"Already history has in a sense ceased to exist, ie. there is no such thing as a history of our own times which could be universally accepted, and the exact sciences are endangered as soon as military necessity ceases to keep people up to the mark. Hitler can say that the Jews started the war, and if he survives that will become official history."
Dr B R Ambedkar:
the scale of the killing was horrific...."
"...Not only has the Oxford school of history squandered its pre-eminence: history in general has retreated into the ivory tower, or lies rolling in the gutter..."
('Decline and Fall of the History Men', Standpoint, July/August 2013)
A G Noorani, Frontline, March 16 2001:
"...The Sundarlal Report is of more than historical importance; it is of current relevance, for the massacres, coupled with the national indifference to them, have left scars in the minds of Muslims in the State, Hyderabad city in particular. And some Muslim communal parties have not been slow to exploit these scars."
Faiz Ahmad Faiz, 'Subh-e-Azadi':
“Yeh daghdar ujala yeh shab gazida sahr, woh intizar tha jiska woh yeh sahr to nahin”
(This stain-covered daybreak, this night-bitten dawn. This dawn is not that dawn we craved for)
Saadat Hasan Manto:
"...literature gives news about the nation, the community to which it belongs, its health, its illness. Stretch your hand and pick up any dustladen book from an old shelf – the pulse of a bygone era will begin to beat under your finger-tips."
I have been harsh on Nizams of Hyderabad on this blog.
It has been largely because of historian, scholar, polyglot and senior civil servant the late Setu Madhavrao Pagdi’s, 27/8/1910- 14/10/1994 (सेतु माधवराव पगडी) autobiography- Jeevansetu (जीवनसेतु), 1969 where he describes the last days of the Nizam regime as he watched them being posted in Hyderabad as a civil servant.
It is also because of what I heard about the regime in the speeches of the late Narhar Kurundkar, 15/7/32-10/2/82 (नरहर कुरुंदकर) in the late 1970's and T S Shejwalkar's (त्र्यं शं शेजवलकर) radio-talk mentioned here.
In January 2013, I heard from my wife's aunt- borne in c1932 in Gulbarga district, (now) Karnataka- the kind of terror Razakars, a private militia of Nizam, unleashed upon the Hindus in 1947-48. Her own family went through 'hell' in those months.
There is no doubt in my mind that Nizam's was a bad and cruel regime. Some horrific things were done to the Hindus during its rule and many more would have been done, had it stayed in the office.
But did I know the whole truth about the Hyderabad Police Action (HPA) of September 1948 aka 'Operation Polo' and its aftermath?
No, I did not.
I continue with my wife's aunt's account.
Her Brahmin family had to leave their native and migrate to a Hindu refugee camp near Solapur (सोलापूर) in 1948. When they returned after HPA, they had lost a lot including cattle, crop, some valuables etc. This was the story of the most of the Hindu families from her village.
But once they returned they themselves unleashed a reign of terror on the Muslims they could locate.
According to her, her own father killed a Muslim, they knew well, with a sword. Apparently, he was seated in a chair, garlanded, given a cup of tea and then executed as he was crying for mercy all along.
For all such acts, all the Hindu able-bodied men from the village were summoned so that no single one of them could later be identified for this. She also said that even Muslim women and children were not spared.
I asked the old lady if her father ever regretted what he did until his death. Her answer: Never.
This account is corroborated by Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar's article in The Times of India, November 25 2012. You may read it here and I quote:
"The Gujarat election will revive charges that Narendra Modi killed a thousand Muslims in the 2002 Gujarat riots, with the BJP accusing Rajiv Gandhi of killing 3000 Sikhs in the 1984 Delhi riots. To get a sense of perspective, I did some research on communal riots in past decades. I was astounded to find that the greatest communal slaughter occurred under neither Modi nor Rajiv but Nehru. His takeover of Hyderabad in 1948 caused maybe 50,000-200,000 deaths...
...Civil rights activist AG Noorani has cited Prof Cantwell Smith, a critic of Jinnah, in The Middle Eastern Journal, 1950. “The only careful report on what happened in this period was made a few months later by investigators – including a Congress Muslim and a sympathetic and admired Hindu (Professor Sunderlal) – commissioned by the Indian government. The report was submitted but has not been published; presumably it makes unpleasant reading. It is widely held that the figure mentioned therein for the number of Muslims massacred is 50,000. Other estimates by responsible observers run as high as 200,000.”...
....This was the largest single massacre in the history of the Indian Union, dwarfing the killings by the Pathan raiders en route to Srinagar which India has ever since used as the casus belli for its annexation of Kashmir...
...Our textbooks and TV programmes show Sardar Patel and Nehru as demi-gods who created a unified India. The truth is more sordid. You will not find any mention of the Hyderabad massacre in our standard history books (just as Pakistani textbooks have deleted reference to the East Pakistan massacre of 1971). The air-brushing of Patel and Nehru is complete...."
After reading this, I revisited Pagdi's book to find out if he mentions any of this in its intensity and extent.
There are two aspects of this event of September 1948.
1. What would have happened to the Hindus like Pagdi living in Hyderabad if the military operation had failed?
2. What DID happen to Muslims of the then Hyderabad state in real life?
The late S M Pagdi spends considerable time on the first.
On pages 434-435 (edition 2000) he talks about the bet he took with his friend on how long the Nizam's administration would be able to fight India's military. He wins the bet because he proposes the figure of just four days against his friend's guess of six months. Pagdi then expresses his pleasure that because of such a quick result, the Hindus of Hyderabad were not slaughtered by the Razakars.
No bet was taken by the friends on the fate of Muslims of Andhra Pradesh if Indian military operation did succeed!
