Hyderabad was annexed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s government, which enjoyed the confidence of the Parliament (Constituent Assembly). Chakravarti Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) was the Governor General and hence the supreme commander of the armed forces. Baldev Singh was the Defense Minister. There is absolutely no truth in the claim that Nehru did not want to annex Hyderabad or that he tried to stop Sardar Patel from doing so. More over, Home Minister Sardar Patel had no authority to do what is being attributed to him.
One crucial fact that never gets mentioned in any of the claims, books, blogs and articles on the subject was the Ongoing Kashmir War! Kashmir war was nearing one-year anniversary when India launched Operation Polo and annexed Hyderabad in September 1948. That Kashmir War would go on for another 4 months until January 1949. This piece of information not only explains Jawaharlal Nehru’s supposed reservations over Hyderabad but also Sardar Patel’s lack of interest over the Kingdom of Jammu Kashmir.
From Vijay Rupani to Narendra Modi, they have all recently shared their wisdom that one would need a visa to visit Hyderabad but for Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. This was meant to insult Jawaharlal Nehru as well as to rob the contributions of a whole generation of leaders of that time and hand it over to their fellow Gujarati. The Princely State of Hyderabad was 90% Hindu and completely enclosed in Indian Territory and hence going nowhere. That was the reason behind Nehru government prioritizing more urgent matters of aftermath of Partition and defense of Kashmir.
Narratives of Sardar Patel’s admirers regarding Hyderabad State are evidence of their ignorance of geography, history as well as civics. A Chief Minister, a Deputy Prime Minister (LK Advani) and even a Prime Minister saying these should be of serious concern. Local BJP leaders in Telangana repeatedly make these claims and so do the national leaders during their visits to get the cheers of their mindless supporters.
Men, women and children of Telangana (and other parts of erstwhile Hyderabad State) resisted Razakars with guns as well as Satyagraha. The literature of Suddala Hanumanthu and Dasarathi Rangachaya has inspired generations of freedom lovers. Congress leaders like Swami Ramanad Tirtha were incarcerated. Help came from neighboring Madras Province as well as Bombay Province. Many activists in Telugu speaking regions of Madras sold their properties to fund the freedom struggle in Hyderabad. While Sardar Patel issued threats from safety of Delhi and Amritsar, Tanguturi Prakasam (earlier Chief Minister of Madras State) walked up to Qasim Rizvi right in Hyderabad and warned him. In the end, it was Governor General Rajaji (another earlier Chief Minister of Madras State) who sent the army and liberated Hyderabad. About a year later, Jawaharlal Nehru would try to make Rajaji the first President of Republic of India, but this position was given to Rajendra Prasad!
Sardar Patel was 73 years old and kept poor health. Patel did not enter Hyderabad until after the success of Operation Polo and hence had no firsthand information any more than Nehru. In March 1948, Sardar Patel suffered heart attack and was resting in Bombay and Dehradun. In VP Menon’s narrative, Patel does not reappear until August 1948. So, Nehru should have had more information about Hyderabad situation than Patel did. Sardar Patel’s anxiety over Hyderabad was possibly influenced by likes of VP Menon who negotiated with Nizam’s entourage that was hostile and KM Munshi who was kept under undeclared house arrest by Qasim Rizvi. While the legitimacy of their arguments is not in question, neither VP Menon nor KM Munshi nor Sardar Patel possessed the comprehension of Jawaharlal Nehru, nor did they had any responsibility for the consequences. By VP Menon’s own admission, he did not know anything about the happenings in Kashmir after December 1947.
As long as issues of Kashmir, Hyderabad, Junagarh, “Jeep Scandal”, Princely States, freedom struggle and Partition are viewed independently in isolation, it is impossible to understand why certain things happened in a certain way. All these events took place in the same time frame and hence are interlinked.
