Hyderabad’s “Liberation” and the RSS

The Telangana BJP’s plans to celebrate the liberation of Hyderabad is like them wanting to celebrate August 8 as Quit India day which the RSS opposed

Mir Osman Ali Khan the last Nizam of Hyderabad (Photo Courtesy: IANS)
Mir Osman Ali Khan the last Nizam of Hyderabad (Photo Courtesy: IANS)
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Mohan Guruswamy

The new Telangana BJP chief, Bandi Sanjay Kumar, has once again demanded that the state government must celebrate the "liberation" of Hyderabad from the Nizam's yoke, something in which the RSS had no role to play. It’s like them wanting to celebrate August 8 as Quit India day which the RSS had opposed.

It is now 72 years since the largest princely state in British India was integrated into India on September 17, 1948. Few now celebrate the hoisting of the Tricolour here. We who were born here and have deep roots here take this day as another event in the passage of history. That Hyderabad which was "liberated" does not even exist. But what do these Johnny-come-lately Bandi's know? They are prisoners of habit, habituated to fashioning lies into a self-serving history.

Hence it is ironical that the RSS, which never allowed the Tricolour to be hoisted on Hegdewar Bhavan, its headquarters in Nagpur, wants to celebrate the hoisting of the Tricolour in Hyderabad on September 17, 1948 as Liberation Day. On the eve of Independence, RSS mouthpiece 'Organizer" wrote: “The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the tricolor but it never be respected and owned by Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colors will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country". The Tricolour went up Hegdewar Bhavan only on January 26, 2001 when three young men belonging to the Rashtrapremi Yuva Dal forcibly hoisted the National Flag on the edifice.

The truth of the matter is that the RSS never took part even in the Quit India Movement of 1942 or in any anti-feudal liberation movement anywhere in the country. It made an abortive attempt to inveigle itself in the 1942 movement in the 1990’s when it began to peddle a tale about the young Atal Behari Vajpayee’s participation in Quit India activities in Bateshwar. It ended with egg on its face when the 'Frontline' published young Vajpayee’s confessional statement where he excluded himself from the events affirming he was a mere onlooker.

Apart from Hyderabad, J&K and Junagadh did not accede to the newly independent India in 1947. J&K did so only on October 26, 1947 when the Pakistani raiders began knocking on the gates of Srinagar. The Nawab of Junagadh actually acceded to Pakistan, but a popular upsurge forced him to flee with his kennel of loved canines to Pakistan. A referendum held on  September 15, 1947 ratified the accession. But the RSS never celebrates Kashmir’s accession on October 26 and Junagadh’s on September 15 as Liberation days. It wants to celebrate Hyderabad’s accession on September 17, 1948, in which it had no role, just as it tries to appropriate a role in the Nationalist Movement. It’s also a proxy attack on Hyderabad's substantial Muslim community represented by a reinvented Majlis-e-Ittihad-ul-Muslimeen (MIM).

At the time of India’s Independence, Hyderabad was the largest Indian princely state in terms of population and GNP. Its territory of 82,698 sq. miles was more than that of England and Scotland put together. The 1941 Census had estimated its population to be 16.34 million, over 85% of who were Hindus and with Muslims accounting for about 12%. It was also a multi-lingual state consisting of peoples speaking Telugu (48.2%), Marathi (26.4%), Kannada (12.3%) and Urdu (10.3%). It was a Muslim-dominated state and its vast Hindu majority was generally excluded from government. It was a mirror image of J&K, which was a Hindu-dominated fiefdom.

Hyderabad had its Hindu nobility, and a couple of them even rose to become Prime Ministers. Maharaja Chandulal was Prime Minister from 1833 to 1844 during the rule of Sikandar Jah. Sir Kishen Pershad was the Prime Minister from 1902 till 12. Nevertheless, it was a government of the Muslims and by the Muslims. Records of 1911 show that 70% of the police, 55% of the army and 26% of the public administration posts were held by Muslims. In 1941, a report on the Civil Service revealed that of the 1765 officers, 1268 were Muslims, 421 were Hindus, and 121 others, presumably British, Christians, Parsis and Sikhs. Of the officials drawing a pay between Rs 600 –1200 per month, 59 were Muslims, 38 were “others”, and a mere five were Hindus. The Nizam and his nobles, who were mostly Muslims, owned 40% of the total land in the kingdom.

