17 September, 2018, is finally here. Today marks exactly 70 years since the erstwhile state of Hyderabad was annexed to India through the military action known as Operation Polo (or police action in local parlance). It was a tragedy which has been largely forgotten because it has been kept out of our textbooks.
The entire episode, which was essentially a three-day military operation (or takeover or war), took place because the 7th Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan was unwilling to join the Indian Union and wanted to stay independent, and resulted in the loss of thousands of lives, especially Muslims at the hands of goons reportedly in connivance with the Indian army.
On the occasion, I've written a small piece for our blog based on eyewitness accounts. Link in bio.
But that is just one part of the story. 1947-48 also saw violence and atrocities against the local Hindu populace by the Razakaars, a Muslim militia headed by Qasim Razvi, who wanted to keep Hyderabad independent.
Razvi, who took over the Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen in 1944. At the same time, during 1946-51, the peasants in Telangana with help from Communists began revolting against the landlords and were also fighting against the Razakaars, in what is known as the Telangana Armed Struggle.
All these things together resulted in one of the most tumultuous periods of India's history. Today, 70 years later, those surviving from the last generation which witnessed it are the only one who can tell us what exactly happened back then in September.
While I've found some of them (you may refer to previous posts on Mr. Syed Amir Shah, Mr. Moinuddin and Mr. Narsing Rao), the coming year will be dedicated to finding as many eyewitnesses as possible and interviewing them so that we can get a better understanding of what exactly happened back then. Fingers crossed.
So last week I decided to accompany @amandazillo on an impromptu one-day bike trip to Bidar (on my KTM Duke 390) to see the Bahmani tombs. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was simply stunned by the beautiful architecture, especially the Persian (tiles) inscriptions on the Bahmani and the Baridi tombs.
The Bahmani tombs in Bidar belong to Shihabuddin Ahmed I onwards (till the 18th) who shifted the capital from Gulbarga. For those of you who are interested in Dakhni history, Bidar is a must visit, because the roots of each of the later Golconda, Gulbarga, Bijapur, Bidar and Ahmednagar Deccan sultanates lie in the disintegration of the Bahmani kingdom which began in 1518 after the death of Shihabuddin Mahmud (or Mahmud Shah Bahmani). Though all of the Deccan sultanates declared independence in 1518 after Mahmud’s death, the last four Sultans after him, namely Ahmed IV, Alauddin Shah, Waliullah and Kalimullah, were simply titular kinds (till 1538), who received only verbal homage (from the truncated or separated independent kingdoms) and some tributes.
Mahmud’s reign from 1482 to 1518 shows that he practically had no power on his own and was playing into the hands of his provincial governors. Post his death, Bidar was taken over the Baridis (it was later annexed to Bijapur shortly after by the Adil Shahis), and Sultan Quli became the ruler of Golconda (he was earlier governor and the place was called Tilang). The tombs in Bidar are a very fine example of Dakhni architecture, which was essentially born out of proper cultural synthesis between the Persian and the local cultures of the areas. The Bahmani dynasty was established in 1347 by Alauddin Hasan Bahman Shah, which basically broke-off from Tughluq’s empire and claimed its own supremacy.
In fact, Alauddin’s own ambition was to sit on the seats of the Tughluqs.
Of all the people I’ve interviewed so far with regard to Operation Polo, the story of Mr. Syed Amir Shah’s was the most heart-breaking. Born in his native village of Mehkar (in Bidar district. Then in the erstwhile state of Hyderabad, now in Karnataka), Mr. Shah, a boy of just 7 years in 1948, had to flee to Bhalki village nearby (and later to Bidar city) along with his family after learning that the Indian army was coming, and along with it local goons who went around pillaging and killing Muslims.
Mr. Shah, who fled with his mother, paternal grandmother and four siblings, had to travel overnight as well by foot it to Bhalki village and later to Bidar for safety. After staying with a relative for about 8-10 days, they finally were able to reach Hyderabad (in a bus) which was much safer.
Through the ordeal, it was heavy rains in September which kept Mr. Shah’s family safe as they got drenched and walked when no one else would. “We were moving around through agricultural fields. But my father, who on the advice of my mamu went to Deoni (in Maharashtra) was murdered by goons. There they also took the lives of 5,000 other Muslims,” he told me when I met him.
For those of you who don't know, It was the military action through which the erstwhile state of Hyderabad (which comprised parts of present day Karnataka and Maharashtra) was annexed to India on 17th September 1948, as Osman Ali Khan, the seven Nizam of Hyderabad was deliberating between joining India are staying independent.
