One of the most fascinating chapters in recent history is the sequence of events that led to the integration of the Nizam’s state of
Roughly, this is what happened. A whole year after Indian Independence, the fate of
The Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, wealthy beyond belief and famously parsimonious,** had no idea what he wanted to do. Ideally, he would have liked the State of Hyderabad to be entirely Independent but this was something the British flatly refused to consider. He had to choose and it was a hard choice to make.
Sardar Patel, whose task it was to persuade the princely states to join India, had no intention of letting Hyderabad become a part of Pakistan; to have a large portion of the Deccan belong to another country – a newly created and hostile one at that – was simply not an option. Patel sent K M Munshi, freedom fighter, confidant, fellow-Gujarati (and – though this was slightly relevant in that it indicated his position on the political spectrum - founder of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan), as Agent-General to the state of
In August, when it became clear that India would not countenance an Independent Hyderabad or one that was a part of Pakistan, the Nizam began to simultaneously move his assets out to England*** and prepare for war.
July and August 1948 was a period of high intrigue, with spies and secret informants from the Nizam’s army****, aircrafts flying out in the dead of night, bounties and rewards offered. Frantic phone calls and telegrams flew between Munshi and Patel. These are excerpts from Munshi’s diary of the time*****
August 31, 1948:
Have sent a wireless to Sardar pressing for early military action, if not, at least for the complete sealing off of
The Nizam’s Legislative Assembly started yesterday with all the pageantry of an independent parliament.
September 2, 1948:
Brown of the Daily Telegraph has sent a most vicious telegram about the situation comparing
Indiawith Nazi Germany, me with Ribbentrop and as the happy land of peace. Hyderabad
September 4th, 1948:
Very much perturbed at the excellent international propaganda which
is conducting. Hyderabad
September 5, 1948:
Laik Ali’s speech delivered yesterday is a declaration of independence. Though couched in polite terms there is a note of defiance throughout. Evidently, he is smarting under Sardar’s comparison of the
delegation [to the UN] with the Zamindars of Madras. Hyderabad
September 7, 1948:
Panditji announced in Parliament the final demands made on the Nizam: (a) banning of the Razakars, and (b) reposting of army to Secunderabad.
At 4pm the Nizam signed a mobilisation order,
Later, another wireless from the States Ministry about the incident near Kodada. Indian Army men have been captured by some men of the Nizam’s Army and the Razakars. Sent a protest to Laik Ali at 9pm.
September 8, 1948:
is in a panic. Hyderabad
On 13th September 1948, the Indian Army entered
It took one day for Major-General J.N.Chaudhury to reach Hyderabad (he had to get past the mines that had been salted around the city; the person who was responsible for it said that he didn’t have a map of the mines and so had to lead the surrendering contingent past the mined area as punishment). On the 18th, At Hyderabad Army surrendered, though the Nizam had already done so publicly on the 17th.
There was looting and rape and the Indian Army’s hands were not especially clean at the end of it – whatever Munshi’s memoir says (Munshi’s memoir is by turns pious, self-serving, gossipy and illuminating. It is essential reading.)
*The police had nothing to do with Operation Polo; the Indian Army, led by J.N.Chaudhury, invaded the Nizam’s territories and the Nizam finally surrendered on the 17th of September, 2008 – 60 years ago today.
**One story goes that he refused to have his private rooms dusted. This way, he would know if any article of vertu precious to him went missing. Another story alleged that the money he received on his birthday – which the Nizam traditionally touched as a mark of acceptance and returned – he kept.
***A battle to recover these assets is still being fought in the courts, with both
**** The ‘Sound Silent’ of the Nizam’s Army, it turned out, was one Reddy who knew what the Indian Army was trying to do and fed it exaggerated reports of the Hyderabad Army’s strength, with the consent of Major-General El Edroos.
***** from The End of an Ear:
Other essential reading/viewing: