మంచి రోజులు మనకూ వస్తాయి.

డిసెంబర్ 6, 2009

Taylor C. Sherman’s reviews on Telangana Issue : Integration of the princely state of Hyderabad and the making of the post colonial state in India(1948–56).

This is an account by a neutral spectator in the western scholar, Taylor C. Sherman.

His article is

The integration of the princely state of Hyderabad and the making of the postcolonial state in India, 1948-56, Taylor C. Sherman. Indian Economic Social History Review 2007; 44; 489 DOI: 10.1177/001946460704400404.”

The online version of this article can be found at:


There is near consensus amongst scholars of post colonial India that, at least in retrospect, the Nehruvian period was one of relative calm and stability. According to this line of thought, independence did herald change in India, including the introduction of democracy with universal suffrage and a constitution with a charter of fundamental rights, but the trauma of partition, the war over Kashmir and the integration of the princely states, ‘ensured that precisely those traits of the Raj which Indian nationalists had struggled against were now reinforced’.1 The police, military and bureaucracy inherited from the colonial regime, it is agreed, enabled the Congress-led government to ‘enforce central authority’, and to ensure stability in a unified Indian state.2 The following pages challenge this view by examining the integration of the princely state of Hyderabad into the Indian Union. It is argued that this view posthumously invests the colonial state with qualities it did not have. The idea that the colonial state acted as a monolithic machine to stamp out dissent and disorder where it pleased is unsustainable. Central policy was often fraught with contradictions.
Institutions, especially the police, courts and prisons, were often overwhelmed by the work thrust upon them during times of unrest. Tensions between the centre and local administrators frequently erupted, as officers used their position as ‘the man on the spot’ to act contrary to orders or to justify committing acts of violence against the subject population. Taken as a whole, therefore, the colonial state was often either weak and inefficient, or extraordinarily violent and ineffective. By taking the absorption of Hyderabad as a case study, this work examines the ways in which the new government coped with its inheritance.
Hitherto, the story of the integration of the princely state of Hyderabad into the Indian Union has been told from a number of relatively parochial perspectives. There have been personal stories of hardship and bravery during the conflict;4 detailed analyses of the tortured negotiations between the Indian government, the Nizam of Hyderabad and the British;5 clinical accounts of the military operations;6 and histories of the communist Telangana movement in the territory.7 None of these accounts, however, have examined the impact of the integration of Hyderabad on the formation of the state in newly independent India. The absorption of Hyderabad provides an excellent study of the nature of the postcolonial Indian state for three reasons. First, Hyderabad had been part of the calculations of all-India political parties at least since the 1930s. The territory
was therefore a vital part of the self-image of newly-independent India. Second, it was the Ministry of States, part of the central government in Delhi, which assumed overall responsibility for the integration of the former princely states. After the police action of September 1948, the Hyderabad regime was virtually disbanded.

As a result, the new authorities had relative freedom to shape the new territory as they pleased. Finally, as Hyderabad was brought into the Union, police, military and members of the bureaucracy were drafted in from the rest of India to rebuild Hyderabad. One can, therefore, use the case of Hyderabad not only to try to understand the ‘mind’ of the central government, but to examine the extent to which policies designed by the centre were successfully implemented on the ground. When they assumed power in Hyderabad, the new Indian government faced an array of questions, the answers to which would impact the shape and character of the new nation-state as a whole. These included: how to deal with the limitations of the military, police, and bureaucracy which they had inherited; how to frame the new constitution to protect the integrity of the country; how to manage relations between Hindus and Muslims, whether in the bureaucracy or in the population; and how to fight communism and ensure the loyalty of their new citizens. This article explores these questions in three sections. First, it situates the princely state of Hyderabad at the geographic, economic and cultural heart of the subcontinent,
and locates the territory in the vision of India imagined by the British and their Indian successors. Second, it analyses the ways in which the Indian authorities addressed the question of relations between Hindus and Muslims after the fall of the Muslim-led government of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Finally, it turns to the ways in which the Indian army, and then the civilian authorities, confronted the communist Telangana movement in the eastern part of the state. It is argued below that, in the years shortly after independence, India’s internal character had yet to be set in stone, and the experience of the integration of Hyderabad reflects the vibrancy and uncertainty of the early Nehruvian period.

Hyderabad and the Indian Union

The history of the awkward place of the princely states in the transfer of power negotiations is well-known.9 On the eve of independence, several large states, including Hyderabad, had declined to join either India or Pakistan. Each state presented its own unique problems, but the government of independent India believed that the accession of Hyderabad to the Indian Union was ineluctable. As early as June 1947, Nehru had warned that he would ‘encourage rebellion in all states that go against us’.10 In the new Indian government, the accession of the subcontinent’s second largest princely state was viewed as a foregone conclusion because Hyderabad could not be independent except in name, given its geographical position.11 Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s home member and minister for states, remarked, ‘Hyderabad is, as it were, situated in India’s belly. How can the belly breathe if it is cut off from the main body?’12 In the summer of 1948, as India’s statesmen, especially Patel, began to hint of an invasion, the British encouraged India to avoid using force, but repeatedly declined the Nizam’s requests to intervene on his behalf.
In the months preceding independence, however, Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur had refused to accede to either India or Pakistan. He attempted, instead,to manoeuvre his state towards independence, from where he could negotiate an alliance with India, rather than amalgamation into India.14 To avoid accession, the Nizam’s government had signed a Standstill Agreement with the Government of India. The accord provided that relations between the state and the Indian Union would remain for one year as they had been prior to independence. India would handle Hyderabad’s foreign affairs, but Indian Army troops stationed in Secunderabad would be removed. Soon after the agreement had been struck, however, each side began to accuse the other of violating its terms. The Nizam alleged that the Indian government was imposing an informal embargo by using its control over the railways leading into the state to deny the territory vital goods, especially arms and medical supplies.15 India claimed that the government of Hyderabad was edging towards independence by divesting itself of its Indian securities, banning the Indian currency, halting the export of ground nuts, organising illegal gun-running from Pakistan, and inviting new recruits to its army and its irregular forces, the Razakars. These moves were regarded in Delhi as part of a ‘comprehensive plan to break up the economic cohesion of India’.

