Osmanistan: Delusive Nizam hit the rock of Sardar’s firmness

New Delhi, Oct 30 (IANS)
Osmanistan was the hypothetical name that was proposed by Choudhary Rahmat Ali, a Pakistan nationalist who coined the name Pakistan, for an independent state which of course never materialised to be created as a successor to the princely state of Hyderabad.
He is best known as the author of a famous 1933 pamphlet titled ‘Now or Never: Are We to Live or Perish Forever’, also known as the Pakistan Declaration. The pamphlet started with a famous statement: “At this solemn hour in the history of India, when British and Indian statesmen are laying the foundations of a Federal Constitution for that land, we address this appeal to you, in the name of our common heritage, on behalf of our thirty million Muslim brethren who live in PAKSTAN — by which we mean the five Northern units of India, viz.: Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan.”
Rahman Ali took Allama Iqbal’s idea forward. On December 29, 1930, Mohammad Iqbal gave his monumental address where he said: “I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single State. Self-government within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North-West India.”
The interference and encroachment of the State in Hyderabad extended far into the sacred domain of religion. No new place of religious worship could be built without the written permission of the State and no public religious ceremony or function could take place without prior sanction. To cap this oppressive rule were the Defence of Hyderabad Rules — a clone of the Defence of India Rules — and the Public Security Regulation, which were intended to “safeguard public peace and tranquility by checking the entry of undesirables into the state” and to enable “suitable action to be taken against those associations or bodies which interfered with the administration of the State”.
This draconian regulation was more or less on the same lines as Ordinance 19.L in force in Kashmir up until 1944 and the Hidayat 1890 in force in Patiala and Phulkan States, and the Public Safety Regulation enforced in Indore.
The Regulation put drastic powers of summary arrest and deportation, confiscation of property and suspected premises, and the award of heavy penalties in the hands of police officials, empowering the government to award punishments even to the parents of young men suspected of any offence or activity against the State. The Legislative Council was a mere consultative body with no powers and no real functions.
Under the new Act announced in 1939, the state government had sought to introduce novel and reactionary conceptions of polity, which if accepted would make it impossible for anyone to introduce democratic institutions in the state. This novel concept related to the position of the ruler.
It ran thus: “The Head of the State represents the people directly in his own person, and his connection with them, therefore, is more natural and abiding than that of any passing elected representatives. He is both the supreme head of the State, and embodiment of the ‘people’s sovereignty’.
“Hence, it is that, in such a polity, the Head of the State, not merely retains the power to confirm or veto any piece of legislation, but also enjoys a special prerogative to make or unmake his executive or change the machinery of the government through which he meets the growing needs of his people. Such sovereignty forms the basis on which our Constitution rests and has to be preserved.”
Making it in consonance with the divine right theory of kingship popular in Europe with the metaphysical theory that the King is only the external symbol of that self-conscious ethical substance called the State.
Heterogeneously formed Hyderabad, like Kashmir, was perceived to be a bad apple. Even earlier, when Sir Stafford Cripps came to India and began a dialogue with the Muslim leadership in Hyderabad, he was told categorically that all reforms would be opposed by the state, to which a prescient Cripps is said to have offered a prompt reply: You may stop the reforms but you cannot stop a revolution.
The Congress leadership was alive to the crisis brewing in Hyderabad. As early as mid-November 1946, Gandhiji and Nehru deputed the general secretary of the All India States’ People’s Conference and chief troubleshooter Dwarkanath Kachru to meet the Prime Minister of Hyderabad, Sir Mirza Ismail. At the very core of the meeting was the issue of civil liberties and constitutional reforms — both remained unresolved.
The State Congress was asked to boycott the constitutional reforms that Hyderabad was set to introduce. A complete and rigid boycott was unleashed. The Indian Army advanced into the state in two main prongs — one from Solapur, passing through the districts of Osmanabad, Bidar and Medak, and the other from Bezwada passing through the districts of Nalgonda and Atraf Balda, the capital of Hyderabad, resulting in the swift fall of the rioting Razakars.
