THE ‘OPERATION POLO’ IN HYDERABAD

THE ‘OPERATION POLO’ IN HYDERABAD


My last two blogs have been principally about Jammu and Kashmir State and about Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, hailed by the country as ‘Independent India’s first martyr for national integration.’ For these two pieces I had relied greatly on V. Shankar’s two volume biography of Vallabhbhai Patel, captioned My Reminiscences of Sardar Patel.
Rajmohan Gandhi’s biography of Sardar Patel notes: “While Shankar’s services were valuable, a more significant role was played by Vapal Pangunni Menon.”
It was Sardar Patel who as free India’s Home Minister decided to create within his Ministry a States Department entrusted with the responsibility of integrating with the country the 564 princely states. Sardar Patel nominated V.P. Menon as Secretary of the States Department. When the Britishers ruled India, these princely states in area constituted nearly half the country.

 
At a function organised in New Delhi in December, 2000 by Capt. C.P. Krishna Nair, Head of the Leela Group to honour the memory of Shri V.P. Menon, I was presented a pair of invaluable books written by Menon, popularly known as just VP, written by him at the behest of Sardar Patel himself. The first is titled “The Transfer of Power in India” and the second “Integration of the Indian States.” This second one is really a wonderful, and very authentic story of the greatest achievement of free India’s first Home Minister.


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.
V.P. Menon’s book has devoted to Hyderabad three full chapters, running into 87 pages. If I were to sum up briefly, in VP’s own words, why Sardar Patel had to decide, despite Pandit Nehru’s reluctance, to use the army against the Nizam, here is, a précis of what VP has written:
“In accordance with Article II of the Standstill Agreement (which the Nizam had signed with New Delhi) the Government of India appointed K M Munshi as their Agent-General in Hyderabad. I did not then know Munshi very well; but I had particularly been impressed by the way in which, as Home Minister in Bombay from 1937 to 1939, he had handled the communal situation there. When we informed the Government of Hyderabad of Munshi’s appointment, the Nizam made certain conditions. First of all he wanted Munshi to be no more than a trade Agent. I replied to Laik Ali (whom the Nizam had appointed President of his Executive Council on the advice of Kasim Rizvi) drawing his attention to Article II of the Agreement under which the functions of the Agent-General were certainly not confined to trade.
A trivial but nonetheless significant dispute arose over the question of the accommodation that was to be provided in Hyderabad for Munshi, the Nizam refusing to give him even temporarily, till he found accommodation elsewhere. Ultimately two of the buildings belonging to the Indian Army were placed at the disposal of Munshi and his staff.
Almost before the ink was dry on the Standstill Agreement, 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.
I wrote to the Government of Hyderabad on 25 December 1947 pointing out that 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 informed us officially that it was their 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.
There followed some discussion. I stressed that the Government of Hyderabad should repeal the two ordinances in question and ask the Government of Pakistan to return the loan of Rs.20 crore. Referring to the activities of the Razakars, I said that the Government of India took a grave view of the situation created by them in Hyderabad. It appeared to the Government of India that every encouragement had been given by the Hyderabad Government to this reactionary and communal organization. Disquieting reports had been received from the Government of Madras of the activities of the Razakars on their border.


Laik Ali, the President of the Nizam’s Executive Council, had meanwhile come to Delhi and had seen Sardar. Sardar told him quite firmly that an internal settlement in the State was the first requisite for a satisfactory understanding between India and Hyderabad and requested him to work to that end. The discussion could not be continued because of Gandhiji’s assassination on the evening of 30 January. Laik Ali and the Hyderabad delegation subsequently returned to Hyderabad.
Lord Mountbatten gave it as his personal opinion that the position of Hyderabad would be strengthened in the eyes of the world if the Nizam were to declare his intention to introduce responsible government and that all the greater then would be the prospects of the Nizam and his successors remaining constitutional rulers of the State in perpetuity. If the right opportunity was missed or if time was lost, there was a chance that the Nizam might lose his throne altogether through the sheer compulsion of events.
K M Munshi had a very delicate and difficult role to play. While the relations of the Government of India with the Nizam’s Agent-General in Delhi (Nawab Zain Yar Jung) were cordial, Munshi was treated with definite hostility by the Government of Hyderabad and his relations with them were extremely strained. Because of the suspicion with which he was viewed by the Government of Hyderabad he was virtually a prisoner in his own house.


Meanwhile, the Government of Hyderabad had not implemented a single undertaking given by them. No announcement with regard to the loan to Pakistan as promised by Laik Ali had been made; the Currency Ordinance had not been modified, while the ban on the export of precious metals and oilseeds continued to operate. No step, as promised by Laik Ali, in respect of the reconstitution of the Nizam’s Executive Council had been taken. The Razakars, so far from being banned, had become an intolerable nuisance. Border raids showed no signs of abatement. Up to this time we had only tried to press our point of view informally upon the Government of Hyderabad. But now the Government of India decided that we should bring the breaches of the Standstill Agreement to their notice officially. Accordingly, on 23 March, I addressed a letter to the President of the Nizam’s Executive Council which was sent to Munshi to be delivered personally to Laik Ali.
Supported by the Razakars, the ruling clique in Hyderabad was now in a militant mood. The Nizam’s advisers, it was reported to me, had assured him that if India resorted to any economic blockade it was not likely to be effective, as Hyderabad could easily stand on its own legs for the next few months, during which time public opinion in the world could be mobilized in its favour. India was stated to be very weak and to be incapable of military action now or at any time. All the Muslim countries were friendly to Hyderabad and would not permit any military action to be taken against it. The Hyderabad radio went to the extent of announcing that if there was a war against Hyderabad thousands of Pathans would march into India.