The BJP’s only power base is in the old city of Hyderabad, which is the political domain of the MIM, its mortal enemy. The nature of its power here is best symbolised by how it managed to inflict a temple on the southeast corner of the Charminar and where it still grows like a fungus right under the nose of the Charminar Police Station.

The first stirrings of political activity in the Asaf Jah kingdom began in 1927 when the MIM was formed to unite various Islamic sects for “the solution of their problems within the principle of Islam”; and to protect the economic, social and educational interests of the Muslims. They presumably were affected by the happenings in Turkey and the direction the Khilafat movement took in India when it allied with the Congress and joined the nationalist movement 1920. The MIM soon became a movement to establish an Islamic state in Hyderabad.

In 1933, an association of mulki’s or local born Hindus and Muslims called the Nizam’s Subjects League was formed as a reaction to the continued domination of gair-mulki’s, mostly Muslim and Hindu Kayasthas from what is now UP, in government. This was soon to be known as the Mulki League. It was the Mulki League that first mooted the idea of a “responsible” government in Hyderabad.

In 1937, the Mulki League split between the more radical elements, who were mostly Hindus, and the more status quo inclined. This led to the formation of the Hyderabad Peoples Convention in 1937, a prelude to the establishment of the Hyderabad State Congress the following year. With this the movement for political and constitutional reform picked up momentum. The RSS did not exist in Hyderabad even on paper. The Hindu nationalist rump was of the Hindu Mahasabha, and mostly confined to Marathawada.

The Hyderabad State Congress agitation coincided with a parallel agitation led by the Arya Samaj and Hindu Mahasabha of VD Savarkar on Hindu civil rights. To a large extent the interests of the Congress and Hindu organisations coincided. This put them squarely against the Majlis who were now led by Bahadur Yar Jung who was also the founder of the Anjuman-i-Tabligh-i-Islam, a proselytising Muslim organisation whose prime activity was the conversion of Hindus.

Bahadur Yar Jung was a charismatic figure who became popular among the Muslims and had the ear of the Nizam, Osman Ali Khan. Bahadur Yar Jung summed his goal very succinctly: “The Majlis policy is to keep the sovereignty of His Exalted Highness intact and to prevent Hindus from establishing supremacy over Muslims.”

The leadership of the Congress took more nationalist overtones after the arrival of Swami Ramanand Tirtha on the scene. Tirtha hailed from Gulbarga and as a young man became a sadhu. He became President of the Hyderabad Congress in 1946 and attracted around him several young men who rose to prominence in independent India. Foremost among these was PV Narasimha Rao. Others were former Chief Ministers, Shankerrao Chavan, Veerendra Patil and Marri Channa Reddy.

While the Congress was gaining strength, the Communists were also active in the Telugu speaking areas. They captured the Andhra Mahasabha that was formed in 1921 to represent the interests of the Telugu speaking people in 1942. Unlike the Hyderabad Congress which launched a movement for democratic rights to run parallel to the Quit India movement, the Communists tacitly joined hands with the Majlis to support the Nizam, who was being a faithful ally of the British. The communists will deny this, but the fact is that like the Muslim League and RSS, they too opposed the Quit India movement.

Acession brought in its wake the changes that were sought ever since political activity began in the state. The Muslim elite soon found themselves marginalised and many migrated to Pakistan. Others like Ali Yavar Jung made a smooth transition into the new order. A new bureaucratic elite was quickly installed even as the communist insurrection was being quelled. The Muslim feudal regime was replaced by a government enjoying the peoples mandate. The RSS had nothing to do with it.

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