The State of Hyderabad was founded by Mir Qamruddin Chin Qilich Khan, son of Aurangzeb’s general, Ghazi-ud-din Khan Feroz Jaug, who traced his ancestry to Abu Bakr, the first Khalifa. The State of Hyderabad first came under the paramountcy of the British in 1766. However, breaking his treaty with the British, the Nizam allied himself with Hyder Ali of Mysore in 1767. Their joint forces were defeated by the British in 1768, and Hyderabad State again came under the paramountcy of the British. In 1799 the Nizam helped East India Company defeat Tipu Sultan. Nizam Mir Usman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam, ruled the State at the time of Independence. He was granted the title ‘Faithful Ally of the British Government’.

At the time of Independence, Hyderabad was a premier State, with an area of about 2,14,000 square kilometres, population of 16 million, and an annual revenue of 26 crores. It had its own coinage, paper currency and stamps. 85% of its population of 1.6 crores was Hindu. However, the Police, the Army, and the Civil Services were almost completely the preserve of the Muslims. Even in its Legislative Assembly set up in 1946 the Muslims were in majority, despite forming a mere 15% of the population.

Soon after the announcement of the 3-June-1947 Plan or the Mountbatten Plan of the partition of India, Nizam declared on 12 June 1947 that he would neither join India nor Pakistan, but would remain independent. He wanted to secure the Dominion Status for his State from the British, like the one proposed for partitioned India and Pakistan, although the same was not allowed for any Princely State.

A fanatical Muslim organisation, Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen, headed by one Kasim Razvi had been fomenting trouble. They came to be known as the Razakars. At the instance of Kasim Razvi, Nizam appointed Mir Laik Ali as Prime Minister and president of his Executive Council. Laik Ali was a Hyderabadi businessman, who had also been a representative of Pakistan at the UN till September 1947. With this the Hyderabad Government came virtually under Razvi, who later met Sardar Patel and VP Menon in Delhi to tell that Hyderabad would never surrender its independence, and that Hindus were happy under Nizam; but if India insisted on a plebiscite, it is the sword which would decide the final result. Razvi further told Sardar Patel, “We shall fight and die to the last men,” to which Patel responded, “How can I stop you from committing suicide?”

In his speeches in March 1948 and later, Kasim Razvi exhorted the Muslims “to march forward with Koran in one hand and a sword in the other to hound out the enemy.” He declared that “the 45 million Muslims in India would be our fifth columnists in any showdown”. Razvi challenged that “if the Indian Union attempted to enter Hyderabad, it would find nothing but the bones and ashes of 15 million Hindus residing in the State.” He boasted on 12 April 1948 that “the day is not far off when the waves of bay of Bengal would be washing the feet of our Sovereign” ; and that he would “hoist the Asaf Jahi flag on the Red Fort in India”. Razakars continued their criminal anti-Hindu activities.

At the suggestion of his British and Muslim advisers, the Nizam had planned out several ways to strengthen his position: acquiring port facilities at Goa from Portugal; getting approval for a rail-corridor from Hyderabad to Goa; taking mine-leases in mineral-rich Bastar; readying more air-fields; acquiring weapons; recruiting more Muslims in the army; recruiting British soldiers; getting Muslims from other states to move into Hyderabad state; converting Dalits to Islam; unleashing militia comprising local Muslims, Pathans and Arabs to intimidate non-Muslims; scaring away Hindus out of Hyderabad state; and so on. Mir Laik Ali had bluffed and boasted: “If the Union Government takes any action against Hyderabad, a hundred thousand men are ready to join our army. We also have a hundred bombers in Saudi Arabia ready to bomb Bombay.”


Wrote VP Menon:
“Warming up Sardar said, ‘You know as well as I do where power resides and with whom the fate of the negotiations must finally lie in Hyderabad. The gentleman [Kasim Razvi] who seems to dominate Hyderabad has given his answer. He has categorically stated that if the Indian Dominion comes to Hyderabad it will find nothing but the bones and ashes of one and a half crore of Hindus. If that is the position, then it seriously undermines the whole future of the Nizam and his dynasty. I am speaking to you plainly because I do not want you to be under any misapprehension. The Hyderabad problem will have to be settled as has been done in the case of other States. No other way is possible. We cannot agree to the continuance of an isolated spot which would destroy the very Union which we have built up with our blood and toil. At the same time, we do wish to maintain friendly relations and to seek a friendly solution. That does not mean that we shall ever agree to Hyderabad’s independence. If its demand to maintain an independent status is persisted in, it is bound to fail.’ … But every time any action against Hyderabad was mooted, the communal bogey was put forward as an excuse for inaction.”