The Situation in Hyderabad in 1948

While the Nizam attempted to manoeuvre himself towards independence, the internal situation in the territory was deteriorating. The state had been crippled by communist insurgents on the one hand, and forces loyal to the Nizam of Hyderabad on the other. To a limited extent, Congress volunteers engaged in satyagraha had contributed to the internal disorder by disrupting courts, filling jails, and engaging in sabotage with the aim of convincing the Nizam to join the Indian Union. As stories of the conflict in the state spread in India, and refugees fled into the surrounding Indian provinces, the Government of India concluded that the unrest threatened to undermine peace in the whole of India.

When, in 1947, the authorities in Hyderabad refused to accede to either dominion, many opposition parties in the state called for the Nizam to join the Indian Union. The Congress launched a satyagraha, and encouraged students to leave schools, and lawyers to boycott courts. More radical members of the Hyderabad State Congress planned acts of sabotage, organised raids against government property and communications, and authorised their members to take action in ‘selfdefence’, with weapons if necessary. According to an Indian government note in March 1948, ‘the educational institutions function no more, the law courts are barren and the commercial life is shattered’.17 As many as 21,000 Congressmen were said to have been arrested.18 However, the Hyderabad State Congress Party was divided organisationally along regional lines, and ideologically between socialists and liberals; its impact on the internal situation in the state, therefore, was more limited than that of the communists.19 The fight between the communists and forces loyal to the Nizam, by contrast, was characterised in the spring of 1948 as ‘a people’s revolt on the one side and fascist orgy and anarchy on the other’.20 Its roots were in the insurgency begun in 1944–45 in the Nalgonda and Warangal districts, known as the Telangana area, in the east of the territory. Forces loyal to the Nizam of Hyderabad sought to repress this communist movement. These forces comprised of police and military, as well as local members of the Razakars. The Razakars, headed by Kasim Razvi, were a paramilitary organization comprised of volunteers who were said to be as enthusiastic as they were undisciplined.21 Razvi and his volunteers were associated with the Majlis-i-Ittehad-ul-Muslimein, a political party with considerable influence over the Nizam and dedicated to maintaining Muslim rule in Hyderabad.
Both communists and forces loyal to the Nizam employed brutal measures to strike against their enemy and intimidate villagers into collaboration. According to a pamphlet that the Government of India had drawn up for public consumption, between 15 August 1947 and 13 September 1948, the communists had murdered 2,000 people, attacked 22 police outposts, destroyed village records, manhandled 141 village officials, seized 230 guns, eight revolvers and one rifle, looted or destroyed paddy worth Rs 70,000, robbed cash and jewelery worth Rs 10,43,668, and destroyed 20 customs outposts.23 While the primary fight up until early 1948 had been between the communists and the Nizam’s forces, in May 1948 the Nizam and urban members of the communist party struck an improbable tactical alliance against a common enemy, the ‘bourgeois’ Indian Union. According to the agreement, which aimed to bolster the fight for the independence of Hyderabad, the Nizam amnestied communists from jails, cancelled outstanding arrest warrants and lifted the ban on the party.
During the summer of 1948, the Razakars continued to seek out and eliminate the enemies of the regime.24 They targeted not only Hindus, but Muslims whose loyalty was in doubt.25 As it became clear that negotiations with the Indian Union were stalemated, they also courted confrontation with Indian forces. Their raids against trains and villages in Madras, the Central Provinces (CP) and Bombay raised panic in these provinces. In July, Razakars killed six Indian Army troops in an ambush near the Indian enclave of Nanaj.26 Equally, there were allegations that Indian troops crossed Hyderabad’s borders as they gave chase to Razakars. The government in Delhi concluded that the increasing influence and violence of these unruly volunteer paramilitaries proved that the Nizam had lost control over his own territory.
These battles threatened to spill into Union territory in more than one way. First, refugees fleeing the disorders escaped into Indian territory to form large camps in the provinces of Madras and Bombay. Some estimates put the number of refugees at 40,000 in CP alone.27 Second, though the fault lines in the conflict did not run neatly along religious lines, the perceived ‘communal’ nature of the fighting threatened to revive Hindu-Muslim tensions in India.
The Nizam’s government tended to privilege a few thousand Muslims, leaving an underclass of poor Muslims. Nationalist Muslims in the state tended to oppose the Nizam while, as far away as Delhi, the Socialist Party enrolled Muslim volunteers to agitate against the Nizam.29 At the same time, the Depressed Classes Association and Depressed Classes Conference in Hyderabad had joined hands with the Nizam in June 1947 to fight against incorporation into the Indian Union, because they believed accession would entail domination by caste Hindus.30 The structure of rule in the state, however, where a predominantly Muslim government and gentry held power over large numbers of disadvantaged, of whom the majority were Hindus, appeared to divide the population along religious lines. And some political parties took advantage of this. Since the war, the All-India Hindu Mahasabha had used this government structure to gather support for their organization. In 1941 they began to keep a record of all, ‘tyrannous and political injustices and unfairness on the Hindus in all Provinces and particularly under Muslim administration and Muslim states’.31 Hyderabad was no exception.32 As the violence of the Nizam’s forces increased in Hyderabad, Hindu nationalists called on Muslims throughout India ‘to give proof of their loyalty to the Indian Union’ by opposing the Nizam’s regime.33 Clearly, the subtleties and complexities of the Hyderabad situation were being folded into all-India communal politics.
The Government of India, therefore, concluded that the unrest in Hyderabad threatened to destabilize ‘the communal situation in the whole of India’.34 In the volatile international situation in South Asia in the year following independence, Nehru had been reluctant to use force to bring Hyderabad into the Indian Union.35 The Indian economy was suffering a crisis of inflation, accompanied by a panic in the gold market, which impelled the Government of India to re-impose controls on textiles and other essential commodities. In addition, the autumn of 1948 was a tense time for the militaries on the subcontinent. Pakistan had admitted that its troops were present in Kashmir, and Nehru was writing of being at war with its neighbor, albeit an undeclared one.36 India feared that any move against Hyderabad would prompt a military response from Pakistan. Though Pakistan had no plans to protect Hyderabad with arms, India did not know this.37 Moreover, the new government in India was trying to calm tensions after the violence of partition, and struggling to provide for millions of refugees. The situation in Hyderabad, they concluded, must be resolved before it adversely affected India’s internal and international security.
On 13 September 1948, therefore, the Government of India declared a state of emergency, and sent its troops into Hyderabad State. During the ‘police action’, the Indian Army entered Hyderabad with the objective of forcing the Nizam to reinstall Indian troops in Secunderabad so as to allow them to restore order in the state. The Nizam surrendered in four days, and the Government of India appointed Major-General J.N. Chaudhuri as Military Governor. Delhi decided that the Nizam could retain his position as Rajpramukh, though law-making and enforcement power rested with the Military Governor.

