OPERATION POLO (1948)
( On the eve of the forthcoming Telangana Liberation Day, the essay is posted as reminding of the events that have passed-Editor)
September 17th in the annals of Telangana History is benchmarked as the day of Liberation of Hyderabad State from the Nizam who refused to sign on the instrument of joining the Indian Union, a Military Operation (though it was officially called as Police Action) was initiated against the Nizam or Hyderabad State as a last resort and as all the options before the Indian Government were closed, considering the following Points: (1) Unchecked Atrocities of Razakars supported by Nizam (2) Open support of Nizam to Pakistan (3) Prevalent of Civil war conditions (4) Guerrilla Armed Struggle with backing of Communist Countries such as Russia Under Stalin and China Under Mao, (5) Nizam complaint to the UN and (6) People demanding for the Peaceful Unification Process.
Operation Polo was the Code name given to the Military Operation against the Hyderabad State in 1948. Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII, a Muslim Ruler who presided over large number of Hindus, decided to remain Independent State at the behest of small population of Muslims and refused Accession to India. Operation Polo began on 13th September and ended by 17th September 1948. Indian Army Troops led by Maj Gen JN. Chaudhary who trounced Nizam Army under Gen Syed Ahmed El-Edroos who agreed to surrender unconditionally on 17th itself (See: September 13, 1948: Operation Polo launched to annex state of Hyderabad in https://www.timesnownews.com day by day account of Military Opration)
The important names, apart from the Nizam were, India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Union home minister Sardar Patel, India’s Agent-general to Hyderabad KM Munshi, Hyderabad’s last Prime Minister Laiq Ali, MIM president and head of the Razakars Qasim Razvi, Congress leaders Swami Ramanand Tirtha and Burgula Ramakrishna Rao, Communist Party of India’s Raavi Narayan Reddy, Makhdoom Mohiuddin, Puchchalapalli Sundarayya and lastly Syed Ahmed El-Edroos, the Last Military Commander of the Hyderabad State Army. Edroos is most crucial to understand the ground reality of whether Hyderabad was even remotely capable to taking on the Indian Army.
In his Memoirs, he stated “I had, as commander-in-chief, withdrawn troops from the borders to within 3 miles in order to avoid any clashes with the Indian Army who were already concentrating on the borders. Mir Laiq Ali and his cabinet ministers were trying to decide upon the disposal of the armed forces of Hyderabad …and finding that I was not going to yield …they thought it best to take over the so-called defenses of Hyderabad in their own hands and organize the Razakars,”. Edroos in all his wisdom had surrendered after realizing the ground situation, in spite of Hyderabad Prime Minister Laiq Ali stating that the Nizam’s state would be able to take on India’s might (See: Sept 13 1948, Operation Polo: When the Army marched into Hyderabad in https://www.siasat.com).
“74 years after Operation Polo, the ramifications of the last Nizam’s decisions still continue to haunt his people. It has also given the right-wing a reason to sully his name and Muslims in the country as traitors”, reports Siasat (See: Sept 13 1948, Operation Polo: When the Army marched into Hyderabad in https://www.siasat.com).
Union of India sensed the secessionist tendency of Nizam State against the backdrop of formation of Pakistan and secondly, in 1926, Mahmud Nawazkhan, a retired Hyderabad official, founded the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (also known as Ittehad or MIM). Its objectives were to unite the Muslims in the State in support of Nizam and to reduce the Hindu majority by large-scale conversion to Islam. Razakars got expanded under Qasim Rizvi, educated at Aligarh University and who were primarily armed supporters of MIM. But Razakars on the surface, said to claimed as Volunteers of MIM. Nizam (who became a puppet in the hands of Razakars) was advised to resist the accession to India by the Razakars. They targeted mainly Hindus for supporting the Accession to India and some Muslims whose loyalty was suspected. It was also noted that they fought back the Communists or its Guerrilla fearing that would lead to dismantling of Nizam Seat of Power.
We have to note that the atrocities committed by Razakars go beyond imagination. Looting alone come around Rs. 100 Crores and thousands of people were brutally murdered, sources recorded. Region and District wise loot and destruction figures are openly available. Marathwada under the Nizams by Kate reported that the Razakars terrorized the Hindu population and its sympathizers, causing many to flee to safety into the jungles, uninhabited mud forts, or neighboring Indian provinces.
