On Saturday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah declared that September 17 shall be celebrated as Liberation Day for Telangana. Emphasizing on the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad, Amit Shah, in a press release, announced that the center will celebrate the day and continue to do so with pride, citing the day when the Indian forces entered the city then ruled by the Nizam in 1948.
Nizam Mir Osman Ali, the last Nizam of Hyderabad, had held on to his rule over Hyderabad, Telangana, and parts of present-day Gujarat and Maharashtra.
The Telangana government, on the other hand, resumed their own variation of the celebrations.
Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao, to the media, insisted that Hyderabad had integrated into the Indian union and was not liberated by ‘Operation Polo’, famously codenamed by then Home minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel.
The nature of the celebrations has resulted in growing allegations between the two parties, in the backdrop of the Telangana 2023 State elections.
The story in Brief
Back in 1947, British India was actually a melting pot of kingdoms, as diverse as the country’s cultures and traditions. During the Indian independence, these independent kingdoms were given the option to either join the Indian union, move to Pakistan, or stay independent. The Nizam of Hyderabad, for one, was adamant to let go of his princely state, the locals within the city however held different views, wishing to be liberated from unruly landlords and the feudal climate of the state.
Brimming in the corner was a quiet demand for Telugu to be given the pedestal over Urdu. The Andhra Jan Sangham, later called the Andhra Mahasabha strived to include Telegu in local courts. Teaming up with communists, the two groups galvanized a peasant movement against the ruling Nizam.
An uprising in 1946 by Visnur Ramachandra Reddy led to the organization being systematically banned by the Nizam.
Razakars, an extremist militia headed by Qasim Rizvi, a close aide to the Nizam, took centrastade, oppressing the peasant movement, and launching brutal attacks against its people.
As the violence ensued, the Nizam by then had signed an agreement with the Indian government, called the ‘Standstill agreement’ which till November 1948 granted the Nizam to finalize his position in the current state of affairs, as negotiations kept continuing.
What led to operation polo?
In 1948, the growing rhetoric of war by the Razakars and the government in Hyderabad led to border raids with Madras and Bombay presidencies, cites the book ‘The Origin of India’s States’. In retaliation, troops were stationed by the Indian government, prepping for military intervention against the princely state.
Sardar Patel, after growing impatient with the Nizam’s unwillingness to let go of Hyderabad wrote to Nehru:
“I feel very strongly that a stage has come when we should tell them quite frankly that nothing short of unqualified acceptance of accession and of the introduction of undiluted responsible government would be acceptable to us.”
Unable to contain the growing hostile situation in Hyderabad, ‘Operation Polo’ was launched on September 9 and deployed troops in the princely state 4 days later. Three days after their deployment, on September 17, the Nizam surrendered and acceded to the Indian union in November.
The Nizam was later retained as the official ruler of the state and received a privy purse of 5 million rupees, according to Bipan Chandra et al.
While there are conflicting reports of the legacy of operation polo on the ground, the 2013 book ‘Destruction of Hyderabad’ by AG Noorani estimates the death of thousands of civilians in communal violence during military action. Requested by PM Nehru a four-member goodwill mission was constituted and was headed by Pandit Sunderlal to find evidence.
Despite Hyderabad’s murky history, the city has still retained its diverse charm among its people. However, the debate about whether Hyderabad indeed integrated into the Indian union on this day or the fact that it was liberated by Operation Polo still remains unresolved.