There are so many facts that the successive Indian government has hidden from its citizens and one such is the publication of the Sunderlal report that probed the Hyderabad communal flare up, soon after the military action against India’s largest Muslim Princely state in 1948.
The report that has been kept in wraps, chronicles the horrendous crime committed against humanity in the aftermath of the amalgamation of the Princely state with the Indian dominion. More than 40,000 people perished in that act of retribution and revenge.
The report that was commissioned by the government of India was considered to be so sensitive and inflammable that it was kept under lock and keys and was never brought to the public domain. Now almost Sixty Five years after its submission, the report is available at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi, as part of declassified document.
The State of Hyderabad was one of 500 Princely states of India that enjoyed autonomy under the British rule. At the time independence, all of the Princely states agreed to join the Indian Union, except Hyderabad, Junagarh and Kashmir.
While the story of Junagarh and Kashmir is a different narrative, Hyderabad’s Muslim ruler Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam, insisted on remaining independent. This led to an acrimonious stand-off between New Delhi and Hyderabad and the dispute was taken to the United Nations.
Meanwhile, armed militia called Razakar, sprung up to protect the Hyderabad state. Some say, it had tacit support of the ruler, but apparently, it was the armed wing of a Muslim political party, that had issues with the princely rule.
The members of the militia supposedly held drills in and around Hyderabad and terrorized the non Muslims population. This incensed people and New Delhi was ceased of the matter.
After a yearlong high drama and without any settlement in sight, the government in New Delhi sent its armed forces to take over Hyderabad in September 1948.
One division of the Indian army and a tank brigade under Major General Choudhry marched into Hyderabad. The battle was swift, the Nizam’s troops and the Razakars were defeated within few days of army’s invasion.
Since the case of Hyderabad at the United Nation, the military action was called ‘Police Action’ and was code named ‘Operation Polo.’
Surprisingly, the so called Police Action was peaceful in taking over Hyderabad and there was no significant loss of life of the civilian population in the city.
The Nizam saved himself and his kith and kin, with witnesses saying that he had tacit agreement with the government India. Facts or fiction, some say, the Hyderabad ruler allowed the India army to plunder his treasury, and each solider made a killing in that loot of the treasure trove.
However, what followed the invasion of the Indian army in the ruler areas of Hyderabad was a sordid tale against humanity about which the current generation is totally unaware.
The poor Muslim population was left at the mercy of the wolves and for several days’ arson, looting, rape and massacre continued with impunity in many districts. The Hindus formed special vigilante groups and singled out poor Muslims in the villages and put them to death. There was total silence in Hyderabad, when bigotry, savagery, and brutality nakedly danced at its diabolic best in its districts.
Those innocent Muslims who perished in that organized crime, had nothing to do with the standoff between the ruler of Hyderabad and the Indian Union. They were left with no protection and became scapegoat to the Hindus anger against the Princely state.
Commentators have analyzed the animosity as the desire of the Hindu populace to extinguish a Muslim state at the heart of India. Some call it extraction of cancer from the predominantly Hindu country. It’s estimated that more than 40,000 people perished in that act of retribution.
The tale of the atrocities of this crime were so horrifying that then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru commissioned a small team of Congress leaders to investigate the matter.
The commission was led by a Congressman, Pandit Sunderlal and included Kazi Abdul Ghaffar and Moulana Abdulla Misri were its other members.
The Sunderlal team made a three weeks tour of Hyderabad in Nov-Dec 1948. It visited 7 district headquarters, 21 towns and 23 important villages, and interviewed over 500 people from 109 such villages. At each place the team carefully chronicled the accounts of Muslims who had survived the appalling violence.
The Sunderlal report which is now available, mentions; “We had absolutely unimpeachable evidence to the effect that there were instances in which men belonging to the Indian Army and also to the local police took part in looting and even other crimes. At a number of places members of the armed forces brought out Muslim adult males… and massacred them.”
