#TodayInHistory Operation Polo begins in 1948, the military action or rather "police action" which ensured Hyderabad would not end up as another Kashmir. This thread takes a look at the events leading up to it, as well as the backdrop.
The State of Hyderabad stretched from Aurangabad in the North West to Mahbubnagar in the South East, from Adilabad in the North East to Raichur in the South West. It covered the present day Marathwada in Maharashtra, Northern Karnataka, and the Telangana region.
It had a population of 16.34 million as per the 1941 census, the majority of whom were Hindu, around 85%, with Muslims making up 12% and the rest being Christians, Sikhs, Parsis. Though predominantly Telugu speaking , it had fairly good number of Kannada, Marathi, Urdu speakers.
His Exalted Highness Sir Mir Osman Ali Khan Siddiqi GSCI, GBE Asaf Jah VII as the Nizam was officially called, the world’s richest man. Along with Baroda, Mysore, Gwalior, Jammu and Kashmir, he was one of those princely rulers, who had the privilege of receiving a 21 gun Salute.
The Nizam after Operation Polo, quite often positioned himself as a helpless victim of the Razakars, a quasi military organization, founded by Qasim Rizvi, that wanted to integrate Hyderabad with Pakistan, and run it as per the Sharia.
Some others too have come up with the position, that the Nizam was essentially a decent, well meaning man, who was helpless before the Razakar’s storm trooper style tactics. While there is some amount of truth in that, the fact is that the Razakars were the Nizam’s own creation.
To understand the genesis of the Razakars, one needs to go back further to the Telangana rebellion, that broke out in 1946. For a long time, the rural parts of Hyderabad State, were divided into what was called as Samsthanams, essentially pieces of feudal territories,
These Samsthanams were under the feudal role of the Doras or Deshmukhs, who ran a brutal and often oppressive rule. They owned most of the land, and collected the taxes from the poor peasantry, and keeping them in perpetual bonded labor( called as Vetti Chakiri).
These landlords were the masters of their own land, and had a good bonding with the Nizam and his nobles. The Nizam on the other hand, hardly had any control over these lands, and let the Doras run it as per their own free whims, it was pretty much a quid pro quo arrangement.
It was an unlikely person,who would spark off the Telangana revolt, a doughty woman activist called Chakali Illamma, who fought against the local Zamindar’s attempt to take over 4 acres of her land. That sparked off a revolt all over Telangana, with the communists taking lead.
The revolt against the Telangana doras, that essentially was against bonded labor and exploitation, saw the Nizam himself become the target. To the villagers and activists, the exploitative landlords, were essentially stooges of the Nizam himself.
One of the more popular revolutionary songs of that period was “Bandenaka Bandi Katti, Padaharu Ballu Katti, Nenosthanu koduka ra Nizam sarakaroda”. Loosely translated it means “Tying one cart after another, and 16 carts in tow, I am coming for you stooge of the Nizam”.
Rural discontent was high against the Nizam, on one side the Communist leaders like Sundarayya, Ch.Rajeswara Rao , on the other side, Congress leaders like Swami Ramananda Teertha, P.V.Narasimha Rao, rising up against his rule.
There was another reason too for the simmering discontent, in spite of the fact that Hindus constituted 85% of the population in Hyderabad State as per 1941 census, with Muslims making up 12%, they were severely under represented in the Government.
The Army had 1268 Muslim officers and only 421 Hindu officers, in a strength of 1765, most of the highly paid officers were Muslim, and the Nizam and his nobles owned 40% of the land.
Faced with growing discontent, and also the fear of a Hindu uprising, the Nizam gave a free hand to Qasim Rizvi , an advocate from Latur, to set up the Razakars,to counter it.If terror had a face this was it.
Qasim Rizvi, had joined the Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen(MIM), which was founded by Nawab Mahmood Nawaz Khan Qiledar, on the advice of the Nizam himself, and it’s first meeting was held in 1927.
