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Syed Amir Shah’s memories fit into the narrative that Operation Polo in 1948 led to the targeted killings of Muslims. Photo: Yunus Lasania/Mint
Syed Amir Shah’s memories fit into the narrative that Operation Polo in 1948 led to the targeted killings of Muslims. Photo: Yunus Lasania/Mint

Operation Polo: Remembering Hyderabad annexation, 70 years on

Apart from violence against Muslims, the period of Hyderabad annexation also witnessed rise of the communists in Telangana

Hyderabad: Recalling memories is not easy, when you have to go back 70 years in time. But for Syed Amir Shah (77), the nights of mid-September in 1948 are crystal clear, when he fled his village with his family, leaving everything, to escape local goons targeting Muslims.

A native of Mehkar village in Karnataka’s Bidar district, Shah, his four brothers, one sister, mother and maternal grandmother walked about 30 kilometres on a rainy night to Bhalki village for safety, and days later, proceeded to Bidar to take shelter at a relative’s home.

“We were told that those men were policemen, but in reality, they were goons supported by the Indian Army. Because it was raining the whole time, we were actually able to walk undetected till Bidar," Shah said.

Shah’s memories fit into the narrative that Operation Polo —annexation of the erstwhile state of Hyderabad into the Indian Union on 17 September 1948 —led to the targeted killings of Muslims. The event was an outcome of the unwillingness of the seventh Nizam of the erstwhile state of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan to join the Indian Union and wanting to remain independent after the country gained independence on 15 August 1947.

After reports of the excesses surfaced, the government set up the Pandit Sunderlal Committee. Its report detailed the violence, primarily in Maharashtra and Karnataka, then under the princely state of Hyderabad. It was suppressed for years, but parts of it were used by various authors over a period of time.

Shah and his family reached Hyderabad safely later. He was also lucky enough to be sent to Jamia Milia Islamia for primary education through an orphanage. He had lost his father in the violence that ensued.

His story, however, is just one side of the multi-dimensional event, which also witnessed the rise of the Communists in Telangana. 1947-48 also saw violence and atrocities against the local Hindu populace by the Razakaars, a Muslim militia headed by Qasim Razvi, who wanted to keep Hyderabad independent.

Razvi, who took over the Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (now All India MIM) in 1944, was jailed and released in 1957, after which he left for Pakistan.

“I was in college in 1948 and we went underground along with senior communist leaders like Makhdoom Mohiuddin as we were fighting the Razakaars and later the Indian Army, till the Communist Party of India (CPI) decided to participate in the elections in 1952. The Nizam could have avoided this catastrophe. He had even decided to accede to India, but Razvi prevented that from happening as well," said M.K. Moinuddin (90), a landlord turned communist who witnessed Operation Polo.

During 1946-51, the peasants in Telangana with help from Communists began revolting against the landlords and were also fighting against the Razakaars, in what is known as the Telangana Armed Struggle. Moinudddin, who fought alongside peasants and had given up his ancestral lands in the struggle, had joined the CPI as he disliked the Nizams (of the Asaf Jahi Dynasty). “We should have joined India earlier itself," he said.

His opinion is also shared by 86-year-old B. Narsing Rao, who was witness to a murder that one could say captured the political tension between 1947-48. Journalist Shoaibullah Khan, who used to run the Urdu newspaper Imroze from Rao’s home in the Kachiguda area of Hyderabad, was shot dead by the Razakaars. It happened shortly after Rao bid him goodbye on the night of 22 August, 1948.

“Khan wanted the state to join India and took a stand on it. Qasim Razvi had warned that such people would be killed. What had happened was unfortunate, and it could have been avoided by Osman Ali Khan," said Rao.

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