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Tuesday, Dec 06, 2022

‘Liberation’ from Nizam, or ‘Integration’ with India? Hyderabad, Sept 17, 1948, via BJP vs TRS politics

BJP claims Telangana’s ruling party did not observe the day all these years to avoid upsetting ally AIMIM; will commemorate it as day of unity, says KCR govt.

nizamMaulana Abul Kalam Azad, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Mir Osman Ali Khan, Nizam of Hyderabad. (Express archive photo)

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the BJP have now squared off over the commemoration of September 17, the day in 1948 when the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad merged with India. While the TRS-led state administration has decided to observe the day as Telangana National Unity Day, the BJP-led Union government has announced it will observe it as Hyderabad State Liberation Day.

With the Assembly polls in the state scheduled for next year, the BJP has latched on to the anniversary of the historic occasion to score political points against the TRS and its ally AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) led by Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi. It criticised the ruling party for not observing the occasion the eight years it has been in power, linking it to its “reluctance” to upset Owaisi.

The Owaisi-led party says that the original Majlis – or MIM (Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen) – which is linked to the violence in the months leading up to the princely state’s merger with India, ceased to exist after September 17. According to historian Mohammed Nooruddin Khan, before the MIM’s president Kasim Razvi and other senior leaders left for Pakistan, they handed over the party’s reins to Abdul Wahed Owaisi, Asaduddin’s grandfather, who was not associated with the outfit before that.

BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh has claimed that the TRS was forced to announce last week its plans to observe ‘Telangana National Unity Day’ because of the Centre’s plans to commemorate it as the ‘Day of Liberation’. The Central government plans to organise a massive public meeting at the Parade Grounds. Union Minister for Tourism and Culture G Kishan Reddy, who is the Lok Sabha MP from Secunderabad, wrote to Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, popularly known as KCR, on September 3, inviting him to be the guest of honour at the Parade Grounds event.

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The Hyderabad event will be presided over by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, followed by year-long events in the run-up to the 75th anniversary of the occasion in September next year.

While Maharashtra and Karnataka already commemorate this day as Marathwada Liberation Day and Hyderabad-Karnataka Liberation Day (some areas in the two states fell under the Hyderabad princely state), respectively, the Centre aims to celebrate the day across the three states and take it directly under its wing. Similar letters have been sent to Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde and Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai.

After the state government’s announcement, state BJP chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar was quick to claim victory for his party. “It is only after the Centre’s announcement that the state government decided to celebrate it. Not only the TRS, the Congress and the AIMIM have also been forced to acknowledge it. It is the BJP that has been demanding for many years that this event should be celebrated as Telangana liberation day,” he said.

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Kumar added, “The BJP puts a lot of importance on September 17 because it was the day the erstwhile Hyderabad State was taken from the Nizam. It is emotional because the Nizam’s men unleashed brutality on people, and not celebrating their liberation so as not to hurt someone’s sentiments is not acceptable.”

CM walks a tightrope

The Centre’s announcement appears to have pushed the state government to plan separate year-long celebrations but, unlike the Centre, the state will observe September 17 as a day of Telangana’s integration with India. Owaisi has also backed this, saying that celebrating the occasion as integration day will symbolise the courage with which people of the erstwhile princely state resisted the feudal system and the Nizam’s autocratic rule.

For the ruling party, the issue is akin to walking a tightrope. KCR has nurtured the support of Muslims in Telangana and has benefitted from minority votes in constituencies where the AIMIM does not contest.

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“Even before the formation of Telangana, KCR used to point out the good work done by the Nizams, such as their emphasis on building educational institutions, donating to colleges and universities elsewhere, creating irrigation facilities etc,” said a TRS leader. “It generated a lot of goodwill and the TRS has benefitted from it since the state was formed. To acknowledge and celebrate the integration or liberation may cause the party to lose some support.”

The history

When India became independent on August 15, 1947, it was still struggling to bring 500-odd princely states that dotted its territory. Among the princely states that had not acceded to the Union by then was Hyderabad, leading Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to famously note, “An independent Hyderabad constituted a ‘cancer in the belly of India’.”

By the 1940s, a strong peasant movement, with the participation of Communists, had started against the Nizam and it soon found a strong holding among the poor tenants and small landholders. When discussions about independence and accession to India started, the Nizam and the nobility backed the idea of a free Hyderabad. But a majority of the population, including the peasant protesters, were inclined towards joining the Union of India.

The Nizam then used a paramilitary body called the Razakars, who were born out of the MIM. The Razakar militia suppressed the peasant movement and led the resistance against joining the Indian Union by plundering villages and killing anyone suspected of being an agitator. On August 27, 1948, Razakars killed 96 villagers in Bhairanapally to quell their demand for merger with India.

On September 17, 1948, the Indian Army entered the then princely state, which consisted of modern-day Telangana and a few areas of Maharashtra and Karnataka, as part of Operation Polo. In less than a week, the Nizam and the Razakar squads surrendered to the Army.

First published on: 06-09-2022 at 10:38:00 am
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