The aim of the MIM was to establish a Muslim dominion rather than integration with India, it was however under Bahadur Yar Jung, that it acquired the radical character.
Yar Jung wanted Hyderabad to be a separate Islamic state independent of India, governed by Sharia. Known for his oratory, and a close friend of Mohd.Ali Jinnah and Mohd.Iqbal, he was one of the leading advocates of Pakistan.
Rizvi by then had already risen in the ranks, and was a close confidante to Bahadur Yar Jung, and when the latter died suddenly in 1944, he took over the MIM.
He then set up the Razakars, a fanatic, dreaded militia, that was the equivalent of Mussolini’s Black Shirts and Hitler’s Storm troopers, and this had the blessings of the Nizam.
The Nizam encouraged Rizvi and the Razakars, in order to counter the rising discontent among the rural population, and also the protests by the Communists and the Hyderabad State Congress.
The Razakars unleashed a reign of terror in Hyderabad State, with their storm-trooping acts. Villages were attacked in the middle of night, and after rounding the mostly Hindu residents up, they were massacred en masse.
There have been eye witness accounts from some villagers, who managed to escape the Razakar’s by playing dead,often having to lie still on a pile of corpses. In some cases, the villagers fled to the nearest jungle or one of the numerous uninhabited mud forts to escape.
Rape, arson, torture, looting, were common tactics by the Razakars to intimidate the population. Much as the Nizam later protested he was a mere pawn, in the hands of the Razakars, the fact is that he was responsible for funding them, and also providing them arms.
It was a Frankenstein he had created, with encouragement from Jinnah, Qasim Rizvi soon became more powerful than the Nizam. He was not just against Hindus, even those Muslims who did not favor integration with Pakistan, and wanted to be a part of India were targeted.
. A young Muslim journalist Shoebullah Khan who favored integration with India, was murdered. The Nawab of Chattari, Mir Mohd Said Khan was forced out by Rizvi in favor of the more fanatical Mir Laki, and also a close friend of Rizvi.
Sir Walter Monckton, the advisor to the Nizam, resigned, in protest against the Razakar attacks on him. It was not for nothing Sardar Patel told the Nizam, after his surrender, when the latter said “To err is human”, “Yes it may be true, but errors always have consequences”.
August 15, 1947- India had become independent, and the Hyderabad State Congress leaders celebrated it by hoisting the national flag, they were promptly arrested by the Nizam’s police.
The Nizam had earlier requested the British Government for Hyderabad State to be an independent constitutional monarchy, under the Commonwealth, which however was rejected.
The Nizam refused to sign the Instrument of Accession, and instead declared Hyderabad as an independent nation. For Sardar Patel, the existence of an independent country right in the heart of India, was too great a risk, he could never allow it.
He was determined to integrate it, even if force was needed. Lord Mountbatten advised Sardar to avoid force, and try seeking a peaceful solution to the issue.
It was then that the Central Govt came up with the Standstill Agreement, in November,1947, which only sought an assurance, that Hyderabad would not accede to Pakistan, and status quo would be maintained.
In accordance with the Standstill Agreement, K.M.Munshi was appointed the Indian Government’s envoy and Agent General to Hyderabad. Munshi was one of Patel's close associates, a writer of note, who later founded the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
There was a good reason why Sardar had choosen Munshi for the responsibility, he had earlier been the Home Minister in Bombay from 1937-39, and handled the communally charged situation there well.
Munshi had been living in virtual house arrest, was treated with disdain and suspicion by the Nizam’s Government and was living in some buildings that belonged to the Indian Army.
It was some kind of poetic justice, that when the Nizam finally surrendered, he had to submit his resignation to Munshi, whom he had till then treated with disdain.
The major issue though was something more serious, hardly was the Standstill Agreement signed, when the Nizam, passed two ordinances in quick succession. One was the restriction on export of precious minerals from Hyderabad to India.
And another was declaring Indian currency as not legal tender in the state, both of them in violation of the Standstill Agreement. On the other hand, the Nizam used this Standstill Agreement to request world leaders, the UN and other Muslim nations to intervene.
