Four out of the more important States showed reluctance to accede to India. These were Hyderabad, Jammu and Kashmir, Bhopal and Travancore. Of these , Hyderabad was the only one in whose case Government of India was compelled to use force.
Operation Polo, the code name of the Hyderabad Police Action was indeed a military operation in September 1948 in which the Indian Armed Forces invaded the State of Hyderabad to overthrew its Nizam, annexing the state into the Indian Union.
The State of Hyderabad, located over most of the Deccan Plateau in southern India, was established in 1724 by Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah after the collapse of the Mughal Indian Empire. As was the case in several Indian royal states, the Nizam was a Muslim, while a majority of the subject population was Hindu. In 1798, Hyderabad became the first Indian royal state to accede to British protection under the policy of Subsidiary Alliance instituted by Arthur Wellesley. When the British finally departed from the Indian subcontinent in 1947, they offered the various princely states in the sub-continent the option of acceding to either India or Pakistan, or staying on as an independent state.
The State of Hyderabad under the leadership of its 7th Nizam, Mir Usman Ali, was the largest and most prosperous of all princely states in India. It covered 82,698 square miles (214,190 km2) of fairly homogenous territory and comprised a population of roughly 16.34 million people (as per the 1941 census) of which a majority (85%) was Hindu. Hyderabad State had its own army, airline, telecommunication system, railway network, postal system, currency and radio broadcasting service.
Indian Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel requested the Hyderabad Government to sign the Instrument of accession, the Nizam refused and instead declared Hyderabad as an independent nation on 15 August 1947, the same day that India became independent.
The leaders of the new Union of India however, were wary of having an independent – and possibly hostile – state in the heart of their new country and were determined to assimilate Hyderabad into the Indian Union, even if it were by compulsion, unlike the other 565 princely states, most of which had already acceded to India or to Pakistan voluntarily.
Indian government then offered Hyderabad a ‘Standstill Agreement‘ which made an assurance that the status quo would be maintained and no military action would be taken. Unlike in the case of other royal states, instead of an explicit guarantee of eventual accession to India, only a guarantee stating that Hyderabad would not join Pakistan was given. Negotiations were opened through K.M. Munshi, India’s envoy and agent general to Hyderabad, and the Nizam’s envoys, Laik Ali and Sir Walter Monckton. Lord Mountbatten, who presided over the negotiations, offered several possible deals to the Hyderabad government which were rejected.
The Nizam’s defiance was backed by Qasim Razvi’s armed militias, known as Razakars and had the moral support of Pakistan.
In June 1948, Mountbatten prepared the ‘Heads of Agreement’ deal which offered Hyderabad the status of an autonomous dominion nation under India. The deal called for the restriction of the regular Hyderabadi armed forces along with a disbanding of its voluntary forces. While it allowed the Nizam to continue as the executive head of the state, it called for a plebiscite along with general democratic elections to set up a constituent assembly.
The Hyderabad government would continue to administer its territory as before, leaving only foreign affairs to be handled by the Indian government. Although the plan was approved and signed by the Indians, it was rejected by the Nizam who demanded only complete independence or the status of a dominion under the British Commonwealth.
The Nizam’s Government issued two ordinances in quick succession. The first imposed restrictions on the export of all precious metals from Hyderabad to India. The second declared Indian currency to be not legal tender in the State. These two ordinances were violations of the Standstill Agreement.
On top of this, the Government of India received information that the Government of Hyderabad had advanced a loan of Rs 20 Crore to Pakistan in the form of Government of India securities of equivalent value. This was not all. The Government of Hyderabad went ahead with intention to appoint agents in several foreign countries. They had already appointed a Public Relations Officer in Karachi without any reference to the Government of India. The Nizam also made unsuccessful attempts to seek the arbitration of the President Harry S. Truman of the United States of America and intervention of the United Nations.
Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Patel decided to annex the state of Hyderabad. He sent the Indian Army and the Nizam’s Hyderabad State Forces were defeated within five days. The operation was called “Operation Polo” because at that time, Hyderabad state had some 17 polo grounds, the largest number in India.
Operation Polo, the code name of the Hyderabad Police Action was a military operation in September 1948 in which the Indian Armed Forces invaded the State of Hyderabad to overthrew its Nizam, annexing the state into the Indian Union. This Operation is the culmination of the struggle of people of Hyderabad State against the Nizam.
History has been unkind that the “Overthrow of Nizam” has been downsized in the story of India Freedom Struggle. Much has not been documented of the peoples struggle, it was indeed an armed revolution in Deccan plateau, as important as First War of Independence 1857. The remnant, past history and atrocities borne could only be told by who survived in this land !
The jehad against Hindus in Deccan plateau was systematic and started as early as 1911. Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan began his reign and his goal was to have Hyderabad as an independent state, separate from India and the Indian Union just as Pakistan had separated from India. The Razakkar Movement began in 1946, when the Nizam countered the cultural and political awareness that was rising among the Hindus around that time . Most of the sub-continent had been thrown into chaos as a result of communal Hindu-Muslim riots pending the imminent partition of India. Fearing a Hindu civil uprising in his own kingdom, the Nizam allowed Qasim Razvi, a close advisor, and leader of the radical Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) Party, to set up a voluntary militia of Muslims called the ‘Razakkars‘. The Razakkars – who numbered up to 200,000 at the height of the conflict – swore to uphold Islamic domination in Hyderabad and the Deccan plateau, had backing from Arabs, Rohillas and other jehadi forces.