Like many others, he also holds Kasim Razvi, leader of the Razakaars and later the Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) responsible for misleading people (mainly Muslims), instigating violence and targeting Hindus, which in turn led to Operation Polo. Hopefully, I can unearth more such untold stories of the tragedy, which marks its 70th anniversary this September.
For Burugula Narsing Rao (86), the murder of journalist Shoaibullah Khan who used to run the Urdu paper Imroze, is still fresh. Khan was killed by members of the rag-tag Razakaars militia for taking a stand that the erstwhile state of Hyderabad should join the Indian union, as the last and seventh Nizam of the state, Osman Ali Khan, was deliberating between staying independent or joining India post August 15, 1947.
Mr. Rao has also been one of the Nizam's harshest critics, for not just allowing Qasim Razvi, the leader of the Razakaars (and later the MIM which he took over in 1946 after the death of Bahadur yar Jung), to run around terrorising people but for also creating the mess that finally resulted in Operation Polo, the name under which Indian army was sent to take over and annexe the state of Hyderabad to India on 17th September, 1948.
Here are two short video clips from our interviews with him. Mr. Rao still has a sharp memory, recalling the whole episode when he witnessed the murder like it was yesterday. Incidentally, his father's brother, Burugula Ramakrishna Rao, was also the first chief minister of the state of Hyderabad, which existed till 1956 after which it was carved up (thanks to the states reorganisation on linguistic basis by the centre) and Telangana was merged with Andhra, creating the new state of Andhra Pradesh (till 2014). Operation Polo is a modern day tragedy, and has been conveniently buried and forgotten. While Hyderabad was relatively safe, the targeted killinga of Muslims in areas of Karnataka and Maharashtra have left a scar on the psyche of our people, which still hasn't healed.
And if any of you know others who witnessed Operation Polo, we would love to hear their stories and to interview them.
For the longest time I would only hear people praising Osman Ali Khan, the seventh and last Nizam of the erstwhile state of Hyderabad.
But MK Moinuddin (90), a communist party of India member and former (Desmukh) landlord who participated in the Telangana armed uprising (1946-51), has a very different take on him and Operation Polo (or police action), the 3-day military action through which the erstwhile state of Hyderabad was annexed to India on 17th September, 1948.
Mr. Moinuddin, then a student of the Govt. City College, went underground with renowned communist leader and Urdu poet Makhdoom Mohiuddin, as the communists were fighting both the Razakaars (a militia run by Kasim Razvi, who went around instigating violence) and the state and later the Indian Army.
The 90-year-old believes that the military operation could have been avoided had Khan decided to join the Indian Union. The "blockade" he is referring to was the economic blockade that was imposed upon Hyderabad by the Indian government after independence, as the princely state was landlocked with Indian borders all around it.
His story actually is a very crucial part of the period between 1946-51, when the Telangana armed struggle (peasant uprising against landlords) simultaneously took place along with Operation Polo and continued till 1951, after which the communists decided to become part of mainstream politics.
This short video was from my interview with him last week. (See earlier posts on topic)
September 17 this year marks 70 years of Operation Polo, in which thousands of Muslims died at the Indian army’s hands (primarily in parts of present day Karnataka and Maharashtra which were then part of Hyderabad). The entire episode took place because Khan was deliberating between joining India or staying independent. Hoping to uncover and record a lot more eyewitness .
Some times I really wonder why a madman was allowed to even dictate terms to a government. A man who was a rabble rouser and was basically responsible for a lot of unnecessary problems that were created during the tense period of 1947-48 before the erstwhile state of Hyderabad was annexed to India through the military action operation polo (also called Police Action). And the book October Coup by Mohammed Hyder, who was the district collector of Osmanabad in 1948 before perfectly captures how helpless the administration was after Razvi was basically dictating terms, especially to Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh and last Nizam of the Asaf Jahi dynasty.
Razvi, a failed lawyer from Latur (in Maharashtra, who was rumoured for being unscrupulous) essentially was an extremist right winger, was of the opinion that Muslim monarchy was meant to rule over the majority Hindu population. Hope I can uncover a lot of other things about him through the course of my interviews with people who witnessed operation polo in the coming one year.
For those of you who are unaware,the 1947-48 period was tense in the Hyderabad state, which comprised some parts of present day Maharashtra, Karnataka and the entire Telangana region, as Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh and last monarch, was deliberating between joining India or running an independent state.
It gave Razvi the chance to take over the political vacuum and to unleash a reign of terror (apparently targetting hindus). In 1944, Razvi, who ran the Razakaars (a rag tag militia) had taken over the Majilis-e-Itteahadul Muslimeen (which is today known as the All India Majilis-e-Itteahadul Muslimeen), after the death of Bahadur Yar Jung, the MIM’s president, in 1944. It had begun as an Islamist organisation in 1927.