One of the top State Congress leaders, Swami Ramananda Tirtha, wrote a confidential note to PM Nehru in December 1948: “After a relentless struggle for over 14 months by the people of Hyderabad against the fascist tyranny of the Nizam’s regime, and the swift and all-round success of the military action, life of the common people has undergone a sea change. Simultaneously, the police action has provided an unbounded sense of relief and joy. People have now expressed their deep confidence in the State Congress and have welcomed the Union forces as liberators. The other side of this exhilarating situation is that the supporters of Azad Hyderabad, stunned by the unexpected end of their ambitions, are demoralised.”
British journalist Leonard Mosley, writing in ‘The Last Days of the British Raj’, provides an incisive analysis of what transpired with the chief of the British Political Department, Sir Conrad Corfield, playing his devious little games. He writes: “Sir Conrad told his Princes to hold firm. The position was clear: On August 15 Paramountcy ended; they were free. And many a Prince, whose private armies had been built up to great strength during the War, began to flex his muscles and smell the untrammelled independence ahead, when the British army would have been called away and there would be no one to say to him nay.
“The best hope that Sir Conrad had of seeing an independent Princely State established was in Hyderabad, where the territory was vast, the coffers were full, the Nizam was fiercely anti-Congress, and his Army was large and well run. There was only one trouble here. The Indian Army had nearly a Division of its troops inside the State, and one of the reasons why Sir Conrad was so anxious to relinquish arrangements with the States in such a hurry was to get these troops out. But in this case, he had no luck. Repeated requests to Indian Defence Minister Baldev Singh had been sidetracked.”
On June 22, a desperate Sir Walter Monckton, legal adviser to the Nizam and in cahoots with Sir Conrad, wrote a confidential letter to Lord Ismay asking him to persuade the Viceroy to intervene in the matter:
“I am by no means at the end of my troubles here in Hyderabad. The State has been pressing the Political Dept for the removal of Indian Army troops from our cantonments. There are 7,000 to 8,000 Indian Army fighting troops in the State, including armoured formations. The Nizam thinks it quite intolerable that they should remain here after August 15. They would be in effect an Army of Occupation. But such pressure as the Political Dept has been able to exert has been quite ineffective.
“Whether the defence minister is stalling or not, I don’t know; but it does look as if those who will form the Government of the Indian Union would not be unwilling to find themselves with an Army of Occupation here. I spoke to C-in-C (Auchinleck) about it and he said (privately) that we should have nothing to worry about while he was directing the Army. This is cold comfort. The Crown representative is still the Crown representative and he could direct the Government to take steps to move the troops out of State territory by August 15.
“The State is writing a further letter asking for information about the dates and stages of programmes by which the troops will be removed in view of the acceleration of the departure of the British. The letter will ask for a reply within a specified time. If no reply is forthcoming, a question will be asked in the House giving the steps taken by the State and the result, and asking whether this Army of Occupation will be permitted to remain.”
The first flashpoint had been reached. As Hyderabad’s struggle was to intensify in the days to come, V.P. Menon, writing in ‘The Integration of Princely States’, provides his version: “Any decision which allowed the States comprising two-fifths of the land, to return to a state of complete political isolation was fraught with the gravest danger to the integrity of the country. … The prophets of gloom predicted that the ship of Indian freedom would flounder on the rock of the Indian States.”
Despite no movement on the removal of Indian troops stationed in Hyderabad, Sir Conrad and his sympathisers smelt victory. But the deadly duo of Sardar Patel and V.P. Menon had by now grabbed the elixir of power and with the Congress furious at the British for lapsing Paramountcy, created their own strategic blueprint to break the back of the Princes and the conspiring Sir Conrad. Patel knew that Sir Conrad was a dangerous adversary so in the game of the hunter and quarry, he did all the chasing.
Three days after his own appointment as Minister for States, Sardar called in V.P. Menon and offered him the job of Secretary of States. A seamless migration of power had taken place overnight. From Nehru and his political troubleshooter Dwarkanath Kachru, a new team of Sardar Patel and V.P. Menon had taken over with the formation of the Ministry of States.
Menon recounts: “I told Sardar that it was my intention to take all the leave I had earned and to retire from government service after August 15. Ever since 1917, I had been dealing with constitutional reforms. I have never expected that I would see freedom for India in my lifetime. Since that had materialised, my life’s ambition was achieved. …
“Sardar told me that due to the abnormal situation in the country, people like me should not think of rest or retirement. He added that I had taken a prominent part in the transfer of power and that I should consider it my bounden duty to work for the consolidation of freedom. I naturally agreed that the country’s interests, and not my personal predilections, should be the guiding factor.”
