Liberation Day or Integration Day – From Advani few years ago to today’s Amit Shah, who is visiting Hyderabad, political landscape has been using the historical event of 1948 Police Action as a tool to drive poll agendas – a practice that goes back to the elections in the 50s. BJP calls September 17 liberation of Hyderabad while the other side calls it an Integration Day. Fact is that primarily Operation Polo has been a blind spot for decades now, but for a few books, which record lived experiences
The five-day-long “battle” of the Police Action was certainly still fresh in their memory. But they also stressed that the “main history” or “official history” (pradhāna caritra or adhikāra caritra in Telugu) was centered on the celebration of the formation of the Telugu linguistic state of Andhra Pradesh and the leftist-centred Telangana armed struggle. The celebrations of the formation of a new state of Andhra Pradesh became a form of nationalist rhetoric, while the Telangana armed rebellion turned into a leftist campaign for the general elections of 1952. According to the Deccani Urdu literary historian Samala Sadasiva – writes Afsar Mohammad author of the most recent book on Operation Polo – Remaking History : 1948 Police Action and the Muslims of Hyderabad.
The story in the book, according to the footnote – begins on August 15, 1947. As the new nation-states of India and Pakistan prepared to negotiate land and power, the citizens of the princely state of Hyderabad experienced the unraveling of an intense political conflict between the Union government of India and the local ruler, the Nizam of Hyderabad. The author explores how the state of Hyderabad was struggling to produce its own tools of cultural renaissance and modernity in the background of the Union Government of India’s deployment of the central army, the Nizam’s idea of a ‘Muslim state’ and the Telangana Armed struggle fostered by leftist parties. With evidence from the oral histories of various sections – both Muslims and non-Muslims – and a wide variety of written sources and historical documents, this book captures such an intense moment of new politics and cultural discourses.
Just as Samala Sadasiva spoke about the politics of the time – the current political landscape is using this historical event as a political tool. One wishes to celebrate it as liberation day, while the other calls it an Integration Day. The political discourse of 1948 put a wrap on the several accounts of loot, wrongful arrests, and riches-to-rags stories of Muslim families – primarily this has been a blind spot years after as well, but for a few books.
One such book is Afsar Mohammad’s latest book ‘Remaking History: 1948 Police Action and the Muslims of Hyderabad,’ which documents witness narratives of violence.
In his introduction to the book published by Cambridge University Press, he writes – When I read this line from a poem by Agha Shahid Ali in 1998, it immediately resonated through the restless chambers of my mind. In Hyderabad on September 17 of that same year, I had witnessed a public rally of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and listened to India’s then-home minister Lal Krishna Advani give a provocative speech. Invoking anti-Muslim sentiment in Hyderabad and Telangana states, Advani declared that September 17 should be celebrated as “Telangana Liberation Day.” That charged declaration stoked a hundred questions in me about the history of Hyderabad, a history, which is already replete with intense memories of Muslim lives and their discourses between the 1930s and 1950s. On that September day, which marked the fiftieth anniversary of the integration of the Hyderabad princely state into the Indian government, the BJP was jubilant about the military action of the Indian government code-named “Operation Polo” or “Police Action.” But could we really call it a “celebration” given the violent history that led to the killing of thousands of Muslims and Hindus, and to the global displacement and migration of thousands of Hyderabadis?
Yet another book published few years ago (2014) was AG Noorani’s The Destruction of Hyderabad – Barnes & Nobles writes in the overview – In this book A. G. Noorani offers a revisionist account of the Indian Army’s ‘police action’ against the armed forces and government of Hyderabad, ruled by the fabulously wealthy Nizam. His forensic scrutiny of the diplomatic exchanges between the government of India and the government of Hyderabad during the Raj and after partition and independence in 1947 has unearthed the Sunderlal Committee report on the massacre of the Muslim population of the State during and after the ‘police action’ (knowledge of which has since been suppressed by the Indian state) and a wealth of memoirs and first- hand accounts of the clandestine workings of territorial nationalism in its bleakest and most shameful hour. He brings to light the largely ignored and fateful intervention of M. A. Jinnah in the destruction of Hyderabad and also ac- counts for the communal leanings of Patel and K. M. Munshi in shaping its fate. The book is dedicated to the ‘other’ Hyderabad: a culturally syncretic state that was erased in the stampede to create a united India committed to secularism and development.
Noorani places the blame on Jinnah, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and the last Nizam too, who he says did not battle for his people but for himself
Yet another book which brings to light the plight of Muslims, many who were wrongly arrested and branded as Razakars and the toll on their families – a memoir by Mohammed Hyder, who was then from Hyderabad Civil Service, the newly-appointed Collector of Osmanabad District (situated on the Hyderabad-Bombay border), and says both, the wayward State Congress and the ramshackle Razakar outfit are a threat to law and order. This first-person account conveys a vivid picture of Hyderabad under pressure, through the eyes of a senior district administrator.
Some of the other books include – Operation Polo – The Police Action Against Hyderabad 1948 SN Prasad written in 1969, Hyderabad 1948: An Avoidable Invasion by Syed Hashmi Ali.
And, all these books bring forth history as it happened – which needs to be discussed in the face of using the incident for political gain yet again, and amidst this tussle of calling September 17 – Liberation Day or Integration Day.