Hindu-Muslim Relations and the Character of the New Hyderabad State

Once they had seized control of the territory, the new Military Governor, Major General Chaudhuri, the Chief Civil Administrator, D.S. Bakhle, and the Government in Delhi had to ask themselves what character and composition they wished the new Hyderabad state to have. This question involved a number of different elements. First, to what extent would those who took part in violence before and during the police action be punished for their activities? Second, how far would the Muslim-dominated administration in the state be altered? Finally, what role would the Congress Party have in the new state? Given that each of these questions impacted Hindu-Muslim relations, Nehru felt that the decisions that they made in Hyderabad would be seen as the touchstone of the Indian government’s minority policy.
Before the invasion of Hyderabad, Nehru’s primary concern had been to normalise Hindu-Muslim relations there and in the rest of the country. He wrote to Patel that, after the problem of the Razakars, all other issues were ‘relatively secondary’.
Before the first Indian troops set foot in Hyderabad, there was much uncertainty over whether the police action would provoke an adverse reaction amongst Muslims in India. In the state’s surrounding provinces, therefore, provincial governments detained dozens of Muslims, including Members of the Legislative Assembly, for ‘security reasons’, on the grounds that their sympathies with Hyderabad might spur them into inciting unrest. However, as troops marched into the state, many Muslims in India lent their support to the police action.
Prominent Muslims in Delhi publicly welcomed the Government of India’s choice to come to the aid of the ‘innocent masses’ threatened by the Razakars, and appealed for calm. In the event, there was no trouble in India during the five days of the police action. Indeed, before reports emerged of fighting within the state, Nehru had ventured to declare that Hyderabad had ‘suddenly opened out a new picture of communal peace and harmony’.
Quickly, however, stories began to seep out of large-scale violence within the territory in the immediate aftermath of the police action. It is unclear exactly what happened between the people of Hyderabad, the members of the falling regime, and the invading forces during and immediately after the police action, but it appears that there was widespread bloodshed as the population took the opportunity to commit acts of violence against the Razakars and other Muslims. Two prominent nationalists, Pandit Sunderlal and Qazi Abdulghaffar, prepared a report on the situation after Nehru appointed them to tour the state and assess the extent of the destruction, but the original was suppressed and only scraps of it remain.44 They recorded that after 13 September, there had been a widespread anti-Muslim purge, which had occurred primarily in the Marathwada and Telangana areas. What evidence is available suggests that Hindu residents as well as some members of the Army attacked persons and property in the weeks after the police action began.
Conservative estimates suggest that 50,000 Muslims were killed.46 Others claim several hundred thousand died.47 Indian troops in some places remained aloof from these activities, in others, they were implicated in them.48 Sunderlal and Abdulghaffar concluded that, ‘In general the attitude of the military officers was good but the soldiers showed bigotry and hatred’.49 The invasion of Hyderabad had not heralded a new era of communal harmony in the territory. Instead, the main task of the new authorities in the state was to cope with the aftermath of the turmoil.
In order to depose the existing regime and to contain the unrest, the Government of India’s police and military authorities had detained Razakars, Hindu militants, communists, and many others more loosely connected with the general upheaval.
According to their own figures, the military and police detained over 13,000 Muslims, plus several hundred Arabs and Pathans, who were associated with the Razakars and the Nizam’s irregular forces. Another several thousand Hindus were jailed after having been implicated in the post-police action reprisals against Muslims.

