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Hyderabad: Politics took centre stage in Hyderabad on Saturday, September 17, as rival Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) marked the day to commemorate Nizam-ruled Hyderabad State’s accession to Indian Union on September 17, 1948 in a contrasting way.
While the TRS government led by K. Chandrashekar Rao celebrated it as ‘Telangana National Integration Day’, the BJP led by Union home minister Amit Shah marked it as ‘Hyderabad Liberation Day’. The difference in the nomenclature of the same historical event stems from conflicting versions of history advanced by different political parties to suit their political interests.
The debate over whether the red-letter day should be called the “liberation” of Hyderabad or the “integration” of the princely state into the Indian Union has long dogged Telangana. However, it has been once again brought to the fore only after the Union government recently announced that it will celebrate the day as “Hyderabad Liberation Day”. Otherwise, the issue has more or less remained dormant for years and the day passed off uneventful without any official event barring political parties observing it as party events in a manner that suited their political interests.
Amidst this backdrop, Amit Shah addressed a meeting on Saturday in Hyderabad’s Parade Grounds and said that it was “unfortunate” that “Hyderabad Liberation Day” had not been celebrated officially so far in Telangana due to “vote bank politics” in a veiled attack to ruling TRS.
“…when there was a demand in the region that Hyderabad Liberation Day be celebrated with government endorsement, it is unfortunate that 75 years are over, but those who were in government here could not dare celebrate Hyderabad Liberation Day due to vote bank politics,” he charged.
In an oblique reference to KCR, Shah said, “Many people had made promises, during elections and during agitations. But, after coming to power, they turned back due to the fear of ‘Razakars’ (armed supporters of Nizam rule).”
Shah also recalled the atrocities of ‘Razakars’ during the Nizam rule in the Hyderabad State which included Telangana and some districts of present-day Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Although the Union government had written to Telangana chief minister along with Karnataka and Maharashtra chief ministers to attend the Union government event in Hyderabad on Saturday, KCR gave it a miss. The Karnataka government was represented by its minister B. Sriramulu, and Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde was also in attendance.
Instead, KCR addressed another meeting, a few kilometres away from Shah’s meeting venue, to celebrate what the Telangana government described as ‘Telangana Jateeya Samaikyata Dinotsavam (Telangana National Integration Day)’ to mark the same occasion of Hyderabad’s accession to Indian Union in 1948.
After hoisting the national flag, KCR charged the “disruptive forces” with distorting the occasion of September 17, which he said, stood as a symbol of national unity, to fulfill their narrow and selfish political interests.
“These forces which have no connection with the historical events of September 17 are trying to distort and pollute the bright history of Telangana with petty politics,” he claimed, referring to the BJP’s and Sangh Parivar’s role in Telangana’s merger with the Indian Union.
“If religious fanaticism grows, it will destroy the very life of the nation and result in deterioration of human relationships,” he continued.
Noting that religious fanaticism was on the upsurge, KCR said, “They plant thorns in societal relations for their narrow interests. They are spreading hatred among people with their venomous comments. This kind of division between people is in no way justified.”
Although TRS, during the Telangana statehood movement, stated that it would officially observe September 17 if it made to power in the new state, the KCR-led government has not done so in the last eight years of its governance.
According to the BJP, TRS refrained from any celebrations due to its “fear” that it may negatively impact its relationship with Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). Owaisi’s party too for long has maintained that there is only one Independence Day for the entire country and hence there is no need for separate celebrations in Telangana.
Several Muslim groups are also opposed to celebrations. They base their opposition on the “police action” and Operation Polo carried out by the Indian Army in the run-up to the Hyderabad annexation in 1948 which saw scores of people, mostly Muslims, being killed.
It was only after the Union government last month announced that it would officially celebrate the event on September 17 did the KCR government had a re-think on the issue. On September 3, the Telangana Cabinet announced that it would observe the day as ‘Telangana National Integration Day’.
After the Telangana government’s announcement, Owasi wrote to Shah saying, “The phrase ‘National integration Day’ is more apposite rather than mere liberation day.”
17 September marks merger of erstwhile Hyderabad State with Union of India. Wrote to @AmitShah & @TelanganaCMO suggesting that the day should be observed as National Integration Day. It’ll be an occasion to celebrate the struggles of people against both colonial & autocratic rule pic.twitter.com/A05hkJo5Sl
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) September 3, 2022
In the letter, he further asserted, “The struggles of people of the erstwhile Hyderabad province against colonialism, feudalism and autocracy are a symbol of (its) national integration (with Indian Union).”
Owaisi recalled how Muslims went hand-in-hand with their Hindu brethren in the struggle against British rule and the one against the Nizam’s rule in the Hyderabad province.
