Hyderabad - 1947-1948
The euphoria of independence was short-lived as partition brought disastrous consequences for India in the wake of communal conflict. Partition unleashed untold misery and loss of lives and property as millions of Hindu and Muslim refugees fled either Pakistan or India. Both nations were also caught up in a number of conflicts involving the allocation of assets, demarcation of boundaries, equitable sharing of water resources, and control over Kashmir. At the same time, Indian leaders were faced with the stupendous task of national integration and economic development.
When the British relinquished their claims to paramountcy, the 562 independent princely states were given the option to join either of the two nations. Before independence, Mountbatten had made it clear to the Indian princes that they would have to choose to join either India or Pakistan at partition. In all but three cases, the princes, most of them ruling over very small territories, were able to work out an agreement with one country or another, generally a deal that preserved some measure of their status and a great deal of their revenue. A few princely states readily joined Pakistan, but the rest - except Hyderabad (the largest of the princely states with 132,000 square kilometers and a population of more than 14 million), Jammu and Kashmir (with 3 million inhabitants), and Junagadh (with a population of 545,000) - merged with India.
The issue of Kashmir, Hyderabad, and the small and fragmented state of Junagadh (in present-day Gujarat), remained unsettled at independence, however. The Muslim ruler of Hindu-majority Junagadh agreed to join to Pakistan, but a movement by his people, followed by Indian military action and a plebiscite (people's vote of self-determination), brought the state into India.
The State of Hyderabad, "Heart of the Indian Peninsula," occupied the center of the continental lobe. Unusually fertile and desert free, it is dotted with artificial lakes and storage reservoirs, has no sea-coast - a grave disadvantage - but was well watered by a system of rivers on which floated many a quaint coracle.
At the time of Partition in 1947, the Seventh and the last Nizam of Hyderabad, Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan, a Muslim ruler of a Hindu-majority populace, tried to maneuver to gain independence for his very large and populous state, which was, however, surrounded by India. After more than a year of fruitless negotiations, India sent its army in a police action in September 1948, and Hyderabad became part of India. India successfully annexed Hyderabad and Junagadh after "police actions" and promises of privileges to the rulers.
The princely ruler of Hyderabad, the nizam, had attempted unsuccessfully to maintain Hyderabad as an independent state separate from India in 1947. His efforts were simultaneous with the largest agrarian armed rebellion in modern Indian history. Starting in July 1946, communist-led guerrilla squads began overthrowing local feudal village regimes and organizing land reform in Telugu-speaking areas of Hyderabad, collectively known as Telangana (an ancient name for the region dating from the Vijayanagar period). In time, about 3,000 villages and some 41,000 square kilometers of territory were involved in the revolt.
Andhras were very much agitated over the developments in the State of Hyderabad during the years 1946-48. The Nizam was very anxious to become independent and he insisted that Hyderabad should be the third dominion. He tried to achieve his ambitious desire with the help of Khasim Razvi of the Ittehadul Muslimeen and its storm-troopers, the Razakars.
Meanwhile, the Hindus of the Hyderabad State who accounted for 93 percent of its population, launched the `Join India’ movement with the cooperation of a few patriotic Muslims for the integration of the State with the rest of the country. The State Congress leaders, led by Swami Ramanand Tirtha, invoked themselves whole-heartedly in the movement. As the State Congress was banned by the Nizam, its leaders conducted their activities from places like Vijayawada and Bombay. The Communists on their part organised village defence squads to protect the villagers from the attacks of the Nizam Police and Razakars.
All negotiations between the Nizam’s Dominions and the Indian Union proved abortive. The Nizam Government did not agree to the accession of the Dominions to the Indian Union. The activities of the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen and the Razakars within the Dominions were posing a threat to peace and harmony. The growing violence of the Razakars seriously jeopardised law and order. The Government of India, tried to make the Nizam see reason and sign the Instrument of Assession with India. After tortuous negotiations, the Nizam finally entered into a `Stand Still Agreement’ on November 29, 1947, with India for one year to maintain status quo, which existed between the British and the Nizam before August 15, 1947. This agreement of the Nizam was only to gain time to procure military hardware from different parts of the world and smuggle them into Hyderabad. In the meanwhile, the Nizam sent a delegation to the U.N.O. to refer the Hyderabad case to the Security Council.
In Junagadh it was a simple brigade-level confidence-building measure and the state acceded to the Union. Hyderabad dallied for one year attempting to declare independence outside the Indian Union. A situation of extreme tension prevailed by June 1948. Jawaharlal Nehru conceded, "It is impossible for an independent state to have foreign territory right in its heart." The nizam requested the president of the United States of America to intervene; the request was refused. In late August 1948, a Hyderabad State delegation presented its case to the United Nations Security Council.
With the growing violence by the Razakars and the Nizam’s attempts to get himself independent, the Government of India decided to curb these tendencies by launching a `Police Action’ against the Nizam. Faced with the refusal of the nizam of Hyderabad to accede his territory to India and the violence of the communist-led rebellion, the central government sent in the army. On the 13th of September, 1948 `Police Action’ on Hyderabad commenced. The Indian Army, led by Major-General J.N.Chaudhuri entered the State from five directions and the military action was a brilliant success.
The Indian Army marched into Hyderabad on September 13, 1948. The State army surrendered four days later. A short 100-hour engagement was forced on the Army (at that time heavily engaged in Kashmir). 1 Armoured Division, commanded by Major General IN Chaudhuri one of the few formations available, along with some infantry units attached to it, entered the state and settled matters with minimal force.
The nizam gave in. He first released K M Munshi, India's agent-general, from house arrest, then withdrew his case from the UN on September 23, 1948. On November 23, 1949, the nizam issued a firman (edict) accepting the Constitution of India, to be formed by the Constituent Assembly of India then in session, as the constitution of Hyderabad State.
On 18th September, 1949, Nizam’s forces surrendered and Mir Laik Ali, the Prime Minister of the Nizam, and Khasim Razvi were arrested. On September, 23, the Nizam withdrew his complaint in the Security Council. The merger of Hyderabad Dominions into the Indian Union was announced. Major-General J.N.Chaudhuri took over as Military Governor of Hyderabad and stayed in that position till the end of 1949. In January 1950, M.K.Vellodi, a Senior Civil Servant, was made the Chief Minister of the State and the Nizam was designated `Raj Pramukh’. After the 1952 General Elections, the first popular ministry headed by B.Rama Krishna Rao took charge of the State.
Hyderabad had been forced to accede to the Indian union, and, by October 1951, the violent phase of the Telangana movement had been suppressed. The effect of the 1946-51 rebellion and communist electoral victories in 1952 had led to the destruction of Hyderabad and set the scene for the establishment of a new state along linguistic lines. In 1953, based on the recommendation of the States Reorganisation Commission, Telugu-speaking areas were separated from the former Madras States to form Andhra, India's first state established along linguistic lines. The commission also contemplated establishing Telangana as a separate state, but instead Telangana was merged with Andhra to form the new state of Andhra Pradesh in 1956.
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