Like their pro-Pakistan attitude, many in the Press in Britain and many prominent British leaders were pro-Hyderabad and anti-India. Hyderabad had been their most faithful ally, and they wanted it to be independent and pro-Britain. They did not care if it was a cancer right in the heart of India and had predominant Hindu population of over 85%. Their stand and support, and that of Pakistan, emboldened the Razakars and the Nizam.

While Mountbatten had nothing to say on the grossly unethical, illegal and even barbarous acts of Pakistani raiders in J&K, and of Razakars in Hyderabad; he was liberal in his moral lectures to India, and wanted India “to adopt ethical and correct behaviour towards Hyderabad, and to act in such a way as could be defended before the bar of world opinion.”

V Shankar writes in ‘My Reminiscences of Sardar Patel’ : “Hyderabad occupied a special position in the British scheme of things and therefore touched a special chord in Lord Mountbatten…The ‘faithful ally’ concept still ruled the attitude of every British of importance… all the other rulers were watching whether the Indian Government would concede to it a position different from the other states…
“Lastly, on Hyderabad, Pandit Nehru and some others in Delhi were prepared to take a special line; in this Mrs Sarojini Naidu and Miss Padmaja Naidu, both of whom occupied a special position in Pandit Nehru’s esteem, were not without influence. There were also forces which were not slow or hesitant to point out the special position of the Muslims in the state… Apart from Lord Mountbatten’s understandable sympathy for the Muslim position in Hyderabad, shared by Pandit Nehru, in anything that concerned Pakistan even indirectly, he was for compromise and conciliation to the maximum extent possible…”

Nehru never showed similar indulgence towards the Maharaja of Kashmir. Indeed, he was unreasonably hostile to the Maharaja of Kashmir, unnecessarily friendly and brotherly towards Sheikh Abdullah; but indulgent towards the Nizam under whose regime the innocent Hindus were being terrorised by the Razakars and Muslim militias. Mountbatten, also Chairman of the Defence Committee, had recorded:
“Pandit Nehru said openly at the meeting, and subsequently assured me privately, that he would not allow any orders to be given for operations to start unless there really was an event, such as a wholesale massacre of Hindus within the State, which would patently justify, in the eyes of the world, action by the Government of India.”

What would the world think? What Mountbatten thought? What about his own image? These seemed to weigh more with Nehru. Why couldn’t he also think the opposite: that the world would consider India a sissy and a fool to ignore its own Hindu population, which was at the receiving end, and national interests.

By October 1947 Sardar Patel had got sick of negotiations with the Nizam’s representatives, and wanted to break off the negotiations. However, Mountbatten pleaded for more time. Why? The British didn’t wish to displease their faithful ally. Patel was not the only person deciding. There were Gandhi, Nehru, Mountbatten and others. Despite Sardar’s objections, a Standstill (status quo) Agreement was signed between India and Hyderabad in November 1947 for a year. In the subsequent months, Hyderabad loaned rupees twenty crores to Pakistan, placed orders for arms elsewhere, and stepped up its nefarious, anti-Hindu activities through Razakars.

Multiple delegations had discussed numerous proposals with Hyderabad, all to no avail. Mountbatten too tried, but failed. Finally, his tenure over, Mountbatten left India on 21 June 1948 . But, before leaving, he tried once more to get very favourable terms for the Nizam by getting Sardar Patel to sign a document as a farewell gift to him. Sardar signed knowing the stubborn Nizam would reject those terms. And, Nizam did reject the document! The moment that happened Sardar declared that thenceforth Hyderabad would be treated on par with other states, and not as a special state. KM Munshi recalled that a day after Mountbatten had left he had called up Patel, who had responded cheerfully: “Well Munshi, how are you? Is everything all right? What about your Nizam?” KM Munshi was then the Agent-General of India in Hyderabad State. When Munshi asked Patel about a query he had received on behalf of the Nizam on the “Mountbatten Settlement”, Patel shot back, laughing: “Tell him [Nizam] that the Settlement has gone to England. The terms and the talks which Lord Mountbatten had have gone with him. Now the settlement with the Nizam will have to be on the lines of settlements with the other states.”

