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H y d e r a b a d  W a t c h

How Hyderabad escaped the fate of Kashmir 


An interesting story is told about how Pt. Nehru in collusion with Mountbatten opposed till the end Sardar Patel's resolve to solve the Hyderabad problem at one go by Police action in September, 1948 as the Nizam was conspiring to set up a free Muslim State in the heart of
India. This shilly-shallying on the part of Indian Government encouraged the Nizam not only to conspire against India even in collusion with Pakistan and the Tory elements, including Churchill in Britain, but also the Portuguese in Goa. Right till his stay in India by June 21, 1948, Mountbatten was trying for special status for Hyderabad even while the Nizam was dreaming of keeping Hyderabad independent and even becoming a member of the UNO. Unlike rulers of other States he was given a year's stand-still agreement to make up his mind on the final accession with India. As a result the Nizam's paltry forces and the hordes of fanatical Razakars under 
Kasim Rizvi were being constantly strengthened, arms being brought in from UK and other European countries to fight India and atrocities being perpetrated on the 90 per cent Hindu population of the State to Islamise them or drive them out of the State. Even contiguous territories of India in Madras and Bombay provinces were being raided. 

As Durga Das, a former Editor of The Hindustan Times, narrates in his memories India-From Curzon to Nehru, there were 'days of tenseness and high drama' in New Delhi particularly in the Cabinet. Pt. Nehru still wanted a peaceful solution, for fear of Pakistan's reaction, while Patel was pressing for Police action soon after Mountbatten left. And as Pt. Dwarka Prasad Mishra, a Patelite who was then Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh, relates in his memoirs (Living an Era) how opposed Nehru was to the use of force for fear of Pakistan, was revealed to him by Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, a Central Cabinet Minister at that time. 

Syama Prasad Mookerjee's retort to Nehru
According to this story told by Dr Mookerjee, "When a Cabinet meeting had ended after deciding to resort to Police action, Nehru sent for him (Mookerjee) and after expressing displeasure for his support to Patel in resorting to Police action, warned him that Pakistan would retaliate by invading West Bengal and that Calcutta might be bombed. Mookerjee had then replied that the people of West Bengal and Calcutta had enough patriotism to suffer and sacrifice and would rejoice to hear that (General) J.N. Chaudhuri, a Bengali (who was to lead the Police action) had conquered Hyderabad." 

The Nizam had advanced Rs 20 crore as help to Pakistan and stationed a bomber plane there. In fact, the then British Chief of Indian Army, Sir Rob Lockhart, had told Nehru that Pakistan would invade India and Hyderabad too had built up a strong military forces under his friend Gen. El Droos so that it could resist Indian forces for many months whereas actually it surrendered within four days. 

The Police action had indeed been postponed again and again at Nehru's behest for four months. Originally, it was to begin in May, 1948, with a view to bringing it to successful termination before the monsoon.But Mountbatten did not want it when he was still the Governor General. He had in fact been warning Nehru that there would a Muslim uprising in India against it. His Tory friend, Sir Walter Monckton,had become legal adviser to the Nizam and was negotiating with India.But he left disgusted as Nizam was rejecting draft after draft of agreement, and even trying to secure the port of Goa from the Portuguese as an outlet for independent Hyderabad. The hurdle was removed as Mountbatten left India on June 22, 1948. After Mountbatten's exit, when the Nizam still talked of further agreement,Patel publicly declared, "Agreement has gone to England." 

Later, as Durga Das says : "Twice the zero hour was fixed by Patel,who as Home Minister, was to authorise the Police action, and on each occasion, he was compelled to cancel it under heavy political pressure. The zero hour was then fixed for the third time (for September 13) and Patel was determined to see it through. Once again a hitch developed at the eleventh hour. The Nizam appealed personally to C. Rajagopalachari (who had taken over as Governor-General from
Mountbatten), who conferred with Nehru and they both decided to call off action again. Patel was informed and the question of drafting a suitable reply to the Nizam arose. Defence Secretary H.M. Patel and V.P. Menon were summoned and they exhausted three hours in consultation and in formulating a reply. When the reply was finally ready, Patel coolly announced that the Army had already moved into Hyderabad and nothing could be done to halt it. Defence Minister
Baldev Singh and Patel were of one mind and had resolved to bring the Nizam to his senses and not yield to any further counsel of wreakness." 

Durga Das, the veteran journalist who was very close to Maulana Azad and Sardar Patel since the days of Independence movement, further writes, "I kept a tab on this midnight meeting through telephonic connection with Patel's residence. Not unexpectedly Nehru and C.R. were at once agitated and worried whether it would provoke retaliation by Pakistan. Within twenty-four hours, the action was successfully underway and there were smiles all around." 