The autocracy of the Nizam had a pro-Muslim, anti-Hindu aspect to it. The Nizam’s administration was largely Muslim, Urdu was imposed on his subjects, and the Razakkars’ actions were targeted against Hindus. The Hindus who started the “Join Indian” movement wanted the state of Hyderabad to join the rest of India in the Union. Since the Hindu population of the state was about 85%, the Nizam felt more threatened and began to intensify the Islamization .This Islamization entailed Hindus being forced to convert or leave the state.
The terror was unleashed by Razakkars in the rural areas, the atrocities of Razakkars have been very severe . Hooligans of Ittehedul Musalmin systematically terrorised the Hindus by arson and looting of their shops, houses, and standing crops, robbing the gold and silver from their women-folk and also their abduction and rape. In an incident in Errapalem village of Warangal district, the women were paraded naked and forced into inhuman sexual acts in public.
As per P Sundarayya, legendary Communist leader, who chronicled Telengana struggle against Nizam dynasty, in Telengana, the struggle against the Nizam and the feudal regime which propped him was led by the Communists and the Andhra Mahasabha. During the course of the movement “the peasantry in about 3,000 villages, covering roughly a population of three million in an area of about 16,000 square miles, mostly in the three districts of Nalgonda, Warangal and Khammam, had succeeded in setting up gram raj, on the basis of fighting village panchayats. One million acres of land were redistributed among the peasantry under the guidance of the people’s committees… During the course of this struggle against the Nizam’s autocracy, the people could organise and build a powerful militia comprising 10,000 village squad members and about 2,000 regular guerilla squads, in defence of the peasantry against the armed attacks on the Razakkars and the Nizam’s police” (P. Sundarayya, Telengana People’s Struggle and its Lessons, Calcutta, 1972, page 2).
Now, as the Indian government received information that Hyderabad was arming itself and was preparing to ally with Pakistan in any future war against India, Sardar Patel described the idea of an independent Hyderabad as an ulcer in the heart of India – which had to removed surgically. In response, Hyderabad’s prime minister Laik Ali stated “India thinks that if Pakistan attacks her, Hyderabad will stab her in the back. I am not so sure we would not.” Iron man of India ,Sardar Patel responded later by stating “If you threaten us with violence, swords will be met with swords”
In Hyderabad, militia leader Qasim Razvi told a crowd of Razakkars, “Death with the sword in hand, is always preferable to extinction by a mere stroke of the pen”. Razvi was later described by Indian government officials as “The Nizam’s Frankenstein Monster”. In response to reports that India was planning to invade Hyderabad Razwi stated, “If India attacks us I can and will create a turmoil throughout India. We will perish but India will perish also.”
Indian Military Operations
On receiving directions from the government to seize and annex Hyderabad, the Indian army came up with the Goddard Plan (laid out by Lt. Gen. E. N. Goddard, the Commander-in-Chief of the Southern Command). The plan envisaged two main thrusts – from Vijayawada in the East and Solapur in the West – while smaller units pinned down the Hyderabadi army along the border. Overall command was placed in the hands of Lt. Gen. Rajendrasinghji, DSO.
The attack from Solapur was led by Major General J.N. Chaudhari and was composed of four task forces:
Strike Force comprising a mix of fast moving infantry, cavalry and light artillery,
Smash Force consisting of predominantly armoured units and artillery,
Kill Force composed of infantry and engineering unit
Vir Force which comprised infantry, anti-tank and engineering units.
The attack from Vijaywada was led by Major General A.A. Rudra and comprised the 2/5 Gurkha Rifles, one squadron of the 17th (Poona) Horse, and a troop from the 19th Field Battery along with engineering and ancillary units. In addition, four infantry battalions were to neutralize and protect lines of communication. Two squadrons of Hawker Tempest aircraft were prepared for air support from the Pune base.
The date for the attack was fixed as 13 September, the military action lasted only 5 days as the Nizam State was surrounded in all directions by Indian army.
On 16 September, faced with imminent defeat, the Nizam summoned the Prime Minister Mir Laik Ali and requested his resignation by the morning of the following day. The resignation was delivered along with the resignations of the entire cabinet.
On the noon of 17 September, a messenger brought a personal note from the Nizam to India’s Agent General to Hyderabad, K.M. Munshi summoning him to the Nizam’s office at 1600 hours. At the meeting, the Nizam stated “The vultures have resigned. I don’t know what to do”. Munshi advised the Nizam to secure the safety of the citizens of Hyderabad by issuing appropriate orders to the Commander of the Hyderabad State Army, Major General El Edroos. This was immediately done.
The surrender ceremony
Major General El Edroos (at right) offers his surrender of the Hyderabad State Forces to Major General (later General and Army Chief) Joyanto Nath Chaudhuri at Secunderabad
According to the records maintained by Indian Army, General Chaudhari led an armoured column into Hyderabad at around 4 p.m. on September 18 and the Hyderabad army, led by Major General El Edroos, surrendered.
Hyderabad State was annexed into Indian Union.