On 5 April 1948, Laik Ali sent Nehru a very long reply, of seventeen typed pages, in which he refuted the allegations of breach of the Standstill Agreement and made certain countercharges against the Government of India.
On the very same day, the Nizam wrote to Lord Mountbatten saying that the letter of the State Ministry ‘was in the nature of an ultimatum to be regarded as prelude to an open breach of friendly relations’.


On 16 April, Laik Ali had an interview with Sardar at which I was present.  Sardar said: “You know as well as I do where power resides and with whom the fate of the negotiations must finally lie in Hyderabad. The gentleman (Kasim Razvi) who seems to dominate Hyderabad has given his answer. He has categorically stated that if the Indian Dominion comes to Hyderabad it will find nothing but the bones and ashes of the one and a half crores of Hindus. If that is the position, then it seriously undermines the whole future of the Nizam and his dynasty. I am speaking to you plainly because I do not want you to be under any misapprehension. The Hyderabad problem will have to be settled as has been done in the case of other States. No other way is possible. We cannot agree to the continuance of an isolated spot which would destroy the very Union which we have built up with our blood and toil. At the same time, we do wish to maintain friendly relations and to seek a friendly solution. That does not mean that we shall ever agree to Hyderabad’s independence. If its demand to maintain an independent status is persisted in, it is bound to fail.”
In conclusion Sardar asked Laik Ali to go back to Hyderabad and, after consulting the Nizam, to take a final decision, ‘so that both of us know where we stand.’


Throughout the interview Laik Ali appeared nervous. It seemed to me that he was completely taken aback by the forthright manner in which Sardar put forward his views.
Opinion among the advisers of the Government of India was not unanimous on the question of what action should be taken in regard to Hyderabad. The section which favoured a policy of drift had a ready excuse in the bogey of large-scale communal disorders which would follow any positive action against Hyderabad. They apprehended that in Hyderabad the Hindus would be butchered in thousands, and that there would be general slaughter of Muslims in India. There were others who spoke of mass Muslim uprisings in south India, particularly among the Moplahs. This fantastic suggestion was made by people who had never seen a Moplah, much less understood his mentality, and who knew nothing of the situation in Malabar at the time.  Another of such fears was that, if India took any action against Hyderabad, Pakistan would interfere. My own opinion was that Pakistan was surely not going to risk a war with India on the Hyderabad issue.

There was also some propaganda to the effect that Hyderabad aircraft would bomb cities like Bombay, Madras, Calcutta and even Delhi. This Propaganda caused a certain amount of apprehension amongst the people of the neighbouring provinces.
Meanwhile Laik Ali was pressing that the Hyderabad issue should be taken to the United Nations Organizations.
The American Charge d’Affaires in New Delhi apprised us meanwhile of the fact the Nizam had written to the President of the United States requesting that he should arbitrate and that the latter had refused.


The Razakars did not spare even missionaries and nuns. Early in September the States Ministry received complaints that some foreign missionaries had been assaulted and some nuns molested by the Razakars.


The military view was that the campaign could not last beyond three weeks. Actually, everything was over within less than a week.
On 9 September, after a careful evaluation of all the considerations and only when it was clear that no other alternative remained open did the Government of India take the decision to send Indian troops into Hyderabad to restore peace and tranquility inside the State and a sense of security in the adjoining Indian territory. This decision was communicated to the Southern Command, who ordered that the Indian forces should march into Hyderabad in the early hours of Monday the 13th.
The Indian forces were commanded by Major-General J.N. Chaudhury under the direction of Lt.-General Maharaj Shri Rajendrasinhji, who was then the General Office Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command. This operation was given the name ‘Operation Polo’ by the Army Headquarters.

There was some stiff resistance on the first and second days. After this, resistance petered out and virtually collapsed. On our side the total casualties were slight but on the other side, owing to scrappy operations and lack of discipline, the Irregulars and the Razakars suffered comparatively more casualties. The number of dead was little over 800. It is unfortunate that so many should have died in this action, though the number is insignificant when weighed against the killings, rape and loot inflicted by the Razakars on the Hindus of the State.
On the evening of 17 September, the Hyderabad army surrendered. On 18th, the Indian troops, under Major-General Chaudhuri, entered Hyderabad City. The operation had lasted barely 108 hours.
On 17 September, Laik Ali and his cabinet tendered their resignations. The Nizam sent for K M Munshi (who had been under house arrest ever since the Police Action began) and informed him that he had given orders for his army to surrender; that he would be forming a new government; that Indian troops were free to go to Secunderabad and Bolarum, and that the Razakars would be banned. Munshi communicated this to the Government of India. Major-General Chaudhuri took charge as Military Governor on 18 September. The members of the Laik Ali ministry were placed under house arrest. Rizvi was arrested on 19 September.
There was not a single communal incident in the whole length and breadth of India throughout the time of the operation. There was universal jubilation at the swift and successful ending of the Hyderabad episode and messages of congratulation poured in to the Government of India from all parts of the country.  
TAILPIECE
In one of my earlier blogs based on a book written by a 1947 I.A.S. officer, one MKK Nair titled “With No Ill Feeling to Anybody”, I had quoted a Pioneer report from the same source saying that Sardar Patel had walked out of a Cabinet meeting because of some remarks of the PM which he felt were offensive. This book also says that Nehru favoured the U.N. route instead of the Army Action decided by Patel.

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