Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. (Photo: File)
Hyderabad: While people India were celebrating independence on August 15, 1947, the ruler of Hyderabad State, through a firman, issued a ban order on unfurling the Indian flag in Hyderabad State. Disobeying the order would be punishable with imprisonment for three years or a fine or both.
Since Urdu had been forced on the state as the official language from February 21, 1884, the three linguistic regions of the state, to save their socio-economic and cultural identity, formed respective cultural organisations.
The Andhra Maha Sabha was formed for the Telugu speaking region. During the 1930s, the AMS was dominated by conservative and orthodox elements. Its leaders, Suravaram Pratap Reddy, Mundumula Narsingha Rao, Pulijala Venkata Ranga Rao and Madapati Hanumantha Rao adopted moderate programmes and resorted to democratic methods of prayer, petition and protest.
The youth, under the leadership of Ravi Narayana Reddy, Baddam Yella Reddy, Devulapally Venkatashwara Rao, and Raj Bahadur Gaur, actively mobilised people against vetti and landlord oppression, which led to animosity with the conservative element of the AMS.
The dissension between the youth and conservatives in the AMS triggered a split. The conservatives left the AMS to form the National Telugu Organisation.
The AMS took to political agitation and started an anti-feudal movement against the landed gentry in the Telangana region. The Communists from the Andhra region joined the rank and file of the AMS and helped shape it as a political organisation. The AMS conducted membership drives by holding 'jaitra yatras' (victory marches) moving from one village to another.
The martyrdom of Doddi Komaraiah on July 4, 1946, lit a spark and heralded the aggressive anti-zamindari struggle of the Telangana peasants.
At the dawn of India’s independence, the Nizam of Hyderabad was caught on two issues: Pressure from the Indian government to accede to the Indian Union, and the anti-zamindari struggle of the Telangana peasants. The Government of India too was neck deep in the post-partition problem of the mass exodus of Pakistani refugees into the Indian Union. Owing to these pressures, the Indian government and the Nizam negotiated to buy time, thus leading to the famous Standstill Agreement on November 29, 1947, for a period of one year.
The Razakars were a volunteer group and considered as the private army of the Nizam. Their leader, Qasim Razvi, became the de facto ruler of Hyderabad State. The speeches of Razvi were fiery, reactive, provocative and audacious. The atrocities committed by the Razakars on innocent civilians, and the Nizam military’s excesses and targeted attacks, forced the Communists and Congressmen to move to the border areas outside Hyderabad State. The Communists used these camps as their bases to run the movement and to import arms from the Andhra region and could build up an offensive mechanism against the Razakars and the Nizam’s military. The Congress Party, especially the rich class and landlords, migrated to the borders of the Nizam's territory to save their lives and property from the Razakars and the Communists.
The Communist Party and the state Congress formed a United Front for the integration of Hyderabad State into the Indian Union. The United Front had called on the people to boycott the courts, quit college, burn the records of village patels and patwaris, cut down toddy trees etc. The alliance did not last long due to the peasants' struggle led by the Communists against feudal forces where some Congress elements were also part of it, distribution of land including that belonging to deshmukhs and jagirdars who were in the Congress fold, and formation of grama rajyams.
Very often the Standstill Agreement was disregarded by the Nizam. He turned down the defence clause of the agreement and resumed the purchase and production of arms secretly. The main concern for the Union government was the growing influence of the Communists. By September 1948 the Communists in Telangana region had attempted to form 3,000 grama rajyams (self-rule enclaves). K.M. Munshi, India’s Agent General in Hyderabad State, in his letter to the Government of India wrote: ‘This involves a double problem. The problem of liquidating the Razakars as well as the Communists in Hyderabad.’ The first is easy but the second is allied as it is with the problem of the whole South India and connected with the Communist policy in South East Asia. Though Hyderabad is the immediate problem, the Communist infiltration in South India would prove danger to the national government if not firmly and thoroughly handled.’The Nizam, in a cablegram dated August 21, 1948, approached the United Nation’s Security Council under Article 35 (2) for immediate intervention and for recognition of Hyderabad State as an independent country. As soon as the Indian government received this information, Sardar Patel, the Home Minister of India, described the idea of independent Hyderabad as "an ulcer on the heart of India which needed to be removed surgically."
Sardar Patel categorically stated in Parliament: "Now, the dominant issue is not settlement of the political relationship between India and Hyderabad, but that of public security. All other questions have become secondary, for peace and order are essential for the consideration of question."Though belated, the Indian Government resorted to Army action on Hyderabad State for accession into the Indian Union and sent in its troops on September 13, 1948. The military operation against Hyderabad State was named Operation Polo. By September 17, 1948, the Nizam, seeing the unprecedented retreat of the Razakars and his armed forces, sent a message to the Union government that he had ordered a cease-fire, disbandment of the Razakars and the withdrawal of the Hyderabad issue from the Security Council. It is evident that though it took less than seven days for the unconditional declaration of the Nizam for accession to the Indian Union, the 50,000-strong military stationed in Telangana took more than two years to quell the Communist-led peasants' struggle.
The writer is deputy director, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Hyderabad and can be contacted at email@example.com