This post is a day late, but yesterday when the entire country celebrated India completing its 71st Independent year, Hyderabad however completed 70 years, because the princely state of Hyderabad had joined (rather was annexed) India a whole year later in 1948.
It was done through Operation Polo, the three-day military action initiated by the Indian Union on September 13/14, after which Hyderabad was merged with India on September 17, 1948. The incident is nothing short of a tragedy in India's partition history because thousands, mainly Muslims in parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka, were killed by the Indian Army.
This was something the Sunder Lal committee had looked into, and the report was conveniently hidden by successive governments. The man in the first picture is major general Syed Ahmed El-edroos, who was then the commander of the Hyderabad state Army. The person in the second picture is of Kasim Razvi (second pic), who was basically responsible for a lot of things.
The 1947-48 period was tense in the Hyderabad state, which comprised some parts of present day Maharashtra, Karnataka and the entire Telangana region, as Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh and last monarch, was deliberating between joining India or running an independent state. It gave Razvi the chance to take over the political vacuum and to unleash a reign of terror (apparently targetting hindus). In 1944, Razvi, who ran the Razakaars (a rag tag militia) had taken over the Majilis-e-Itteahadul Muslimeen (which is today known as the All India Majilis-e-Itteahadul Muslimeen), after the death of Bahadur Yar Jung, the MIM’s president, in 1944. It had begun as an Islamist organisation in 1927.
This year, 17 September marks 70 years of Operation Polo and I am hoping to uncover a lot of things through my interviews with people who witnessed it.
While many of the forts where local cheftians ruled were brought under the Qutub Shahi dynasty eventually (war/acquisition), the Bhongir Fort however has a special connection with the first king Sultan quli Qutub Shah (1442-1543). The fort was where one of his sons named Dowlat Quli was imprisoned, while another one named Jamshed, who went on to become the second King after getting his father assassinated, was imprisoned inside the Golconda Fort.
Sultan Quli actually wanted another son named Qutubuddin to ascend the throne. Stories say that Jamshed was believed to be wicked. However, after Jamshed became king in 1543, not much is known about what happened to Dowlat. His youngest son Ibrahim, who fled to the Vijayanagar empire, later returned after Jamshed's death to become the third king.
However, this story is also something that historian HK Sherwani, an expert on Deccan history, negates and says that it was something that Persian historian Ferishta created. According to him, the Tabaqat-i Akbar Shahi (1593) states that Sultan died 24 years after ruling over as king. He points out that this story could have been brought in after Ibrahim took over and he could have dragged in Jamshed's name when the official history was being written.
In the politically charged and turbulent year of 1948, when the fate of (the erstwhile state of) Hyderabad was being decided, B. Narsing Rao (85), was witness to a murder which perfectly captured the situation then. Journalist Shoebullah Khan, who ran the Urdu newspaper Imroze from Mr. Rao’s house, then in the Kachiguda area of Hyderabad city, was shot dead by the Razakaars for supporting the state of Hyderabad joining the Indian union and Mr. Rao says that he witnessed it with his own eyes.
Mr. Rao, who was then a 12th standard student in the Nizams College. Khan’s murder had set the tone of the political unrest during the period, as the seventh Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan was deliberating between joining India or holding onto the monarchy.
The Razakaars (volunteers) were a rag-tag armed militia headed by the fanatic/rabble-rouser Kasim Razvi, who not only took over the Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s (MIM, now All India MIM run by Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi) after bahadur Yar Jung’s death, but also was ad-hoc controlling the state apparatus.
According to Mr. Rao, the murderers of Shoebullah Khan had even cut-off his hand to show others what would happen if they took a similar stance. The 85-year-old also happens to be the nephew of B. Ramakrishna Rao, the first chief minister of the erstwhile state of Hyderabad, which was split in 1956 after states were reorganized on linguistic basis.
17th September this year marks 70 years since Hyderabad was annexed by the Indian army through operation polo, in which thousands of lives were lost (mostly Muslim). This unfortunate incident has been conveniently buried by governments and does not even find much mention in partition stories.
Luckily, there are some people alive from the last generation which witnessed it, and I am hoping that people like Mr. Rao will help us put the puzzle together about what exactly transpired then.
This is Mr. MK Moinuddin (90), a former communist party of India member and someone who is most crucial in my efforts to put pieces of history together in my hunt for finding people who witnessed Operation Polo (or police action), the 3-day military action through which the erstwhile state of Hyderabad was annexed to India on 17thSeptember, 1948.
Luckily, his memories are quite sharp. Mr. Moinuddin was a student of the Govt. City College then and went underground with renowned communist leader and Urdu poet Makhdoom Mohiuddin. A Desmukh (land owner), he gave up his lands and joined the communists and peasants who fought against the Nizams and the Razakaars (militia started by Kasim Razvi, who was responsible for a lot of the troubles in 1948) and later the Indian government.