On that point, on page 454 of the book, Pagdi briefly mentions:
"युनियन अधिकार्यांच्या दक्षतेमुळे हैदराबाद शहर सुरक्षित राहिले. तेथे मुसलमानांच्या केसालाही धक्का लागला नाही. सप्टेम्बर आणि त्यापुढील दोन तीन महिने हैदराबाद राज्याच्या मध्यवर्ती आणि पश्चिम भागातील जिल्ह्यांत अनेक मुसलमानांना प्रचंड जनक्षोभाची झळ लागली ...पोलीस एक्शननंतरच्या हिंदूंच्या प्रतिक्रियेची झळ बऱ्याच जिल्ह्यातील मुसलमानांना लागली होती..."
(Because of alertness of Union officers, city of Hyderabad remained safe. Not an hair of Muslims was touched there. During September and following two three months, Muslims from central and western districts of Hyderabad state were struck by people's fury....Muslims from a number of districts were affected by the reaction of the Hindus after the police action.)
Now, I know what that 'reaction', 'fury' was- "50,000-200,000 deaths", " the largest single massacre in the history of the Indian Union", "mass rapes"!
What about 'alertness of Union officers'?
"'How did the Indian Army behave when it got to Hyderabad?' I asked.
'When an army invades any country - whether it's Alexander the Great, Timur, Hitler or Mussolini - when it gets into a town, you know what the soldiery does. It's very difficult for the officers to control them. I can't tell you how many were raped or killed, but I saw the bodies of many. Old scores were paid off across the state.'"
(William Dalrymple in conversation with Mr. Mir Moazam, 'The Age of Kali')
Finally, I turned to internationally celebrated, best selling author/ historian, one of world's leading intellectual Ramachandra Guha's much praised tome 'India After Gandhi: The History Of The World's Largest Democracy', 2007. (It has been translated into Marathi and the translation's second edition has been released recently.) Mr. Guha's book is a version of India's history after Mahatma Gandhi's death on January 30 1948.
Had Gandhi lived, he would have once again been on the forefront trying to prevent the bloodshed. In that sense, it was the first major event since the Mahatma's death when he was sorely missed by the minorities.
I thought the book must surely cover the HPA and its aftermath at some length.
The book (my copy) covers it on pages 55-56:
Not a word on the carnage, 'the largest single massacre in the history of the Indian Union', that followed in the rest of the state!
Instead he writes this:
[disclaimer- I went though every single 'Hyderabad' entry listed in the index of the book and did not find what I was looking for. There is a mention of Hindu-Muslim riot of September 1983 in Hyderabad on page 564. My apologies if that information is lurking somewhere else in the book.]
Arundhati Roy has said: "Ramachandra Guha, liberal historian and founding member of the New India Foundation, a corporate-funded trust, advises us in his book—as well as in a series of highly publicised interviews—that the Gujarat government is not really fascist, and the genocide was just an aberration that has corrected itself after elections." (read Mr. Guha's rejoinder to Ms. Roy's 'charge' at the end of the same article.)
('Listening To Grasshoppers', February 4 2008)
If so, maybe even Hyderabad massacre was an aberration. Maybe even following lynching was an aberration.
Artist: Reginald Marsh, The New Yorker, September 8 1934
I did not hear even Kurundkar talk about the aftermath of HPA. As I have said elsewhere on the blog, Kurundkar spoke fearlessly about the issues. For instance, he justified India's partition. But then again, he never spoke in detail about its aftermath.
[Disclaimer: I have read a lot but not all of Kurundkar. For instance, I have not read his 'Hyderabad: Vimochan aani Visarjan' (हैद्राबाद : विमोचन आणि विसर्जन). Therefore, I don't know if he has written candidly about HPA's aftermath. If he has, I stand corrected and apologise to his memory.]
I still have huge respect for Pagdi's and Kurundkar's scholarships and their achievements but in my eyes their statures stand reduced by a few inches after listening to my wife's aunt and reading Mr. Aiyar's article and a part of WD's book.
Mr. S S A Aiyar is critical of our textbooks.
But when are they completely truthful about any topic when it comes to history?
I did not know almost a thing about India's partition when I came out of secondary school although I knew a lot about India's freedom struggle.
That was in the last century.
Do our books and school teachers some times show us the reality like in the picture below?
Artist: Unknown. The New Yorker, February 19, 1927
(A word on this wonderfully moving cartoon. I keep smiling looking at it. The artist is anonymous. Look at the way the con-artist is pushing the lady down so that she looks through the telescope instead of over it at his hand!)
A review of A G Noorani's 'The Destruction of Hyderabad' from EPW dated May 31 2014:
"...How then can the Sunderlal Report serve as a starting point for rethinking the events of 1947-48? How did such a massive event of violence materialise? How has it remained hidden or denied? For one, it urges us to rethink events on the ground that provided the context for the elite negotiations. Specifically, the Sunderlal Report claims that the “perpetrators” included “individuals and bands of people, with and without arms, from across the border, who had infiltrated through in the wake of the Indian Army”, as well as the members of the Hyderabad State Congress. Who were these armed men and what were they doing in and around Hyderabad?
Mobilisation of Violence
Many of them were members of the State Congress, who established around 79 camps with at least 1,600 men in Indian union territory along the circumference of Hyderabad. They created “border incidents” by acts of sabotage, disrupting rail and telegraph lines, and demolishing customs and police outposts, among other things. This violent campaign was supported by top Congress leaders such as Patel, who ordered the Andhra, Karnataka and Bombay Provincial Congress Committees to aid the militants and drum up propaganda. Perhaps the most important leader to emerge from this movement was the future prime minister, P V Narasimha Rao.."