15 August 1947 – Our country may have become independent that day, but at the same time 565 princely states within India also became equally independent. Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel and his trusted secretary and famous ICS officer VP Menon were entrusted with the responsibility of uniting the provinces into one nation. With efficient leadership and a brilliant strategy, Sardar Patel and VP Menon made the impossible possible, and within a year 562 princely states were ready to merge with India.
But the areas which were still not merged with India were principally Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad. Among them, Hyderabad was not only the largest princely state, but its total geographical area was also way larger than the United Kingdom. The princely state of Hyderabad included many areas of states like present-day Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Chhattisgarh. Hyderabad was then ruled by Nizam Usman Ali Khan, the seventh ruler of the Nizam Asaf Jahi dynasty.
However, he was a mere puppet, as real power was in the hands of Qasim Rizvi, one of the advisors to the Nizam and a powerful leader what is known today as the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen. Qasim was leading a private army of his own followers, known as the Razakars. According to sources the number of Razakars ranged between 20000 and 2 lakhs. According to these Razakars, either Hyderabad should have been an independent state, where Sharia law would’ve been in force, or it should have been merged with Pakistan. Senior freedom fighter KM Munshi, who was then a minister in the Central Government and eminent journalist Kuldeep Nayar have also mentioned this fact in their respective books.
But such a decision was impossible in every situation. One, even though Hyderabad was ruled by radical Razakars, the people there not only opposed their rule but were also willing to merge with India at any cost. The second reason was that linking Pakistan with Hyderabad was an illogical one. The nearest city of Pakistan was also about 1500 km from Hyderabad region.
However, the Razakars would have had none of that, and in order to suppress the rebellion, the Razakars resorted to the path of terror. Any village could be robbed in broad daylight, the non-Muslims were openly targeted, and not only innocent people were sacrificed, but also the women and girls were mistreated, on the same lines as during the Direct Action violence in Bengal or during the Partition in undivided Punjab. The Nizam was blind to all these atrocities, and despite being in India, Hyderabad had become an eyesore for the same.
At that time, India was administered by the Governor General of India, and India’s last Viceroy before Independence, Lord Louis Edward Mountbatten. He wasn’t in favor of of using any kind of force, and wanted all the issues to be resolved through dialogue, and this was also approved by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. But Sardar Patel disagreed completely, and he clarified that the merger of Hyderabad into India is almost impossible without military action.
However, the three agreed to this statement that Hyderabad should be compelled to sign a standstill agreement, in which the Indian Army would be stationed outside the borders of Hyderabad and Hyderabad would treat its citizens fairly. But the Nizam refused to sign the proposal due to the fierce demonstrations of Qasim Rizvi’s Razakars, after which Sardar Patel had to resort to the use of force.
During the same time, the rebellion also began within Hyderabad. What communists, what nationalists, all were united against the Nizams and the Razakars who perpetrated atrocities in his name. Eminent officers like Lt. General Rajendra Sinhji Jadeja were appointed as the main commanders for the accession to India. Since Hyderabad had the largest number of polo grounds against the country, this military operation was named Operation Polo.
Military operations under Operation Polo began on 13 September 1948. Initially, the Indian Army faced some difficulties, but like Mahadev in his Rudra avatar cracked down upon the scheming Asuras, the Indian army forced the Razakars to flee the battlefield. Finally, at 5 pm on 17 September 1948, the Nizam announced a ceasefire. Major General Jayanto Nath Chaudhuri accepted the surrender of Hyderabad Chief of Army Staff, Major General Syed Ahmed Al Edroos and Hyderabad was officially merged with India. In this battle, more than 2000 Razakars were slayed, along with 800 of the Hyderabad State forces. However, to our grief, 32 brave warriors of the Indian Army also embraced martyrdom.
However, a dark aspect of our country was also exposed in this victory. The ‘secular’ Sunderlal Committee, formed after Operation Polo under the instructions of PM Jawaharlal Nehru, was appointed to know the entire reality behind the incident. But this report was less about the reality of the incident, and blamed the entire violence before Operation Polo on the non-Muslims and the Indian Army. This proves once again that since the time of Nehru, the Congress Party’s policy was not to integrate the country but to break it. To add salt to the wounds, Qasim Rizvi, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, was released within a few years of Sardar Patel’s death, and was lovingly sent to Pakistan, where he died in 1955.
Today, it has been 72 years since the success of Operation Polo. This was nothing short of a Dharmyuddh, because its main objective was to annihilate the demons in the form of Razakars and merge Hyderabad with India. For this, we will remain indebted to Sardar Patel and countless Indian soldiers as well as local rebels for life. However, this unprecedented contribution of Sardar Patel was lost somewhere in the pages of India’s history. But today, the Statue of Unity was created to celebrate the contributions of Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Deputy Prime Minister of India and the first Home Minister, because of whom India stands today as a flourishing, resolute nation.