Many communists were also detained. But it is clear that, with their limited knowledge
of the local situation, the invading forces simply jailed thousands of suspects without real knowledge of their activities. The police and military were captive to local informants, who took advantage of the situation to have their political enemies imprisoned.50 Indeed, many of the difficulties which the colonial regime had faced when confronting large-scale communal unrest also affected the early postcolonial
government: the police and military were disposed to make mass arrests in order to restore order, and to think about prosecution only after the event. But court cases often simply provided another arena for the conflict, and the government came under political pressure to release those detained.
Having imprisoned an estimated 17,550 people as they entered the territory, the Government of India was left with the questions of what to do with all the prisoners rounded up in the upheaval, and how to relieve the problem of overcrowded jails.52 In Hyderabad, the Government of India inherited a criminal justice system that had been paralysed by the conflict, and could not process any significant number of cases. This meant that, just as in British India, politics came to determine who was subjected to formal punishment, and who escaped. Of course, many of the political aims of the Nehru government were different from those of the British: they were concerned with not spending money, which could otherwise be used for development projects, on expensive legal proceedings; and they were sensitive to the importance of political parties in a democratic age. For their part, many members of the public remained constant in their insistence that, when the government punished participants in communal violence, this only worsened relations between those communities who were perceived to be at loggerheads with one another.53 For these reasons, though thousands were originally detained, only a few exemplary persons remained in jail by 1953.
Given the volume of cases, the military regime decided to prosecute only those ‘who indulged in the worst kind of atrocities’.54 In the six months following the Nizam’s defeat, therefore, the government released over 11,000 Muslims without trial because no incriminating evidence against them existed. They also deported some 2,000 Arabs back to Aden and a similar number of Pathans to ‘other parts of India’.55 Major-General Chaudhuri and his administration planned to prosecute the remainder of those detained. Accordingly, shortly after the proclamation of the State of Emergency, the Government of India propounded a Special Courts Order to dispense with the large numbers of persons in jail. In a word, the order was designed to process cases speedily. To this end, it relaxed the standards of written evidence by requiring only summaries of the evidence rather than full accounts; it made it impossible for an accused to deliberately delay proceedings, for example by hunger striking; and, at first, it provided for no right to appeal to higher courts. This latter provision was amended in October 1949, to allow appeals to the High Court for major offences. There was no mention either way as to
access to a lawyer, and it appears that while some of the accused obtained counsel,
others declined or were denied access to one.56 The ordinance strongly resembled those which had been passed by the colonial government during the twentieth century. For example, it incorporated the lessons that the British had learnt by making it impossible for a defendant to delay a case by hunger striking.
In reality, the Special Tribunals were anything but speedy. In each of the courts sat a three-member panel, all of whom had to be present for a case to proceed; when one member was sick or on leave, the tribunal did not meet. Further, English was the working language of the tribunals, but there were few advocates who were able to conduct a prosecution in English.58 As the trials made halting progress, thousands languished in jails, waiting for the police to finish investigating their cases or for the courts to begin their trials.
By April 1949, appeals for an amnesty were gaining volume. Thirteen Urdu newspapers jointly asked the government to free Muslims who had been imprisoned ‘on mere suspicion’ and had yet to stand trial. The editors suggested that these men had suffered in jail long enough, and that their continued detention would serve no good purpose. To release them would help create a ‘harmonious atmosphere’ in the state, and it would foster the minority community’s confidence in the government.60 Similarly, Swami Ramandanda Tirtha, leader of the Congress Party in the state, agreed that the institution of cases for events which had occurred nine months before was ‘causing great discontent’.
The constraints of governance in a democratic state had an impact in three rather contradictory ways on the decisions which the government made about these prisoners. First, as these men had been detained for several months without trial, the International Committee for the Red Cross was pressing Nehru to see that those detained were either prosecuted or released.62 Nehru had long since realised that the eyes of the world were on Hyderabad, and wished to prove that the new Indian government could be balanced in its approach to both Hindus and Muslims. Second, it was the widely held opinion amongst the new rulers of the state that the communist and ‘communalist’ parties in the state remained popular because the state Congress Party was weak. Chaudhuri, therefore, hoped that the release of prisoners would ‘rehabilitate the prestige of the Hyderabad State Congress’ Party in the eyes of the public in Hyderabad, and improve relations between the state and national sections of the party.64 Even so, there could be no general amnesty because the Military Governor still wished to prosecute prominent Razakars such as Kasim Razvi.
When the government of Hyderabad, in consultation with the Centre, weighed these arguments, they knew that any policy adopted could not be seen to favour either Hindus or Muslims. The new government convinced itself that equal blame did attach to each community. In Major-General Chaudhuri’s words, ‘in political physics, Razakar action and Hindu reaction have been almost equal and opposite’.
Thus, when it was decided to free all Hindus and to institute a programme for the review of Muslim cases with an aim to gradually letting many out of jail, the government preferred that the policy be given no publicity.67 Releases were staggered and former prisoners made to report periodically to the police.
Since the prosecutions of either Hindus or Muslims in cases of ‘communal’ violence tended to elicit allegations of bias, any cases which were brought to court had to be designed to minimise ethnic tensions. Thus, Kasim Razvi and four of his associates were prosecuted for the alleged murder of a fellow Muslim, Shoebullah Khan. The victim, a nationalist journalist who had opposed the Razakars, was killed on 22 August 1948. His murder attracted public interest, though only after the police action had begun. The Bombay Chronicle described the journalist as ‘a brave young man’ for refusing to bow to the will of the Ittehad-ul-Muslimein.
The paper went on to declare Shoebullah ‘a martyr in the cause of the people’. Though a Special Tribunal found Razvi and his cohorts guilty, they were acquitted in the High Court. The same men stood accused in the Bibinaga Dacoity Case, which ran simultaneously with the Shoebullah Khan case. In the second case, it was alleged that, when passing through Bibinaga station in a train, the accused had shouted ‘Shah-e-Osman zindabad’, but the people in the station had replied with the nationalist slogan ‘Mahatma Gandhi ki jai’. The accused then disembarked, and proceeded to burn down a house, and beat and rob those in the vicinity of the station.70 In this case, the High Court upheld the Special Tribunal’s guilty verdict, and the men were sentenced to imprisonment. It was believed that if this type of case were chosen, the prosecutions would be more likely to inspire in the public feelings of pure abhorrence or deep nationalism, rather than enmity between Hindus and Muslims.
As news of the convictions of Razvi and his men reached the public, prominent politicians again pressed Nehru to show generosity to the Muslims of Hyderabad.
The prime minister was sympathetic. Hyderabadi Muslims, he wrote to Patel, exemplified a unique ‘and rather attractive culture’, and were ‘very much above the average’.72 In essence, Nehru argued that Muslim prisoners in Hyderabad were not criminal types, and therefore did not merit punishment. Instead, their behaviour in the summer and autumn of 1948 was analogous to the ‘madness’ that seized ‘decent people’ in the country during partition. Many of those guilty of partition violence remained free in India and lived ‘as respected citizens’.73 By this logic, if the crimes of partition could be buried, so could those of Hyderabad’s accession.
Nehru also warned that if a gesture of ‘friendliness’ were not offered ‘to those who are down and out and full of fear’, these disenfranchised Muslims could join forces with the communists. Finally, the prime minister argued that in a developing state, the money spent on prosecution could have ‘brought rich results if spent on constructive activities in Hyderabad’.
When Nehru first voiced these arguments, Patel demurred. He was convinced that the promise of penal action against criminals had helped restore law and order, and that if that promise were not fulfilled, it would signal the government’s partiality for Muslims and would endanger the peace in the state.75 By the time the cases of Kasim Razvi and the ex-ministers of the Nizam’s regime had wound their way through the judicial system, Patel had passed away, and elections were about to be held under a much improved political atmosphere in the state. In January 1952, all ex-ministers were released; only Kasim Razvi and a few members of the Nizam’s regime who had been involved in the most notorious cases remained in prison.
In the end, only a handful of symbolic Razakars were punished with formal imprisonment. Like its colonial predecessor, the Indian government faced administrative constraints which precluded the use of the ordinary judicial system to dispose of every case arising out of large-scale violence. The police and military, lacking real intelligence or familiarity with the territory, jailed thousands without obvious cause, and without labouring to find one. Courts, even special tribunals, were unable to work through the cases at a reasonable speed. Pleas for amnesty inevitably arose in circumstances in which the members of the public believed that people were being detained unfairly for protracted periods. Political considerations, therefore, determined the futures of those who found themselves in jail.
Intimately tied to these issues was the question of Hindu-Muslim balance in the services. The well-known rivalry between Patel and Nehru was crucial in this respect, as Patel often ran the States Ministry without as much consultation with Nehru’s cabinet as the prime minister would have preferred.77 Before the invasion, Nehru had presided over a meeting in which it was decided that, in order to be generous to the Nizam and to create a positive impression on the other princely states, the military regime ought to change as little as possible in Hyderabad.
Dramatic administrative and policy changes in the territory were to wait for a democratically elected government.78 At other levels of administration, however, divergent ideas took hold. The new authorities in Hyderabad attempted to adjust the ethnic balance in the executive, police and administrative services, where Muslims predominated. To this end, they dismissed over 100 officers, from the Chief Secretary to low-level police personnel. 79 They also detained many of those local officers who were suspected of participating in the violence which accompanied the police action. In addition, they attempted to reduce the number of Muslims working in the civil service or sitting as judges through forced retirement, or transfer from the state. They adopted a policy of not hiring new Muslims in the services. The civilian administration under Vellodi continued this policy. And the government introduced in June 1950 under a scheme of diarchy had similar ideas.
To replace those dismissed, they drafted in junior officers from Bombay, CP and Madras. This created greater difficulties, however, as many of the new officers were not only inexperienced, but were also unable to speak the languages of the people under their jurisdiction, and were unfamiliar with local conditions. This left the administration in general, and the criminal justice system in particular, unable to function efficiently or effectively. The prime minister objected to these schemes on the grounds that they were both inspired by ‘communal’ chauvinism, and were impractical because they brought in incompetent outsiders.83 Nehru, along with many Hyderabadis, called for qualified Hyderabad residents to fill vacant posts. However, the people taking the reins of power in Hyderabad were able to circumvent these orders by falsifying residency documents. Thus, the answers that were found to the question of the ethnic composition of the services were neither similar, nor co-ordinated. It is clear that the new Indian government in Delhi, like its British predecessor, had to contend with competing visions of the state. These visions were not identical to those present before 1947, but they were a mark of the continued inability of the Centre to elicit discipline and obedience
from the individuals it employed.