OPERATION POLO, THANKS TO SARDAR PATEL & DESPITE NEHRU                                        Distressed about Nehru’s reluctance to act, Patel had written to NV
Gadgil on 21 June 1948:
“I am rather worried about Hyderabad. This is the time when we should take firm and definite action. There should be no vacillation; and the more public the action is the greater effect it will have on the morale of our people, both here and in Hyderabad, and will convince our opponents that we mean business. There should be no lack of definiteness or strength about our actions. If, even now, we relax, we shall not only be doing a disservice to the country, but would be digging our own grave.”

One JV Joshi, in his letter of resignation from the Nizam’s Executive Council, wrote that law and order had completely broken down in many districts and that the Nizam’s Police—comprising almost exclusively of Muslims—was colluding with the Razakars in loot, arson and murder of Hindus, and molestation and rape of their females. He stated having himself witnessed such scenes and even scenes where Brahmins were killed and their eyes gouged out. It was estimated that besides the Hyderabad State forces of over 40,000, there were about 2,00,000 Razakars with small arms, and a number of Pathans lately imported. It became morally difficult for India to remain a mute witness to the mayhem, that turned worse by August 1948.

Resistance by Nehru & the British to Any Action
On the use of force by India to settle the Hyderabad issue, V Shankar wrote :
“The entire staff for the purpose had been alerted and the timing depended on how long it would take for Sardar to overcome the resistance to this course by C Rajagopalachari, who succeeded Lord Mountbatten as Governor General, and by Pandit Nehru, who found in C Rajagopalachari an intellectual support for his non-violent policy towards Hyderabad..” Shankar quotes Sardar’s response to a query, “Many have asked me the question what is going to happen to Hyderabad. They forget that when I spoke at Junagadh, I said openly that if Hyderabad did not behave properly, it would have to go the way Junagadh did. The words still stand and I stand by these words.”
“…The situation in Hyderabad was progressing towards a climax. Under Sardar’s constant pressure, and despite the opposition of Pandit Nehru and Rajaji, the decision was taken to march into Hyderabad and thereby to put an end both to the suspended animation in which the State stood and the atrocities on the local population which had become a matter of daily occurrence.”
Wrote MKK Nayar: “Indian Army’s C-in-C was an Englishman named Bucher and the Southern Command was headed by Lieutenant General Rajendra Singhji. Patel knew that Nehru would not agree to military intervention, but anyway sent an instruction through VP Menon to Rajendra Singhji to be ready to act if the need arose. Major General Chaudhry commanded the First Armoured Division which was stationed in the South and Rajendra Singhji decided to keep it ready for war.”

In the Cabinet meeting on 8 September 1948, while the States Ministry under Sardar Patel pressed for occupation of Hyderabad to put an end to the chaos there; Nehru strongly opposed the move and was highly critical of the attitude of the States Ministry [under Sardar Patel].

MKK Nayar also wrote: “Patel believed that the army should be sent to put an end to the Nizam’s highhandedness. At about that time, the Nizam sent an emissary to Pakistan and transferred a large sum of money from his Government’s account in London to Pakistan. At a cabinet meeting, Patel described these happenings and advised that the army may be sent to end the terror-regime in Hyderabad. Nehru who was usually calm, peaceful and good mannered, lost his self-control and said, ‘You are a total communalist and I shall not accept your advice.’ Patel remained unfazed and left the room with his papers. He stopped attending cabinet meetings and even speaking with Nehru after that.”

