huge body of evidence available to the contrary, he goes on to argue that the trail of destruction and death that the Razakars unleashed was a mere concoction. 5
Narrative of Muslim victimhood
In addition to beatifying Rizvi and Razakars as paragons of secular virtues, a narrative is sought to be built about a ‘massacre’ of innocent Muslims. What is significant is that there is no mention of this ‘massacre’ in any of the literature that was published immediately after the police action. None of the Congress or even the Communist writers such as Basva Manayya, Vandemataram Ramachandra Rao, VH Desai , Devulapalli Venkateswara Rao, Ravi Narayana Reddy or Puchalapalli Sundaraiah talk about this. Even the MIM did not talk about them.
Suddenly in 2013, BBC correspondent Mike Thompson wrote an article claiming that there was a massacre of Muslims in the aftermath of Operation Polo. He claimed that this massacre was recorded in the Sundarlal Commission Report, which is kept in the Nehru Memorial Museum, Delhi. Soon, the MIM and other ‘secular’ groups picked up cue and began setting a narrative. Dr Omar Khalidi published “Hyderabad – After the fall” and included some paragraphs purportedly from the ‘report. Hyderabad-based Majlis-e-Tameer-e-Millat too published “Sukoot-e-Hyderabad” (fall of Hyderabad) quoting again excerpts from the same ‘report.’ There have since been demands for making the ‘report’ public.
Interestingly, there is no clarity in the number of people massacred. The so-called Sundarlal Committee report claimed that anything between 28000 and 40000 could have been killed. Sherman Tailor’s 2007 book on Hyderabad liberation said that over 50000 were killed. In the same book, she even said over 2 lakh people could have been killed. Journalist Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyer too claimed that over 2 lakh people died. He did not care to quote his source. Ironically, none of the media organisations have ever talked about either the massacre or about the so-called report. The anti-climax was when the Nehru Memorial Library in a written reply under Right to Information Act categorically told activist-author Capt. Panduranga Reddy that they do not have in their possession the claimed Sundarlal report. So, the whole thing is a classic case of much ado about nothing. 6
The so-called Sundarlal Committee is no committee or a commission of inquiry. There was no gazette notification or any GO announcing the formation of the report. It was a goodwill mission sent by Nehru to assuage the feelings of disempowerment and disentitlement among the Muslim community, which till then believed in the Nizam-Razakar dictum of “Un-al-Malik” (I am the ruler). The mission comprised Congress leader from Uttar Pradesh Pandit Sundarlal and nationalist Muslim leader Qazi Mohammed Abdul Ghaffar. They met the muslims of Marathwada, Bidar and Gulbarga during November-December 1948 and did not visit any part of Telangana. In a letter to both Nehru and deputy prime minister Sardar Patel, they categorically said that they were a mere goodwill mission and their only job was to create communal amity. They wrote:
“We clarified ourselves, whenever opportunity presented itself saying that ours was not a commission of investigation or inquiry into events preceding or following the police action and that ours was merely a goodwill mission charged with the task of restoring better communal relations.” Thus, this is neither committee and there was never any report. Even if it was there, it wasn’t submitted to the government. Even assuming that it was submitted to him, Pandit Nehru never ever felt it necessary to talk about it. 7
The story of victimhood flies in the face of the fact that the MIM was up and ready for the Hyderabad municipal elections by early 1950s. It not only contested, but won handsomely in the old city region. In fact, it is this success at the hustings that laid the path for subsequent firming up of the MIM’s Old City citadel. Today, the MIM can win seven MLA seats and an MP seat in Hyderabad, besides influencing the electoral outcome in more than 15 seats across Telangana. It continues to exercise considerable influence in the Kadapa and Kurnool districts of Andhra Pradesh and the former Nizam state areas in Kalyana Karnataka and Marathwada.
Clouding the Hyderabad story
There is a clearly discernible attempt to paint the perpetrator as the victim in the erstwhile Hyderabad state. Regular publication of voluminous books with annotated bibliography and references on Hyderabad’s integration into the Union of India should be seen as part of this narrative building.
For instance, the banned 1962-vintage book ‘Tragedy of Hyderabad,’ written by last prime minister of Hyderabad state Mir Laik Ali, was republished and translated into Telugu by Enugu Narasimha Reddy in 2012. The very next year, AG Noorani’s ‘Destruction of Hyderabad ‘appeared. Migration, Citizenship and Belonging in Hyderabad by TC Sherman too was published. She also wrote ‘Muslim belonging in secular India’ and ‘From Subjects to citizens’ in association with William Gould and Sarah Ansari backing the same narrative. October Coup, a memoir of Mohammed Hyder, the last district collector of Latur, the bastion of Kasim Rizvi, was published in 2017. There is a concerted effort in the academia of Europe, Pakistan and the US to reopen the accession of Hyderabad story all over again. All this is part of the attempt to put forward a counter-history of the events of September 1948.