Menon agreed to take the job and the new combination of his agile brain and Patel’s driving personality was to prove even more formidable on this occasion than it had been during the negotiations for the Independence Treaty.
Mosley writes: “Almost at once Menon demonstrated his skill as an adviser and tactician. Sir Conrad, he argued, had tried to make things as difficult as possible for India by having Paramountcy lapse immediately after the British departure. Yes, it would make things awkward for the new Indian Dominion with the Princes over every little arrangement — army, railways, customs, currency, postal — some of which the British had begun to cancel. But since there was less than eight weeks to go before independence, why bother about such details? Why not approach each Prince in turn and negotiate on a simple formula? Ask them to simply accede to the Indian Union under three subjects only — defence, external affairs and communication?”
Sardar Patel was quick to ask Menon — what if they refuse? But the way Patel and Menon muscled their way into Hyderabad is graphically captured in Menon’s own words (Here is a synopsis of the 87 pages provided by L.K. Advani):
“In accordance with Article II of the Standstill Agreement (which the Nizam had signed with New Delhi) the Government of India appointed K.M. Munshi as their Agent General in Hyderabad. I did not then know Munshi very well; but I had particularly been impressed by the way in which, as Home Minister in Bombay from 1937 to 1939, he had handled the communal situation there. When we informed the Government of Hyderabad of Munshi’s appointment, the Nizam made certain conditions. First of all he wanted Munshi to be no more than a trade agent. I replied to Laik Ali (whom the Nizam had appointed President of his Executive Council on the advice of Kasim Rizvi) drawing his attention to Article II of the Agreement under which the functions of the Agent General were certainly not confined to trade.”
A trivial but nonetheless significant dispute arose over the question of the accommodation that was to be provided in Hyderabad for Munshi, the Nizam refusing to give him one even temporarily, till he found accommodation elsewhere. Ultimately, two of the buildings belonging to the Indian Army were placed at the disposal of Munshi and his staff.
Almost before the ink was dry on the Standstill Agreement, the Nizam’s government issued two ordinances in quick succession. The first imposed restrictions on the export of all precious metals from Hyderabad to India. The second declared Indian currency to be not a legal tender in the State.
Menon wrote to the Government of Hyderabad on December 25, 1947, pointing out that these two ordinances were violations of the Standstill Agreement. On top of this, the Government of India received information that the Government of Hyderabad had advanced a loan of Rs 20 crore to Pakistan in the form of Government of India securities of equivalent value.
This was not all. The Government of Hyderabad informed the Government of India officially that it was their intention to appoint agents in several foreign countries. They had already appointed a Public Relations Officer in Karachi without any reference to the Government of India.
Let Menon take up the narrative again: “There followed some discussion. I stressed that the Government of Hyderabad should repeal the two ordinances in question and ask the Government of Pakistan to return the loan of Rs 20 crore.
“Referring to the activities of the Razakars, I said that the Government of India took a grave view of the situation created by them in Hyderabad. It appeared to the Government of India that every encouragement had been given by the Hyderabad Government to this reactionary and communal organisation. Disquieting reports had been received from the Government of Madras of the activities of the Razakars on their border.”
Laik Ali, President of the Nizam’s Executive Council, had meanwhile come to Delhi and seen Sardar. Sardar told him quite firmly that an internal settlement in the state was the first requisite for a satisfactory understanding between India and Hyderabad and requested him to work to that end. The discussion could not be continued because of Gandhiji’s assassination on the evening of January 30. Laik Ali and the Hyderabad delegation subsequently returned to Hyderabad.
Lord Mountbatten gave it as his personal opinion that the position of Hyderabad would be strengthened in the eyes of the world if the Nizam were to declare his intention to introduce responsible government and that all the greater then would be the prospects of the Nizam and his successors remaining constitutional rulers of the state in perpetuity. If the right opportunity was missed or if time was lost, there was a chance that the Nizam might lose his throne altogether through the sheer compulsion of events.