He requested for intervention of UN, and also arbitration by the US President Harry Truman, both the efforts in vain though. While Churchill and the Conservatives supported the Nizam, the then Labor Govt headed by Clement Atlee decided to keep its hands off.
The tipping point however came when the Nizam’s Govt, advanced a loan of Rs 20 cr to Pakistan, in form of Govt of India securities. In effect, the Nizam egged on by Rizvi and Laik Ali, was openly cocking a snook at the Indian Govt.
On the other hand, the Razakars had become a law unto themselves, carrying out a terror campaign of ethnic cleansing, torture, rape, loot and arson, against Hindus and Muslims who were in favor of integration with India.
Why did the Nizam and his men have so much confidence on themselves?
Firstly they felt that even if India were to resort to an economic blockade, Hyderabad State had enough capability to stand on it’s own.
They felt that a newly independent India did not have enough military firepower to undertake any action. Also even if India, did take action, all the Muslim nations would automatically come forward to help it, and the UN would be forced to intervene.
Hyderabad state radio, announced that if India were to invade Hyderabad, some thousands of Pathans would come to the rescue of Hyderabad. And above all, you had Qasim Rizvi, the Razakar chief, threatening massacre.
Qasim Rizvi-" If India were to attack Hyderabad, nothing but the bones and ashes of 10.5 million Hindus would be found”.
Sardar Patel's retort- “If you threaten us with violence, swords will be met with swords”.
There was a section in the Indian Govt too, that was apprehensive of retaliatory large scale communal violence, against Muslims in other parts of India, should the Hindus face the brunt of any communal violence in Hyderabad.
Also fears of Pakistan attacking India, and the Nizam’s own air-force bombing other cities in India, were there. The Nizam too was busy arming himself, with the help of the Portugese in Goa , Pakistan and a certain Australian arms dealer called Sidney Cotton
Lord Mountbatten in the meanwhile had left India in June, 1948, and that was a huge blow to the Nizam, who was hoping he would somehow help him out.
There still was resistance to Patel’s idea, from the then Commander in Chief of the Indian Army, Sir Roy Bucher, who felt that Hyderabad would be an additional front for the Indian forces already facing a conflict in Kashmir, but Sardar put his foot down.
Finally when the Nizam’s Govt, sent their external Affairs Minister, Nawab Moin Nawaz Jung to the UN Security Council, in September 1948, Sardar felt that there was no other alternative but to invade Hyderabad.
After making a careful study, the decision was finally communicated to the Southern Command, who recommended September 13 as the best date to start the operations.
The official Hyderabad State Army was actually more or less a sub unit of the Razakars, consider this, the total strength of the Nizam’s Army was 22,000 while the Razakar’s made up around 200,000, clearly a case of the tail wagging the dog.
The Army was led by El Eldroos, a close confidante of the Nizam, of Arab Hadrami origin, who had fought in both the World Wars, however an utterly inept commander and strategist to boot.
The Hyderabad Army actually was more a collection of mercenaries, which included Arabs, Rohillas, Pathans and Muslims from Uttar Pradesh. Though the Razakars made up the bulk of the Army, only 25 % of them were armed with modern weaponry.
The Indian Army was commanded by Gen. Jayanto Nath Chaudhari, a graduated from Kolkata’s St Xavier’s nicknamed as Mucho, and who had fought in the deserts of Africa as well as the Middle East during WWII.
The final plan for Operation Polo( so called because of the large number of polo grounds in Hyderabad then), was formulated by Lt.Gen. Eric Goddard, GOC of the Southern Command of India and named after him.
It was however Lt.Gen Sri Rajendrasinhji Jadeja, who belonged to the Jamnagar Royal family, who actually supervised the operation when he took over as GOC of the Southern Command, from Goddard.
What I have shared is essentially the backdrop to Operation Polo, I would be covering it more in detail, on September 18, when the Nizam surrendered.

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