Let September 17 pass without ado

The demand to celebrate it as day of liberation or as day of integration warrants closer scrutiny

By Author Tadakamalla Vivek   |   Published: 17th Sep 2020   12:00 am Updated: 17th Sep 2020   12:34 am

Come September 17, the political atmosphere in the State gets charged. The day has often engaged the attention of most in the State for it is construed as significant in the history of Telangana.

History isn’t a mere litany of facts or events. In essence, it is a commentary on carefully chosen facts. The task of a historian is, therefore, unenviable. The challenge lies in choosing the facts and finding relationship between them.

So history like any other discipline of social science is vulnerable. Viewed against this theoretical postulate, the demand made by certain political parties and groups to celebrate September 17 as a day of liberation or as a day of integration warrants scrutiny.

Some Posers

It’s a fact that the dominion of Hyderabad was under a ‘standstill agreement’ with the Indian Union as on the day the Union army marched into the dominion. However, it was styled as “Police Action.” Why was the action cloaked in those terms? The answer lies in the fact that in the face of a ‘standstill agreement’ between the Indian government and the Nizam which was in force, India was not a natural and legal successor to the state of Hyderabad.

Military action would have meant a breach of the agreement and aggression on a sovereign state as well. It was, therefore, natural for the Nizam to carry the matter to the United Nations Security Council, semantics or no semantics. This day of that year, the year 1948, is seen by some today as day of liberation and vociferous demands are made to celebrate it so.

Interestingly, this demand is made by a political party that was nowhere on the horizon then.
Liberation often implies freeing someone from fetters — political or otherwise. What were the fetters under which the people of Hyderabad state were living warrants an informed discussion. The dominion of Hyderabad was not very different from many princely States in political character on the eve of independence.

Therefore, it would be unfair to single out and brand it as excessively autocratic invoking the hindsight of history. Those who prefer to attribute religious hue to the state often refer to the personal faith of the ruler. This is a specious argument. There is no conclusive evidence to show that state was theocratic. On the contrary, citizens were free to follow their respective faith without fear.

Osman Ali Khan

The ruler Osman Ali Khan was not merely tolerant but was sanguine towards other faiths and there are instances galore of his munificence – financial or otherwise. Critics often cite instances of excesses and atrocities committed by the Razakars to impeach the last Nizam and to justify the Union’s armed intervention.

Those who believe that he connived with the Razakars and persecuted the Hindus will do well to explain why he never approved, either overtly or covertly, the actions of Kasim Razvi who spearheaded the movement. Razakars, meaning volunteers, comprised people from various religious persuasions. This fact should indemnify him. If he was a religious bigot would he have made financial donations to various temples and other religious institutions, including Gurudwaras?

As for the Comrades who demand the day be celebrated as the day of liberation, they should introspect and explain why they became friends of the Nizam and entered a pact with the Prime Minister of Hyderabad, Laik Ali, on May 4, 1948, as a tradeoff for lifting ban on the Communist party and hailed Razakars as peoples’ army? Did not Rajbahadur Gaur, who was till then in hiding announce in a public meeting in Hasmath Gunj that independent Hyderabad state shall be the policy of the party?

The Comrades may also explain the massacre of thousands of their brethren and incarceration of many more thousands in the concentration camps of Union Army.

Curiously, the Comrades started claiming freedom fighters’ status in the state of Hyderabad ever since pensions for freedom fighters was announced by Indira Gandhi in 1973 against the backdrop of a split in the Congress and her minority government’s dependence on the Left parties’ support. What a travesty that fellow Comrades were killed and captured in the so-called Police Action and their fraternity enjoys pensions!

Unanswered Questions

Further, if the day was meant to ‘liberate’ people from an autocratic rule, why were hapless citizens, many among them Muslims, targeted and butchered in lakhs? Was it their fault that the Nizam was a Musalman? Why is the report of Pandit Sunderlal still under wraps? Ideally, liberation should usher in a qualitative change in the character of the state and quality of life of people. But this day for long did not change much.

The agrarian relations remained unchanged. Landed gentry metamorphosed themselves into netas and reclaimed their lands. Paradoxically, the Comrades called off peasant struggle. It is also a question for consideration if the day can be marked as day of liberation if the rule by a monarch was replaced with military general. Why was Hyderabad brought under the rule of Gen Choudhary?

While these ponderables warrant informed discussion, there are others who soften their stand and suggest that the day be reckoned as day of “integration.” However, there are some nuanced facts that need be taken into account before coming to a conclusion. Post September 17, the Nizam was designated ‘Raajpramukh’ and issued ‘firmaans’ till January 25, 1950. How was this possible if a monarchical dispensation was integrated with a democratic polity?

It is revealing and insightful that the Supreme Court held in a Criminal Misc Petition (71 of 1950) dt. December 14, 1950, that “the territory of the Govt of HEH the Nizam was never the territory of India before 26-1-1950 and therefore the judgement and sentence passed by the HC of HEH the Nizam on the 12th &13th December 1949 cannot be considered as judgments and sentence passed by a Court in the territory of India”?

To put the issue in a factual context, I would like to rely on the reply of the Ministry of Defence. In reply to a query by an RTI activist on Oct 19, 2004, the Ministry informed that the Hyderabad state was merged with Indian Union on 26th January, 1950.

In sum, the ‘Police Action’ was a small rap on the knuckles to get the Nizam in line. But it proved disastrous for the people of Telangana as the events that followed exposed the Hyderabad state, its people and resources to unbridled exploitation and led to political and cultural subjugation in the aftermath of integration with another Telugu State and dealt a blow to its very identity. However, it took over six decades to regain the paradise lost at a great human cost.

History is an unending pursuit and enquiry into the past, a dialogue between the past and the present. Enquiry and dialogue must continue. But it is appropriate that we let the day pass as just another day.

(The author is a former Member, TSPSC)

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