The Congress Party in Hyderabad

The final question facing the new authorities in Hyderabad was what the role of the Congress Party in the state ought to be. Initially, the answer seemed relatively
straightforward to the government in Delhi. Congressmen at the head of the Government
of India wished the Hyderabad State Congress Party to guide the future of the state. To some extent this decision can be explained by the supposed ideological affinity between the local and the national party. Technically, the Hyderabad State Congress had not been part of the all-India party because affiliations with outside organisations had been banned under the Nizam. Hyderabad’s Swami Ramananda Tirtha, however, had participated in the non-cooperation movement in Sholapur, and later made frequent visits to Gandhi. Tirtha often consulted him on matters of policy, though the two did not always agree.85 In addition, the all-India party had contributed to the Congress satyagraha in the state in 1938.
Moreover, the Hyderabad State Congress was also one of the few political organisations
not confined to a single linguistic group, and which attempted to span the entire state. It would be easier to work with a single organisation rather than with the several linguistic parties.
At the time, however, the Hyderabad State Congress had been in existence for little more than a decade, and had operated as no more than a token institution before
1946. It suffered from organisational shallowness and internal divisions.87 If it were to take power successfully, the Hyderabad State Congress Party would need all the help it could get from the national party. To this end, when they took over the governance of the state, the Indian authorities ordered the release of all Congressmen who had landed in Hyderabad’s jails during their campaign of satyagraha and sabotage before the police action. Before the release, there was some debate as to whether those who had committed crimes of violence should be freed. In the event, Congressmen accused of violent crimes were let out, while communists were kept in jail, whether their crimes involved violence or not.Under these orders, the Government of India released 1,222 out of 1,736 detenus, and 7,893 out of 9,218 political prisoners.
The situation was far more fluid than had been anticipated, however. As the military and police attempted to restore order by arranging prosecutions against those who had partaken in the violence, many Congressmen ended up back in jail. The Military Governor reported that one faction in the party ‘has given information against the members of the other groups for having been concerned in the commission of atrocities after police action’.90 It became clear that the fissures within the Hyderabad State Congress would not be easy to repair. Nehru met with Congressmen in the state to persuade them to bury their differences in the interests of their country.91 V.P. Menon and Sardar Patel repeatedly pressed the divergent blocs in the party to adopt a ‘united approach’, but their ‘bickering’ and ‘mud flinging’ continued unabated.92 Thus, though the Government of India had originally intended to establish a constituent assembly in Hyderabad and to transfer power to a civilian government composed of Hyderabadis, within a few months of the police action, both objectives were soon shelved. The government in Delhi refused
to hand power to democratically elected representatives while the Hyderabad State Congress remained in ideological and organisational disarray.93 It therefore orchestrated a more gradual transfer of power, and did not sanction state-wide elections until 1952.
If the state comprises not only policy but also institutions and individuals, it is difficult to draw a clear and simple picture of the Indian state during the first months after the police action because these three levels seem to be pulling in different directions. Policy coming from the Government of India level was clearly concerned to appear even-handed in its punishment of participants in the violence which surrounded the deposal of the Nizam’s regime. Nehru, at least, was also keen to avoid making drastic changes to state institutions. But as they took control of Hyderabad, the new Indian government found itself with poor institutions and independently-minded local officers. As a result, the composition of the administration in Hyderabad was changed significantly, and Muslims tended to be disenfranchised during this period. The nature of politics in a democratic state also affected policy, for the Centre’s decisions were designed to improve the stature of the Congress party, and to appeal to certain members of the electorate. However, there were others who were not so easily pleased, and it is to the communists that we now turn.