K.M. Munshi had a very delicate and difficult role to play. While the relations of the Government of India with the Nizam’s Agent General in Delhi, Nawab Zain Yar Jung, were cordial, Munshi was treated with definite hostility by the Government of Hyderabad and his relations with them were extremely strained. Because of the suspicion with which he was viewed by the Government of Hyderabad, he was virtually a prisoner in his own house.
Meanwhile, the Government of Hyderabad had not implemented a single undertaking given by them. No announcement with regard to the loan to Pakistan as promised by Laik Ali had been made; the Currency Ordinance had not been modified, while the ban on the export of precious metals and oilseeds continued to operate.
As Menon put it: “No step, as promised by Laik Ali, in respect of the reconstitution of the Nizam’s Executive Council had been taken. The Razakars, far from being banned, had become an intolerable nuisance. Border raids showed no signs of abatement.
“Up to this time we had only tried to press our point of view informally upon the Government of Hyderabad. But now the Government of India decided that we should bring the breaches of the Standstill Agreement to their notice officially. Accordingly, on 23 March, I addressed a letter to the President of the Nizam’s Executive Council which was sent to Munshi to be delivered personally to Laik Ali.
“Supported by the Razakars, the ruling clique in Hyderabad was now in a militant mood. The Nizam’s advisers, it was reported to me, had assured him that if India resorted to any economic blockade it was not likely to be effective, as Hyderabad could easily stand on its own legs for the next few months, during which time public opinion in the world could be mobilised in its favour.
“India was stated to be very weak and to be incapable of military action now or at any time. All the Muslim countries were friendly to Hyderabad and would not permit any military action to be taken against it. The Hyderabad radio went to the extent of announcing that if there was a war against Hyderabad thousands of Pathans would march into India.
“On April 5, 1948, Laik Ali sent Nehru a very long reply, of 17 typed pages, in which he refuted the allegations of breach of the Standstill Agreement and made certain countercharges against the Government of India. On the very same day, the Nizam wrote to Lord Mountbatten saying that the letter of the States Ministry ‘was in the nature of an ultimatum to be regarded as prelude to an open breach of friendly relations’.
“On April 16, Laik Ali had an interview with Sardar at which I was present. Sardar said: ‘You know as well as I do where power resides and with whom the fate of the negotiations must finally lie in Hyderabad. The gentleman (Kasim Razvi) who seems to dominate Hyderabad has given his answer. He has categorically stated that if the Indian Dominion comes to Hyderabad it will find nothing but the bones and ashes of the one and a half crores of Hindus. If that is the position, then it seriously undermines the whole future of the Nizam and his dynasty. I am speaking to you plainly because I do not want you to be under any misapprehension. The Hyderabad problem will have to be settled as has been done in the case of other States. No other way is possible. We cannot agree to the continuance of an isolated spot which would destroy the very Union which we have built up with our blood and toil. At the same time, we do wish to maintain friendly relations and to seek a friendly solution. That does not mean that we shall ever agree to Hyderabad’s independence. If its demand to maintain an independent status is persisted upon, it is bound to fail.’
“In conclusion Sardar asked Laik Ali to go back to Hyderabad and, after consulting the Nizam, to take a final decision, ‘so that both of us know where we stand’. Throughout the interview Laik Ali appeared nervous. It seemed to me that he was completely taken aback by the forthright manner in which Sardar put forward his views. Opinion among the advisers of the Government of India was not unanimous on the question of what action should be taken in regard to Hyderabad.
“The section which favoured a policy of drift had a ready excuse in the bogey of large-scale communal disorders which would follow any positive action against Hyderabad. They apprehended that in Hyderabad the Hindus would be butchered in thousands, and that there would be general slaughter of Muslims in India. There were others who spoke of mass Muslim uprisings in south India, particularly among the Moplahs.
“This fantastic suggestion was made by people who had never seen a Moplah, much less understood his mentality, and who knew nothing of the situation in Malabar at the time. Another of such fears was that if India took any action against Hyderabad, Pakistan would interfere. My own opinion was that Pakistan was surely not going to risk a war with India on the Hyderabad issue.”
(Sandeep Bamzai is the Editor-In-Chief of IANS and author of ‘Princestan: How Nehru, Patel and Mountbatten Made India’ (Rupa), which won the Kalinga Literary Festival (KLF) Book Award 2020-21 in the non-fiction category.)

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