His story actually is a very crucial part of the period between 1946-51, when the Telangana armed struggle simultaneously took place along with Operation Polo and continued till 1951, after which the communists decided to become part of mainstream politics.
A young man during Operation Polo, Mr. Moinuddin recalled that the communists were also fighting with the Razakaars and felt that the situation would not have escalated had the Nizam not given into Kasim Razvi’s demands.
This year marks 70 years of Operation Polo, in which thousands of Muslims died at the Indian army’s hands (those killings took place in the parts of present day Karnataka and Maharashtra which were then part of Hyderabad). It has been recorded, but kept under wraps by the govt.
More importantly, most who witnessed it have died, and the few remaining like Mr. Moinuddin are the only ones who can tell us what transpired then. So this year, starting 17 September, I will be talking to as many people who can tells us their stories, and hope to travel to K’taka and Mh to find more eyewitnesses.
One whole year till 17 September, 2019, will be dedicated to it.
The beautiful central niche of the Badshahi Ashurkhana, which was constructed between 1592-96, some time after the Charminar was built in 1591 HD foundation of Hyderabad.
It always surprises me that people generally overlook this place when they go to the old city. Most of the beautiful enamel tiles are still intact.
Like other Ashurkhanas, this one too saw bad days for nearly a century after the Qutb Shahi dynasty fell to Aurangzeb's army in 1687. And it wasn't until Nizam Ali (the second monarch of the Asaf Jahi dynasty) came to power that the Badshahi Ashurkhana was given an annual grant.
And for those of you who do not know, an Ashurkhana is where Shia Muslims mourn during Ashura, the 10th of Moharram. The place is dedicated to Hazrat Ali, the (cousin and) son in law of prophet Muhammad, and his family, which was killed in the battle of Karbala.
The name of Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah, who founded Hyderabad, was inscribed on the Western Wall and also on this central niche, but the word Quli was apparently later omitted.
According to Syed Ali Asgar Bilgrami's Landmarks of the Deccan (1927), the edifice was constructed at a cost of ₹66000 then. It's located just beside Shadab hotel.
This is Mohammed Hussain Yawari, owner of the New Grand Irani Cafe at Afzalgunj, which was established in 1950. I must have passed by the place hundreds of times but never thought that this place would have such interesting history. Those of you who want or prefer Irani chai made in the old way should definitely visit this place.
According to Mr. Yawari, the building which houses the cafe was constructed in the early 1930s by the then Prime Minister of Hyderabad Mir Laik Ali, and was apparently the first RCC construction in the entire city (this was apparently told to him by a driver who used to visit the cafe since when he was a child. The driver passed away some years ago at the age of 90). He's one of the handful of people in the city who can take you through the history of Irani cafes in Hyderabad.
The cafe is also one of the few places today where we get Haleem every Friday. Mr. Yawari was kind enough to spare time, and explained a lot about how food has evolved in Hyderabad. Definitely going to collaborate with him for one of my walks in the coming days. More on him and his life story will be up on our blog in a detailed interview in the coming days. So stay tuned.
This headstone belongs to one of the most colourful or rather infamous personalities from the erstwhile state of Hyderabad named William Palmer, who was also known as 'king Palmer'. Having died in 1867, William's family was related to the then governor of Madras. He started a bank called Palmer and Company, which handled the accounts of the third Nizam Sikandar Jah. The then prime minister was Munir UL Milk, who was basically overspending and ended up borrowing huge sum from the bank.
The biggest loan was negotiated in 1814 to pay the salary of the newly formed Hyderabad contingent, which consisted of Britons in the nizams army for which a loan of 2.5 lakhs a month at 25% interest, with the revenues of certain districts assigned as security, was taken.
Palmer continued to advance loans to the British till it amounted to about a crore and in 1820 of further loan of 60 lacs was advanced to the then (infamous) finance Minister Chandulal. This actually became the talk in British India and a scandal perhaps.
A few months later sir Charles metcalfe was appointed resident who then realised that quite a lot of monthly payment was not going into the Hyderabad treasury but into the pockets of Palmer and Company.
The then Governor General of the British East India company, lord Hastings, intervened and finally remitted crore from the company's coffers to settle with Palmer and Company's claims, for which he was severely censured.
But because the Nizam's treasury was compromised it actually enabled the British to exercise full control. However, even the banking house did not fair too well and in 1828 it went bankrupt l.. He was buried in the nearby St. Georges cemetery with the headstone towards his third wife who supported him till death. (The cemetery is currently being restored and not accessible)