The Communist Insurgency and the Making of the New State

When they arrived in Hyderabad, the Indian military found that the communists had not only done great damage to the structures of government in the Telangana region, but they had also introduced reforms on an impressive scale. The government, therefore, both fought the communists and learned from them. Or rather, they fought them first, and then they learned from them. Their various encounters with the communists affected the future of India as a whole in many ways. This section will highlight two. First, some of the oppressive measures used against the movement came to be incorporated within the new nation’s constitution. Second, the development work of the communists encouraged the government to adopt its own programme of uplift for the peasantry.
While the main justification the Government of India used as they entered Hyderabad was ending the ‘communal’ violence, they soon found that the problems in the state were intimately related to the communist uprising that was flourishing in the Telangana region of the state, for the violent struggle against the Nizam was centred in Telangana and led by communists. The communists drew adherents from a number of fronts. Amongst the poor peasantry and landless labourers, there was great resentment against the jagirdari system of landholding, which governed 43 per cent of land in the state. This system was infamous for the high rate of forced labour extracted from peasants who held little land, were given paltry access to water and manure, and were subjected to high rates by (often absentee) landlords. Moreover, during World War II, the burden of a compulsory levy fell heavily on the peasants, who were experiencing similar agrarian troubles to those which plagued the rest of India. Rural areas also lacked facilities for medical care and education. These factors were combined with a system in which customary class distinctions were often reinforced with brutal violence to leave a large number of peasants alienated from those who governed them.94 In addition, urban communists and wealthier peasants had initially fought their own battles under the
communist banner, but by 1948, the coalition between poor and middling peasants had fallen apart.
In rural areas the communist cause, led by Ravi Narayan Reddi and organised under the aegis of the Andhra Mahasabha, sought to alleviate the grievances of the poor peasants in the Telangana area.96 Though at the outset they only targeted zamindars and deshmukhs, the police and military were pulled into the conflict at the request of local magnates, and by December 1945, the communists had launched a full-scale agitation against the state. Initially, they assaulted the prestige of government officials, especially the police. They progressed to boycotting local revenue collectors and judicial officials, and then to establishing their own panchayats and courts. Between July and November 1946, encounters between the communists and the Nizam’s forces grew increasingly violent, and in the last two months of that year, the Nizam’s police and military, with the occasional aid of local Razakars, undertook coordinated action against the communists. The Nizam’s forces’ tactics were varied. They cordoned off villages and captured suspected communists en masse, shot into crowds, burnt villages, and engaged in widespread loot in a manner that was described by one Congressman as ‘absolutely indiscriminate and organised’.97 Habeeb Mohammed, the subedar of Warangal, was later tried for crimes which included murder, and the burning of 200 houses in the village of
Gurtur. The taluqdar of Nalgonda, Moazzam Hussain, was said to have ordered the death of 20 ‘innocent Hindus’ after a group of several hundred communists had attacked and killed several dozen Razakars.98 The communists responded with ‘punishment’ against government officials and suspected collaborators. Their measures were said to be more targeted, but equally brutal.99 Accounts of the action taken by both sides were documented by the Government of India,100 by politicians such as Sarojini Naidu’s daughter, Padmaja Naidu,101 and they also appeared in the press.
When it became clear that the communists had not laid down their arms after the Indian Army arrived, the Military Governor adopted a policy of rooting out communists wherever they were found. Rhetoric was found to match. Nehru instructed Chaudhuri that the fighters in Telangana should not be referred to as communists, but as terrorists. The prime minister wrote, ‘too much talk of communists confuses the issue because communists in other countries function differently’. He made a distinction between communists in the Soviet Union and Indonesia, who opposed imperialism, and those fighting the free government of independent India. To add factual support to this discourse, the Government of Hyderabad drew up a pamphlet entitled ‘Communist terrorism in Hyderabad’.

The pamphlet’s message was simple:
the Communist hooligans of Hyderabad have carried forward their campaign of crime to an extent that assures it a prominent place in any anthology of destruction.

Government forces, it was implied, had the right to use force to restore order, and to remove these outlaws from the territory. The means adopted to dislodge the communists were also heavy-handed. By December 1949, the police and military had jailed over 6,000 persons without trial, and yet the ranks of communists seemed to be growing.

Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution and the Situation in Hyderabad