“During our tour we gathered, at many places, soldiers encouraged, persuaded and in a few cases even compelled the Hindu mob to loot Muslim shops and houses.”
The team reported that while Muslims villagers were disarmed by the Indian Army, Hindus were often left with their weapons.
In some cases, it said, Indian soldiers themselves took an active part in the butchery: “At a number of places, members of the armed forces brought out Muslim adult males from villages and towns and massacred them. They were lined up and shot in cold blooded manner.”
The investigation team also reported, however, in many other instances the Indian Army had behaved well and protected Muslims.
In confidential notes attached to the Sunderlal report, its authors detailed the gruesome nature of the Hindu revenge: “In many places we were shown wells still full of corpses that were rotting. In one such we counted 11 bodies, which included that of a woman with a small child sticking to her breast. “
And it goes on: “We saw remnants of corpses lying in ditches. At several places the bodies had been burnt and we would see the charred bones and skulls still lying there.”
The Sunderlal report estimated that between 27,000 to 40,000 people lost their lives. The worst sufferers were in the districts of Osmanabad, Gulburga, Bidar and Nanded, where the loss of life was estimated to be 18,000. This retribution was said to be in response to years of intimidation and violence by the Razakars.
Well, there were three forces at work in Hyderabad leading towards its fall. The first was the Asafjahi dynasty that symbolized the last flicker of the Muslim rule in India. It steadfastly liked to cling to power, and drew its strength from the British rule. When it was clear that the colonial masters were certain to leave Indian shores, like other Princely states Hyderabad too was left rudderless. Its fervent appeal to British for independence felt on deaf ears due to the landlocked nature of the Princely state.
To the rulers of Hyderabad, Congress was an anathema due to latter’s stand to end the entire princely rule. The Nizam was not interested in Muslim League either. He shouted on top of his voice when Jinnah visited Hyderabad to enlist his support. Perhaps he never thought that he would ever be dethroned!
Alas, when the end came, as its last hope, the same person tried to latch on to the moth eaten Pakistan which proved to be his nemesis. Soon Hyderabad state was consigned to the pages of history.
The second force was the communist movement that was seething in the under belly of Hyderabad state due to its feudal character. The class struggle had begun much before the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917. The communist wanted to carve out a separate state on the same geographical space of the princely kingdom. The communist leaders had even gone to Moscow, to get endorsement for the first communist state to be carved out of India. Their proposal too was shot down for the same reasons having lacking in port facility. Nonetheless, the anti feudal agenda of the communists worked against the Princely state.
In this triangular contest, the Indian National Congress was the rising force that rode the wave of freedom struggle. It was among these band of nationalist were some black sheep’s, who nursed the anti Muslims sentiments. Their activities were checked by the Razakars, but this in turn solidified the anti Muslim anger among them. During the endgame, they took it out on the poor Muslim masses, leading to one of the bloodiest anti- Muslim program in independent Indian history.
The Sunderlal report that investigated this massacre in Hyderabad was so horrifying that it was never shown the light of the day. Few Indians, today have any idea about this shocking event.
Though no official explanation has been given to keep the report under wraps, it’s widely speculated that in the powder-keg years that followed independence, the news of what happened in Hyderabad might have sparked Hindu- Muslim riots.
Now when the Sunderlal report is available in the public domain, one wonders, why there is stock silence in the media, opinion makers and secular leaders about this event.
Even all these decades later, does not the nation have the right to know why the government-commissioned report was not published? What happened in the Hyderabad state, after its fall? Why such a important piece of history is being kept aside even when the Sunderlal report is now available for public discussion.
It is such a pity, when we watch some ludicrous topics being discussed on the TV, and a host of analysts with diverse opinion making their point of view, why there is no discussion on the TV channels. More shocking is, no editorials are being written, no social media is trying to un-layer this gory past.
What a shame, as Indians we, abhor to mention how inhuman and brutal some people were when they slaughtered 40,000 human lives. Well some say this may not serve any purpose, but for those who feel claustrophobic about the whole incident, it may at least help them to breathe easy.