In fact, CR wanted to postpone it further as a gesture to Pakistan as Jinnah had died the previous night. But Patel refused. 

The police action started early on September 13 as the Indian Army marched in from four corners of the State and the Nizam's forces surrendered to Gen. Chaudhuri on September 17. However, as it is said,' even after a rope is burnt, the twist remains'. The Nizam went to the airport when Nehru visited Hyderabad some weeks after surrender, but sometime later he was unwilling to extend the same courtesy to Sardar Patel, but was ultimately prevailed upon to present himself at the airport. In the course of the conversation, the Nizam told Patel, "To err is human!" To which Patel replied acidly, this was true but "errors also had their consequences".

Patel treated the Nizam, whose Razakar lashkars were dreaming of conquering Red Fort, generously otherwise. He was kept as Rajpramukh of the State till the reorganisation of States in 1956.Ironically, this courtesy was not extended to Maharaja Hari Singh who had not fought India like the Nizam, but had merged the State willingly despite Nehru's hostility to him. He was forced to abdicate in June, 1949, and leave the State permanently and reside in Bombay at Sheikh Abdullah's pressure, despite promises of fair treatment to him prior to accession. Even Patel could not help him because of Nehru-Abdullah axis for fear of which the accession had been delayed by the Maharaja. 

Anyway, the interesting thing is that though Pt. Nehru opposed Hyderabad's take over by Police action till the bitter end, he was later thankful to Sardar when he realised during his visit to London and Paris a month later in October, 1948, that how unlike Kashmir, there was little  mention of Hyderabad and Junagarh in foreign conclaves, although the Nizam had complaint in the UNO against India in early September, 1948, and Pakistan had supported it. For unlike  Nehru's handling of J&K, Sardar Patel had solved these problems successfully and presented the world with a fait accompli. There were no more embarrassing questions in the international arena after that although Pakistan kept making noises for some time. 

"What is the use of Parliament if you know everything?" said Dr Mookerjee to Nehru

Anyway, this is what Nehru wrote to Sardar in his letter from Paris dated 27 October, 1948, in this context : 

"My visits to London and Paris have helped me not only to understand the international situation a little better but also and more specially the position of India in relation to it... Both Hyderabad
and Kashmir have troubled people a lot here (Paris which was temporary headquarters of UNO then) and in London. It is recognised, of course, that the Hyderabad affair is over from   international point of view. It is very fortunate that we could dispose of it rapidly. Otherwise reactions to it would have been very much adverse to us as it is difficult to explain everything..." Questions, however, were still being asked about the future of the Nizam, etc., but that was  just by the way, he wrote. 

In case of Kashmir, however, he said although our case is a "good one", "this business of  Plebiscite and conditions governing it fills people's mind". All kinds of discussions and wrangling with the Pakistan Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, who too had come to attend the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in London had been going on. 

Nehru's naiveté about the potential of newly emerging China is strikingly visible in this letter when he writes : "Definitely India is considered a potential great Power and especially as a dominant Power in Asia, apart from USSR in the north... In Asia, everyone knows that China cannot play an effective part for a very long time. The only country in Asia is India, capable of playing this part. Pakistan of course does not come into the picture at all." 

It is true that India was considered a potential great power at that time, but it gradually lost out in the race, as it neglected building up its armed might, as Nehru thought that only his personal image as moralistic peace-maker and ace diplomat could overawe the world. No wonder, we find China challenging India's interests in Tibet within a year and Pakistan becoming a menace with generous US aid by 1954,reducing India to the position of a supplicant. Sardar Patel had sensed Chinese challenge even in 1950 as Nehru compromised over Chinese thrust in Tibet as buffer State. In a couple of letters to Nehru, Patel had challenged his handling of Tibetan affairs but as
usual Nehru replied he knew better. 

Incidentally, this was the reply that Nehru gave to Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee also when the latter in his famous speech on Kashmir drew Nehru's attention to disintegrative consequences of Sheikh Abdullah's actions, turning J&K into a republic within a republic and perpetrating atrocities on Hindus of Jammu who had risen in revolt almost. When Nehru said he knew more about Kashmir than anybody else, Dr Mookerjee replied, "Then what is the use of this Parliament if you
know everything?" But Nehru refused to listen to sane advice ..... He refused to heed even the advice the then Vice-President, Dr Radhakrishnan, to meet Dr Mookerjee once before he left for Kashmir on his last journey to focus attention on Abdullah's perverse policies. Within two months Nehru had to put Abdullah in jail... but only after Dr Mookerjee had died in detention in Srinagar.


(Author: V.P. Bhatia, Publication: Organiser)

August'2001

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