In the War of Independence in 1857, Maulvi Alauddin and Turbez Khan took an active part. A Muslim journalist Shoebullah Khan was killed by Nizam’s soldiers in 1948 for fighting for the integration of the province with the Indian Union, he added.
“Celebrations should be held in such a manner that all the martyrs who laid down their lives for the cause should be recognised beyond religion and caste,” Owaisi contended.
BJP’s Hindutva spin to the Nizam rule
After BJP’s surge in the last parliamentary elections in Telangana and its victories in the recent by-elections in Dubbak and Huzurabad and also in the GHMC (Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), the saffron party has made it clear that it is on a mission to dislodge KCR government, projecting it as an alternative to the TRS in the state.
But Telangana, the home turf of KCR, is strongly rooted in the regional sentiment. It may be a difficult proposition for the BJP to take on the KCR’s party with the Hindutva agenda alone. It is against this backdrop the so-called “Liberation Day” comes in handy for the BJP to position itself as an alternative to KCR by constructing an anti-Hindu angle to Nizam’s reign in the erstwhile Hyderabad state.
The party has been portraying the Nizam’s rule as an oppressive regime, which stood against the Hindus and had carried a pro-Muslim bias in all spheres of governance. The BJP believes that such a portrayal of the Nizam rule would help it politically through religious polarisation and consolidation of the Hindu vote to its advantage. But the Hindus are more divided on caste lines in Telangana.
KCR’s party is out to put up a secular face as it is heavily dependent on the AIMIM, and the predominant Muslim vote (12%) spread over as many as 40 out of 119 seats in the state assembly. The backing of Muslims is thus crucial for KCR’s electoral fortunes. Therefore, the TRS cannot do anything that may hurt Muslims.
However, K. Nageshwar, who teaches journalism at Osmania University, cautioned KCR over the unpredictable moorings of the AIMIM. Citing the instances of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Bihar, West Bengal and Maharastra where the Owaisi’s party earned the dubious honour of being a “vote-cutter” by splitting the secular vote to benefit the BJP, in turn, Nageshwar said such prospects in Telangana too could not be ruled out.
Tirumalai Inukonda, former professor in History from Delhi University and author of a book titled Against Dora and Nizam – People’s movements in Telangana told The Wire that the BJP was engaged in misrepresentation of facts pertaining to the Nizam’s rule to gain communal mileage.
Quoting the report of the Sundarlal Committee appointed by then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, on the incidence of violence, arson and communal riots that unfolded in the run-up to the annexation, he refuted the BJP’s claim that it was only Hindus who were subjected to oppression by the Nizam rule.
The report said around 36,000 Muslims were killed during the police action; 20,000 Hindus were killed by Razakars, the private army of the MIM party. As many as 4,000 people laid down their lives during the armed conflict waged by the Communist Party of India (CPI) against the Nizam.
Claims of the Nizam’s grandson
Nawab Najaf Ali Khan, a grandson of Nizam-VII Mir Osman Ali Khan, disputed the BJP’s narrative centred on the “liberation” of Telangana from the Nizam’s rule.
“Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last Nizam of Hyderabad province, was made Raj Pramukh (Governor) by the Indian government after the accession and he was allowed to remain in the position until January 26, 1950, the day when India became the sovereign and democratic republic state by adopting its constitution. Further, the national flag was flown at half-mast when he died in February 1967,” said Najaf Ali Khan, asking how could he receive such honour from the Indian government if the Hyderabad state was “liberated” from his rule.
According to Aminul Hasan Jafri, an analyst and an MLC from AIMIM, Nizam’s rule was secular and progressive but not anti-Hindu as projected by the BJP.
“The Nizam was so inclusive in governance was that Kayasthas, OBCs from the Hindu religion were drafted from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to be made top bureaucrats and even aristocrats. Besides, several Hindus were his nobles,” Jafri recalled.
“Agriculture, irrigation and education received top priority during the Nizam’s rule. Paddy and sugarcane cultivation had got a fillip with the construction of the Nizam Sagar and Osman Sagar dams. He established Nizam Sugars and another sugar factory at Bodhan. Osmania University came into being during the Nizam’s rule in Hyderabad,” he added.
The Nizam’s rule began in the Hyderabad dominion after Qutb Shahis lost control over the Golconda Fort in 1687 in a siege by Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor. Aurangzeb later elevated another local ruler, Asafjahi-1, as the in-charge of the region which later extended up to Telangana; Rayalaseema; coastal Andhra; Marthwada region, currently in Maharastra; and the Old Mysore region, now in Karnataka and Madras.