Relooking Hyderabad liberation history – major challenges
One of the major problems of understanding and appreciating Hyderabad liberation history, the Hindu struggle for emancipation and the untold reign of terror and atrocities perpetrated by the Razakars is that there is a conscious attempt on the party of the rulers that came to power post September 17,1948. The rulers, who looked at the Muslims as a vote bank, saw benefits in obfuscating the dark chapters of Razakar terror. The successive Congress governments did not talk about the Razakars. Arya Samajis who were vocal against the Razakar atrocities, were co-opted into the government. The Communists too stopped talking about the Razakars as it did not suit their overall narrative of haves and have nots.
The situation has come to such a pass that when the archives department published a five-volume history of freedom struggle in Hyderabad in early 1970s, there was not even a passing mention of the Razakars. Ironically, the volumes were published when PV Narasimha Rao was the chief minister and the occasion was the silver jubilee of independence. PV, an anti-Razakar freedom fighter, had in fact fought for the right of the Hindu students to wear Dhoti instead of the Nizam-imposed Sherwani-Pyjamas.
Another major challenge to an integrated approach to Hyderabad state’s liberation history lay in the trifurcation of the erstwhile Hyderabad state. The three Kannada-speaking districts of Raichur, Bidar and Gulbarga were amalgamated into Karnataka and the area was till recently called Hyderabad Karnataka. Marathi speaking districts, including Latur, Osmanabad, Beed and Nanded went to Maharashtra. Thus the historic struggle of Arya Samaj and the Congress in Hyderabad Karnataka remained confined to Karnataka. The historic links of anti-Nizam struggle with Pune and Mumbai based patriotic forces, including the Hindu Maha Sabha and the RSS, too faded in Telangana.
Thus, a truncated version of liberation history began to take shape in three separated regions. Books in Marathi by Anant Bhalerao, Vasant Poddar, BS Dangle, BG Kauthekar, Dharurkar, Lakshmikanth Deshmukh, Khanderao Kulkarni, Sobha Korrane, Yashwant Salgaonkar, Manohar Taksal and others remained unknown in Telangana. Similarly, the books on Hyderabad liberation written by Swami Ramananda Teertha, Madapati Hanumantha Rao, Ravi Narayana Reddy and several others remained inaccessible to the Marathi speakers. Thus, the liberative history of Hyderabad became truncated. Sadly, no attempt was made to bring out a unified history.
Third big challenge was that both in Kannada, Telugu and Marathi, the last books of the people’s version of Hyderabad came way back in early 2000s. Thus, there is no new literature based on substantive research after 2005 in the erstwhile Hyderabad state. On the contrary, the Razakarist versions began appearing from 2012. Thus, there is a crucial information gap about the Razakar atrocities.
Confusion over Telagnana Armed Struggle and Telangana Liberation Struggle
Another major challenge is the questionable narrative peddled by the Leftist school of thought. There were several strands of freedom struggles such as the Hyderabad-state Congress led movement of VH Desai, Swami Ramananda Teertha, the dalams formed by the Congress leaders such as Marri Chenna Reddy and KV Ranga Reddy, the agitational approach of Vandemataram Ramachandra Rao and Jamalapuram Keshava Rao, Arya Samajist fight by Keshav Rao Koratkar, Pandit Narendra Ji, Maharashtriyan-dominated struggle by Vaman Kaik, Mast Kalandar Keskar, Hindu Mahasabha-led struggle of Savarkar and the Communist-led struggle. With the truncation of the Hyderabad state, Telangana strand of struggle was dominated by three major forces – of the Communists, Congressites and Arya Samajists.
The Communists dominated the area encompassing Warangal, Janagam, Nalgonda, Bhongir and Suryapet. Their influence extended to parts of erstwhile Medak and Karimnagar too. They had without doubt waged a relentless battle against the Nizam and Razakars in these regions. But, once the state was liberated, they staunchly opposed the integration of Hyderabad into India and waged an armed struggle. The arms were obtained from the Razakars, whom they fought against till then. They fought against the Government of India and its army till 1951. Though there were dissenting voices like those of Ravi Narayana Reddy, the majority went with the party line. This struggle is known as Telangana Armed Struggle.
The anti-Indian Union struggle is sought to be portrayed as the Telangana liberation struggle by the Communists and there is a great amount of confusion in the Telangana region over this. The complete silence of the Congress leaders post September 1948 has only helped the Communists in building this narrative. The Arya Samaj story is largely in Hindi and as a result, remains largely unknown. The Arya Samaj today has considerably weakened and is a shadow of its former self. So, there is great obfuscation of history in Telangana, especially of the liberation struggle.
Hence, there is a great need for an integrated approach to history representing the various strands of freedom struggle against the Nizam. A united team of researchers needs to take a relook and come up with a comprehensive history of Hyderabad state. Similarly, the story of Razakar atrocities, which has never been recorded, needs to be brought out. Oral histories need to be collected, verified, authenticated, corroborated and brought out in a book form to pass on the story of Hyderabad to the generations to come.
There can be no better time to do this than during the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. It would be timely and much-needed as Hyderabad would be celebrating its diamond jubilee of liberation on September 17, 2023.