Though these detentions did not have much effect on the communist movement, they did have a profound impact on the shape of the Indian Constitution, which was finalised during this crucial period in the country’s history. As the document was being drawn up by the Constituent Assembly, the sub-committee on Fundamental Rights was given the task of articulating the legal, political and social rights of the new citizens of the Republic of India.106 B.R. Ambedkar drew up a set of rules for arrest and detention which would suit India’s unique needs. After many revisions, the substance of Ambedkar’s final, multi-part article provided for very little protection against long-term detention without trial. It laid down rights for those arrested or detained, but then stated that these rights did not apply to those held under preventive detention laws, which might be passed by the
legislatures.107 Ambedkar justified the text on two grounds. First, India was in great turmoil: refugees, economic crisis, uncertainty over princely states, and the rise of communism throughout the country justified the use of preventive detention. Second, it was not a ‘practical possibility’ to expect the current executive, judicial and administrative system to process and review large numbers of detentions, given the current political situation in the country.108 The infrastructure they had inherited was inadequate for the work at hand. If the constitution were to endow citizens with the right to have their cases reviewed in less than three months, as critics of the clause had suggested, then thousands would have to be released because courts and review boards would fail to meet the deadline.
It would be easy to conclude that these measures signalled the willingness of the Government of India’s new leadership to anchor their power in the country by any means necessary. However, the articles adopted in the constitution must be seen in the context of the recent past in India. The fact that most Congressmen had been detained without trial for several years during the recent war affected the way in which detention was viewed in the country. Imprisonment without trial was seen as a necessary measure in the face of grave danger. However, the inveterate legalism of the leadership of the nationalist movement encouraged them to try to articulate in law the precise terms on which that power could be exercised.
And yet, with knowledge of the weakness of the institutions which they had inherited,
the constitution makers were unwilling to be tied down. The clause was the uneasy result of a compromise between legalism and pragmatism.

Civilian Administration and the Victory of the Generous

Just as the constitution came into force, the political situation in Hyderabad began to take a new direction. In December 1949, the Military Governor’s administration ended, and M.K. Vellodi replaced Major-General Chaudhuri at the head of the new civilian administration in Hyderabad. Vellodi toured the Telangana districts, and found that the authorities stationed in the area had not dealt with the communist cause ‘with any understanding’. He testified that ‘the villagers who had been alternately beaten up by the Military and the Police and the communists had a haunted look’.109 This section examines how the civil administration won the war with a combination of more responsive policing and more aggressive programmes of development.
Though the communists were branded ‘terrorists’ in public, the government quietly learned lessons from them. It was clear that the communists had earned the support of the people because they had tapped into grievances which the Indian government in the state had not begun to address. Assessing the achievements of the communists in the field of social and economic uplift, the Intelligence Bureau’s Deputy Director deemed them ‘positive and in some cases great’.110 The communists had redistributed land and livestock, reduced rates, ended forced labour and increased wages by 100 per cent. They inoculated the population and built public latrines; they encouraged women’s organisations, discouraged sectarian sentiment, and sought to abolish untouchability. ‘Thus,’ concluded the Deputy Director, ‘the Communist regime was one of relief and uplift to the isolated villager and improved his self-respect’.
Members of the government in India were not ignorant of the significant influence of agrarian uplift on the political situation. Indeed, Nehru encouraged the Ministry of States to view the problems of the peasantry in Hyderabad in the context of the ‘great agrarian revolution … taking place over these vast areas of Asia’.
In light of the communist uprisings in Burma, Malaya and Indonesia in 1948, it was obvious to the more discerning members of India’s governing class that the communist movement appealed to those in Telangana who suffered under conditions of socio-economic distress.113 Indeed, soon after the police action, Swami Ramananda Tirtha and his group in the State Congress cautioned Nehru that the use of force against communists would have to be supplemented with agrarian reforms in order to strike at the ‘root cause’ of the movement.
As the state’s first Chief Minister, Vellodi initiated a number of more nuanced military measures designed to disrupt the communist movement. He replaced the Brigadier in charge of the Telangana area, who spoke no Telugu, with Captain Nanjappa of the Indian Civil Service, who acted as Special Commissioner in the region.115 Review committees were constituted to consider the cases of prisoners who were elderly, infirm, or were no threat to security.116 Within a year, over 5,000 detenus were freed.117 Nanjappa substituted the sweeping and heavy-handed operations of the military with small police parties, which worked on the basis of intelligence.118 Home guards and village patrols were organised to assist the police.
In the beginning of 1951, Nanjappa gave secret instructions to start a ‘whispering
campaign’ to let it be known that those who laid down their arms voluntarily would have their cases ‘favourably considered’.
The authorities also began to build or repair infrastructure from roads and wells to dispensaries and schools. They passed a Tenancy Act, which was designed to improve the rights of tenants by capping landholdings, opening the market to cultivators, and protecting tenants from ejection.121 Although land reforms were not implemented in a uniform manner, and they did not go far enough in many areas, the Act went some way to recognising peasant grievances.122 A Tribal Reclamation Scheme was introduced in Warangal, under which two teams of Social Service Officers were constituted to ‘redress grievances and create contentment’ amongst the inhabitants of the area.123 To this end, they travelled through rural areas, and tried to settle any outstanding disputes and alleviate all major difficulties in the lives of the villagers. These officers aimed to see that vacant government land was allotted, tenants’ rights confirmed, disputes with absentee landlords settled, land taken by moneylenders restored and debts reconciled. Having been allotted a lump sum of two lakhs, and an annual budget of 1.38 lakhs, they arranged for the supply of essential commodities such as cloth, kerosene and iron at subsidised prices.124 Police and Revenue officials who visited tribal people distributed
medicines, sold cheap cloth, and handed out free dhotis, sarees, soap, slates and books. As a result, noted the Deputy Central Intelligence officer with a hint of surprise, ‘their cooperation with the forces of law and order in this division is most spontaneous’. They were even helping to capture communists. There are indications in the available documents, however, that these schemes were not without elements of coercion. The hill tribes in the area, the Koyas, Chenchus and Lambadas, were said to have had connections with the communists, who used them as couriers, and their settlements as hideouts.127 In order to disrupt the association between the two, the tribes ‘were uprooted from their villages inside the forests and made to live nearer to human habitation’.128 By February 1951, 7,000 out of 30,000 Koyas in the Warangal area had been settled in villages under this scheme.129 It was widely reported that because the re-located tribes people lacked basic facilities such as drinking water, they and their livestock fell victim to hunger and disease.
Measures for the uplift or simple relocation of tribesmen and of the peasantry, whether forced or voluntary, seemed to have drawn many away from communist influence. As a result, the communists had difficulty securing food, water and ammunition from the population.131 Moreover, the Communist Party of India (CPI) was divided over whether to continue the violent struggle in Telangana, or to participate in the general elections due the following year.132 In Hyderabad, the movement split along the same lines. Raj Bahadur Goud and Maqdoom Mohiuddin, members of the City Communist Party, as well as Ravi Narayan Reddi, a prominent leader of the Andhra Mahasabha, came out of hiding to disassociate themselves from the violent movement. They were promptly arrested.133 After seeking guidance from Moscow and Beijing, the CPI and the Andhra Mahasabha called off the armed struggle in the state in mid-October 1951.134 Top-ranking communists visited the state to support the call for a turn to electioneering. Though the change in policy did not satisfy all members of the movement, it brought about a formal end to the Telangana struggle.135 In 1952, the various parties of the left in the state united to form the People’s Democratic Front to contest the forthcoming general elections. The fight against the communists can be divided into two phases, the first executed by the military, the next orchestrated by the civilian administration. The
military phase of the campaign bore a remarkable resemblance to military action during the British period. Hampered by a dearth of intelligence, and blinkered by the overriding imperative to restore order, their over-bearing acts of oppression and indiscriminate punishments produced either bitter quiescence or unending antagonism in the subject population. The Indian government in Hyderabad came into its own when Vellodi took power at the head of a civilian administration. Vellodi and Nanjappa ‘discovered’ that if they could slake the population’s thirst for basic goods, the government could win their loyalty as well. And, marking a crucial departure from the British period, they found the funds necessary to achieve this end.
This can be seen as part of a larger, global shift both in the nature of governance more generally, and in counter-insurgency tactics in particular. After World War II, the nature of citizenship changed as the responsibility of the state for the social and economic welfare of its population was greatly expanded. At around the same time, the British, too, began combating the communist insurgency in Malaya with measures designed to ameliorate the economic conditions in the countryside.
The leadership of the new Indian nation quickly grasped the notion that if they were to earn and retain the loyalty of the people of India, they would have to fulfil the promises of the nationalist movement and provide uplift for the common people.
If they failed in this task, they risked losing the allegiance of villagers, peasants and labourers to communists, who promised the prosperity that the Congress party could not deliver.