The State of Hyderabad under the leadership of its 7th Nizam, Mir Sir Osman Ali Khan, was the largest and most prosperous of all the princely states in India. With annual revenues of over Rs. 9 crore, it covered 82,698 square miles (214,190 km2) of fairly homogenous territory and comprised a population of roughly 16.34 million people (as per the 1941 census) of which a majority (85%) was Hindu. The state had its own army, airline, telecommunication system, railway network, postal system, currency and radio broadcasting service. Hyderabad was a multi-lingual state consisting of peoples speaking Telugu (48.2%), Marathi (26.4%), Kannada (12.3%) and Urdu (10.3%). In spite of the overwhelming Hindu majority, Hindus were severely under-represented in government, police and the military. Of 1765 officers in the State Army, 1268 were Muslims, 421 were Hindus, and 121 others were Christians, Parses and Sikhs. Of the officials drawing a salary between Rs. 600 and 1200 per month, 59 were Muslims, 5 were Hindus and 38 were of other religions. The Nizam and his nobles, who were mostly Muslims, owned 40% of the total land in the state (There once was a Hyderabad: Mohan Guruswamy in https://www.india-seminar.com)
In the meantime, the Nizam sought to widen the issue by moving the United Nations, took the advice and assistance of Pakistan, and began stockpiling arms. The Times, London, on 9 August 1948 reported that the Hyderabad army was strengthened to 40,000 and supplies of arms were being received, presumably from Pakistan. The Prime Minister of Hyderabad, Mir Laik Ali, boasted that ‘If the Indian government takes any action against Hyderabad, 100,000 men are ready to fight. We also have a hundred bombers in Saudi Arabia ready to bomb Bombay”. Razakars vowed to hoist the Asaf Jhahi flag on the Red Fort which never happened and Operation Polo in fact taken place between the Razakars and approaching Indian Military belied such hopes.
Between 1947-48 when the Standstill agreement was the framework of Relation between Nizam and Indian State, the later asked repeatedly the Nizam to restrain or disband the forces of Razakars but no attention was paid. There were rumors in the air that the Nizam was promised all material help from the Portuguese in Goa and Pakistan which also contributed for the Police Action. Mir Sir Osman Ali Khan, Nizam of Hyderabad, initially approached the British Government with a request to remain as an Independent State with Monarchy and be a Part of Commonwealth. However, it was turned down by the Viceroy Lord Mountbatten. Sardar Patel who was the Instrument of Accession of Many Princely States to India didn’t like the Idea of Independence of Hyderabad State and said it clearly “an ulcer in the heart of India which needed to be removed surgically.”
The merger of Hyderabad into the Indian Union was announced. Major General 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 Governor of the state and the Nizam was given the position of “Raj Pramukh”. The Razakars were disbanded after the merger of Hyderabad with India and the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen was initially banned—though it was allowed to be re-chartered as All India MIM (AIMIM) under new leadership in 1957. Qasim Rizvi was jailed and served in Indian prisons for almost a decade. After his release, he migrated to Pakistan, the GOI allowed.
The Pandit Sunderlal Committee Report estimated that between 27,000 and 40,000 lost their lives in the violence that ensued the operation but the unofficial documents revealed, the figure could be far more that what was estimated.
- Razakars – a “rope around the neck” of the Nizam
- Benichou, From Autocracy to Integration (2000)
- Hyder, Mohammed (2012). October Coup, A Memoir of the Struggle for Hyderabad. Roli Books.
- Sherman, Taylor C. (2007), “The integration of the princely state of Hyderabad and the making of the postcolonial state in India, 1948–56”, The Indian Economic and Social History Review.
- Noorani, A. G. (2014). The Destruction of Hyderabad. Hurst & Co.
- Kamat, Manjiri N. (2007), “Border incidents, internal disorder and the Nizam’s claim for an independent Hyderabad.
- “Liberation Struggle of Hyderabad ” by Acharya Khanderao Kulkarni.
- “Nizams’ Rule Unmasked” by Acharya Kasireddy Venkatreddy.