Wrote Kuldip Nayar: “…Reports circulating at the time said that even then Nehru was not in favour of marching troops into Hyderabad lest the matter be taken up by the UN… It is true that Patel chafed at the ‘do-nothing attitude of the Indian government’…”

Sardar Patel’s daughter’s ‘The Diary of Maniben Patel: 1936-50’ states:                                                 “About Hyderabad, Bapu [her father, Sardar Patel] said if his counselling had been accepted—the problem would have been long solved…Bapu replied [to Rajaji], ‘…Our viewpoint is different. I don’t want the future generation to curse me that these people when they got an opportunity did not do it and kept this ulcer [Hyderabad princely state] in the heart of India…It is States Ministry’s [which was under Sardar Patel] function [to make Hyderabad state accede to India]. How long are you and Panditji going to bypass the States Ministry and carry on…Bapu told Rajaji that Jawaharlal continued his aberration for an hour and a half in the Cabinet —that we should decide our attitude about Hyderabad. The question will be raised in the UN…Bapu said, ‘I am very clear in my mind—if we have to fight—Nizam is finished. We cannot keep this ulcer in the heart of the union. His dynasty is finished.’ He (Jawaharlal) was very angry/hot on this point.” 

Nehru was so opposed to the use of force against Hyderabad that after Patel got the same approved by the cabinet Nehru called his cabinet colleague Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and remonstrated with him for supporting Patel on the issue, and warned him [being a Bengali] that India’s action would lead to retaliation by Pakistan, which was likely to invade West Bengal, and bomb Calcutta. Unexpected by Nehru, Mukherjee nonchalantly responded that the people of Bengal and Calcutta had enough patriotism to suffer and sacrifice for the national cause, and would be overjoyed when they learn that General JN Chaudhuri, a Bengali, had conquered Hyderabad!

Sardar’s Decisive Action & Attempt to Abort it
Sardar Patel finally prevailed. A decision was finally taken on 9 September 1948 to carry out Operation Polo against Hyderabad by sending troops under the command of Major-General JN Chaudhuri.

Jinnah died two days before—on 11 September 1948. In view of the same, the British C-in-C General Bucher had requested for postponement of the operations, but Patel had overruled him: British were looking for ways to save and support Hyderabad. General Bucher had even rung up early morning at 3am HM Patel and others on the D-day of 13 September 1948 to have the operations cancelled or postponed.

The Actual Operations
Very tactfully, Sardar Patel waited for Mountbatten to first go from India for ever, which he did on 21 June 1948—lest he should interfere in the matter. Patel’s most formidable obstacle lay in Mountbatten and Nehru, who had been converted by Mountbatten to his point of view—not to let Indian Army move into Hyderabad. Had Gandhi been alive, perhaps Nehru- Gandhi combine would not have allowed the action that Sardar took— Gandhi being a pacifist. Wrote V Shankar:
“Sardar [Patel] was aware of the influence which Lord Mountbatten exercised over both Pandit Nehru and Gandhiji; often that influence was decisive… Sardar had made up his mind that Hyderabad must fit into his policy regarding the Indian states… I know how deeply anguished he used to feel at his helplessness in settling the problem with his accustomed swiftness… the decision about the Police Action in Hyderabad in which case Sardar [Patel] described the dissent of Rajaji and Pandit Nehru as ‘the wailing of two widows as to how their departed husband [meaning Gandhiji] would have reacted to the decision involving such a departure from non-violence .’”

Sardar Patel had fixed the zero hour for the Army to move into Hyderabad twice, and twice he had to postpone it under intense political pressure from Nehru and Rajaji [C.R.]. When the zero hour was fixed the third time by Patel, again it was sought to be cancelled in response to the appeal of the Nizam to Rajaji. Nehru and Rajaji instead directed VP Menon and HM Patel to draft suitable reply to Nizam on his appeal. Nehru and Rajaji didn’t realise that the Nizam was all along buying time to strengthen himself, and not to reach any amicable settlement. By then Sardar had had enough of Hamlet Nehru.

While the reply to Nizam was being readied, Sardar Patel, summarily announced that the Army had already moved in, and nothing could be done to halt it. This he did after taking the Defence Minister, Baldev Singh, into confidence!

The operations commenced on 13 September 1948, and after about four days of operations lasting 108 hours, the Hyderabad Army surrendered, with Major-General El Edroos, commander of the Hyderabad Army, asking his troops to yield; and Major-General JN Chaudhuri entered Hyderabad city on 18 September 1948, taking charge as Military Governor. His administration continued till December 1949. Kasim Razvi was arrested on 19 September 1948.

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