Almost all the 560 Princely States complied with Mountbatten’s deadline of August 15, 1947 and signed the Instruments of Accession. Sardar Patel’s Ministry of States had its hands full in getting the monarchs appoint “responsible governments” and help transfer of power. In addition, entire nation was being ravaged by post Partition riots and mass migration which demanded Sardar Patel’s attention since he was also the Home Minister
Nobody outside Hyderabad including Sardar Patel had any urgency in August 1947, according his own lieutenant VP Menon! VP Menon wrote that both Patel and Nehru left it up to Mountbatten to negotiate with Nizam of Hyderabad. Thus, they bought time for more urgent matters elsewhere.
Meanwhile, VK Krishna Menon, then High Commissioner to UK, effectively stopped the European countries from supplying arms to Hyderabad. VK Krishna Menon also procured jeeps for invasion of Hyderabad, the fate of which I discussed in my earlier blog.
Remember that there were two other States within the geography of India that still did not sign accession by the time of independence: Junagarh and Kashmir. Within a month of Partition, Junagarh suddenly became the problem as the Nawab acceded to Pakistan, violating the requirement of geographic contiguity laid down by Mountbatten. Contrary to the claims, Sardar Patel never had any interest in Kashmir and that issue will be discussed in my future blogs.
Nizam Mir Osman Ali’s desire for independence or Razakars’ desire to merge with Pakistan are often cited as causes of urgency which Nehru supposedly ignored. As for independence and third dominion, every one of the rulers of 560 Princely States had that desire at some point. Nizam too wanted to remain independent of both India and Pakistan just the way Kashmir’s Hari Singh or Bhopal’s Hamidullah Khan had hoped. Like Hari Singh, Osman Ali was also not averse to taking help from either of India and Pakistan but unlike Nawab of Junagarh, Hyderabad Nizam never had any desire to merge with Pakistan. So, neither was Nizam unique in that desire for third dominion nor was that option on the table for anybody according to Indian Independence Act of 1947.
LK Advaniji’s claim of Nehru wanting to refer Hyderabad to United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is laughable. Firstly, Nizam Osman Ali had already referred the matter to UNSC. Secondly, unlike Jammu Kashmir, not a single inch of Hyderabad ever came under occupation of Pakistan and hence UNSC could be of no use for India in case of Hyderabad nor Junagarh for that matter.
In November 1947, with help from Mountbatten, Patel’s Ministry of States had negotiated the Standstill Agreement with Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan. Along with the agreement, Nizam Osman Ali also gave a letter to Mountbatten agreeing not to accede to Pakistan. This was tabled by Sardar Patel in the Constituent Assembly on November 29 and sent to Mountbatten for signature. The Standstill Agreement transferred the Defense and Foreign Affairs to India for one year until November 1948. It is thus obvious that Nizam was neither “independent” nor could have acceded to Pakistan in September 1948 when India invaded. Apart from ongoing Kashmir War, another reason for hesitation to invade Hyderabad could be that India was legally obligated to wait until November 1948.
India invading Hyderabad in September 1948 before expiry of Standstill Agreement was no different from Pakistan invading Kashmir with which Pakistan had a Standstill Agreement. It was however true that the Razakars violated the Standstill Agreement first and did so repeatedly while Kashmir did no such thing. But if Nehru waited until he had such strong evidence against Razakars, it should be expected and appreciated. Narrative of some MKK Nair who LK Advani seems to hold in esteem that Nehru was angered because of one British nun is neither true nor rational. Such claim only proves Advaniji’s immaturity and credulity. VP Menon himself never made any such claims.
Narendra Modiji’s claims of visa requirement to visit Somnath and Gir but for Sardar Patel will prove comical if one already read VP Menon’s book Integration of Indian States. VP Menon wrote that Governor General Mountbatten declared the Promissory Notes worth Rs. 1,29,34,700 that were taken away by the Nawab when he fled to Pakistan as “lost” and issued an ordinance authorizing RBI issue duplicate documents in favor of Indian government. This is an example of the events that took place which should shed light on the involvement of many others in addition to Sardar Patel. Only delusional ones can assume that Sardar Patel managed without any initiative and help from Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, let alone against the wishes of the later. Many local leaders like UN Dhebar, Samaldas Gandhi, Dayashankar Dave and Pushpavati Mehta were instrumental.