The End of Hyderabad

Hyderabad’s fate in the final account was intimately connected with that of south India as a whole. Since independence, significant sections of the population had urged the Government of India to re-divide the provinces in India along linguistic lines. Hyderabad, situated in the centre of south India and populated by four distinct linguistic groups, was elemental to this vision of India. Indeed, as the existence of Hyderabad kept these groups from being unified with their linguistic brethren, it was seen by some as the ‘centre of gravity of the British Empire in India’.137 Socialists in the new nation detested the feudal conditions extant in the state, and believed that the system could only be abolished by dismembering every element of the Nizam’s regime.138 The disintegration of Hyderabad, in these views, was essential in order to establish real swaraj in India. Though he cautioned against repeating the sins of partition, Nehru conceded that, in principle, if there was ‘strong and widespread’ support for the re-drawing of India’s internal borders, then ‘a democratic government must ultimately submit to it’.139 In Hyderabad, politics had long moved along linguistic lines, and the major players, including the Andhra Mahasabha and the faction of the Congress Party led by Swami Ramananda Tirtha, favoured the break-up of the state.140 The People’s Democratic Front, the socialists, and the Peasants and Workers Party participated in the campaign for the disintegration of the state as well.141 In addition, the incorporation of Hyderabad into the Indian Union had emphasised the importance of local officers who spoke the local language of the population. This realisation, combined with the agitation for linguistic states, tipped the balance against the continued existence of Hyderabad. In 1953, the state of Andhra Pradesh was carved out of Madras. In 1956, the Telugu-speaking regions of Hyderabad, including Telangana, were joined with the new province. And Hyderabad’s Marathi speakers were eventually amalgamated into the new state of Maharashtra, and its Kannada speakers into Karnataka.


In light of the experience of Hyderabad, how can one characterise the state in
independent India? Though this article only concerns Hyderabad, the police, military
and bureaucracy which form the basis of this analysis were drafted into the state from outside, and, though one must be cautious, it is possible to draw conclusions that range beyond the borders of the former princely state. It is clear that while there were some continuities, there were also sharp differences between the colonial and postcolonial state. When the members of the new government took over the institutions left behind by the British, they inherited many of the constraints of the colonial system. Courts were easily overwhelmed by unrest; prisons continued to be used as holding cells, rather than as disciplinary institutions; the police and the military were often clumsy and heavy-handed, especially in the first phase of the occupation; and local officers could not always be relied upon to implement the centre’s policies as directed. The colonial apparatus simply did not provide the stability and coherence which many scholars have presumed.
The new Government of India was able to integrate Hyderabad into the Indian Union because it was innovative. These innovations were inspired as much by pragmatism as by democratic concerns and ideological change. Since the Congress Party was concerned to assert its influence over the voting population, members of the government tended to formulate policies to serve this end. Intimately connected with the democratic imperative was the new socialist ethos, which influenced government policy. Whether inspired by the communists of Telangana, contemporary practices of counter-insurgency, or Nehruvian socialism, the postcolonial state was more directed towards the uplift of Indian villagers. It quickly learned that development programmes could be more effective than coercion in certain circumstances.
Above all, the rulers of independent India were remarkably flexible, particularly during the first few years after 1947. In Delhi and in Hyderabad, members of government were not, as a whole, intractably loyal to any single idea. They were willing to adapt their policies to changing facts on the ground. This means that they did not fight all their battles in the same way: in Hyderabad development was an important element in their fight against communists; in other places, other tactics predominated. In Hyderabad, new styles of governance had to be developed precisely because postcolonial India did not possess the institutional framework necessary to fight communists using the oppressive powers of the colonial police, military and bureaucracy. If later governments were able to secure their tenure by using these institutions, they did so only after significant change. Indeed, the
military changed structurally and doctrinally after 1947,142 and the ranks of the police and bureaucracy expanded remarkably.143 Historians must now turn their attention to these changes, and we must begin to view the Nehruvian era as a time of uncertainty, dynamism, and even contest within the new Indian state.


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