Hyderabad: At a time when the clash surrounding the merger of the erstwhile Hyderabad state by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), has barely concluded, the release of the trailer of the film Razakar has sparked a fresh war of words among political leaders of Telangana on social media.
The film, produced by BJP leader Gudur Narayana Reddy, which purportedly tells the story the ‘silent genocide of Hyderabad’, saw important political leaders from Telangana, notably Member of Parliament and former Telangana BJP chief Bandi Sanjay, and T. Raja Singh, the Goshamahal legislator who was suspended from the saffron party, throwing their weight behind it.
On Saturday, September 16, which the BJP celebrated as Hyderabad Liberation Day, Sanjay, who is now BJP national secretary, posted on X (formerly Twitter) that he had “goosebumps watching the trailer”. Taking a swipe at those who were opposing the film, he added, “Let’s engage with history even as there pseudo intellectuals try to erase it (sic).”
The trailer is gory. It is punctuated by seemingly bloodthirsty bearded men, pulling the janeu [a thread worn by Brahmins] off torsos, slashing throats, chopping off sikhas (sacred locks of hair), chants of ‘Allahu Akbar’, visuals of Mecca, and tossing onto a bayonet attached to an musket the body of what seems to be the representation of a Brahmin boy.
Alarmed at the content, and at the possibility of rousing communal passions ahead of the elections, social media users tagged state information technology minister K.T. Ramarao and urged him to stop the film’s release.
Taking note of this, Rao described those in support of the films as “bankrupt jokers of the BJP” on X and said these people were trying to instigate communal violence and polarisation for their political agenda. He stated that the matter would be taken to the censor board – the Central Board of Film Certification – to ensure that there is no breach of peace in the Telangana.
This evoked a sharp response from Sanjay who retorted that the BRS had reneged on its promise to celebrate Liberation Day. Taking a potshot at the minister, the BJP leader described him as ‘TwitterTillu’, and hoped that the Hindu deity Ganesh would “instil some sense into [him] instead of engaging in futile attempts to erase history”.
The spat on X drew reactions from supporters of both leaders. While some maintained that a movie on the atrocities of the Razakars was long overdue and a true recollection of what happened in the Nizam’s Hyderabad, others pointed out that the movie was a misrepresentation of events, wrongly portrayed the Muslim community as a monolith, and was a threat to the law and order situation in Telangana.
The call to ban the film doesn’t stem from any support for Razakars but is a response to the concern of stereotyping the Muslim community based on the actions of #Razakars, which could potentially disrupt the peaceful atmosphere in Telangana through polarization & communalization https://t.co/GUMptU0iMh
— S.Q.Masood | مسعود (@SQMasood) September 18, 2023
Unlike last year, the connotational slugfest over the vocabulary of Hyderabad’s merger became more combative given that Telangana goes to polls soon. The BRS is cautious of not trampling upon the painful memories of 1948 annexation called Operation Polo and its aftermath, and is unwilling to give into BJP’s narrative, insists on calling the merger of the erstwhile princely state the “National Integration Day”. Telangana’s party in power found support in the Owaisi brothers-led AIMIM that sought to celebrate October 17 as Youm-e-Qaumi Ekjehti, a day of national integration.
Sunday witnessed AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi locking horns with Union home minister Amit Shah, who was in Hyderabad. Owaisi led a tricolour rally that crisscrossed the city, and culminated in a public meeting in an eidgah, where he launched a salvo at Shah and India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, accusing them both of lying. Shah had, earlier in the day, said that “everything” – meaning the merger of Hyderabad – had been done without any bloodshed. The Hyderabad parliamentarian said that Nehru had made a similar comment on All India Radio on September 18, 1948.
Owaisi also, however, said that he would have felt suffocated if he was born during the Nizam’s rule as the Asaf Jahi dynasty was rooted in feudalism, and without the constitutional values of democracy, liberty and fraternity. He distanced himself from the razakars, and reiterated that they went to Pakistan, and those who were wafadars (patriots), chose to stay in India. His party had nothing to do with a previous manifestation of the organisation, he asserted.
The word ‘razakar’, loosely translated, means ‘volunteer’. Led by Qasim Razvi the razakars were a feared, violent militia of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimin, popularly known as Ittehad. The Ittehad came into existence in 1927, and one of its tallest leaders was Bahadur Yar Jung, who later fell out with the last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan. His sudden death in 1944 saw Razvi taking over the Itthad’s reigns and steering it on the path of communalism.
Historian Inukonda Thirumali writes in Against Dora and Nizam People’s Movement in Telangana 1939-1948 that this militia primarily comprised “marginalised individuals like drivers, shopkeepers and unemployed youth in Marathwada region”. Razvi, he writes, encouraged these individuals to “rob and loot food grains in and around Latur in the early 1940s”. A few years later, the razakar numbers swelled, with the then Diwan of Hyderabad Mirza Ismail referring to the militia as a “wretched band of foolish Muslims called the Ittehadul Muslimeen”. As their numbers grew, Thirumali writes that Razvi gave up his civilian clothes for a military uniform. Such was the delusion of Razvi that he dreamed of flying the Asafia flag from the Red Fort.
Hyderabad: After the Fall, edited by Omar Khalidi, describes Razvi as a “fanatically communal lawyer” who ousted his predecessor as he believed to be working out a pact with the local Congress. Razvi believed Hyderabad was an Islamic state and sought its preservation. He was eventually imprisoned in Trimulgherry Jail in Secunderabad, only to be released in 1957 and given 48 hours to leave for Pakistan.