Hyderabad liberated? Hyderabad merged? Hyderabad occupied? Hyderabad invaded? These are some of the questions that pop up in Hyderabad as September 17 draws near. What happened in the interregnum between August 15, 1947 and September 17, 1948 and after that is the question that has remained a riddle. Like the plot of ‘Rashomon’ there are many versions of what transpired on the ground.
“Where is the question of Hyderabad being liberated? Hyderabad was liberated as the Communist writ ran large in the city and they had unfurled the flag on August 15, 1947 in five places. Rafi Ahmed of Hyderabad Students Union unfurled the tricolour in Nizam College. Brijlani Gour unfurled it a Mahila Mandali,” says Oudesh Rani Bawa who recollects the events in the aftermath of Indian Independence.
“My grandmother in our Gowlipura house began crying after hearing Zahrul Hasan started playing Juthica Roy’s Meera Bhajans on Deccan Radio. The first one was ‘Paga ghungroo bandh meera nachi’. She realised it was all over and the Nizam’s army had folded up,” says Ms. Bawa who was an 8-year-old school girl enjoying an extended vacation as schools didn’t reopen after the summer holidays. The stage was set for action against Hyderabad, as the Nizam declared on June 1947 that he would join neither India nor Pakistan. Only a few days earlier, he had a massive showdown with Jinnah who came to drum up Mir Osman Ali’s support for Pakistan but was rankled to find Mirza Ismael as a key administrator for the Nizam.
According to a testimony of a witness, Nizam blew his top when Jinnah sat down in his presence with outstretched legs and began smoking a cigar. “Do you know who I am? Is this the way you behave towards the Nizam of Hyderabad? I do not want any outside interference in my affairs. I can take care of the interests of my own people. I do not wish to discuss this matter with you,” Nizam shouted at Jinnah, which could be heard across the palace.
Cut up with the creation of Pakistan, angry with the British Crown for letting down its ‘friendly ally’, an uncontrolled Razakar movement and Communists liberating one village after another, the Nizam had painted himself in a corner.
Once Nizam realised that he was surrounded by India, he and his advisers turned to acquiring arms. Director of music of Hyderabad Army Band Major Luschwitz, a man of German lineage, was tasked with acquiring arms. He successfully managed to get a few weapons from the Italians.
Sidney Cotton also managed to smuggle weapons from Karachi to Hyderabad which rankled India – but was of little use to Hyderabad’s army. Shyam Benegal narrates a curious anecdote about throwing pebbles into the parked planes at Hakimpet Airport to stop them from taking off. But Sidney Cotton shifted base to Bidar before ending his airlift. Muhammad Khaja Moinuddin, who played the role of a gunrunner for the Communists says the city stayed calm. “Ramanand Tirtha, the tallest Congress leader who was imprisoned told his Communist cellmate: ‘Only you people are capable of doing this. I am proud that you could unfurl the Indian tricolour’. There was no Razakar violence in areas where the Communists were a force to reckon with. Yes, there were reports of violence in the area that is now called Marathwada but here it was calm,” says Mr. Moinuddin.
By 5 p.m. on September 17, 1948, the Nizam announced the surrender of his troops, welcomed police action, and informed the people that he was withdrawing the case at U.N. The speech was drafted by K.M. Munshi, who was India’s Agent General in Hyderabad. September 18 was another day.