September 17 is going to be a heated day in Telangana with charged political discourse, as the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to reiterate its demand for the state government to officially celebrate the date as the state’s 'Liberation Day'.
The date holds historical significance as it was on this day in 1948 that the Indian Union, led by Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Patel, annexed Hyderabad state through police action, dubbed 'Operation Polo’ and wrested power from Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last Nizam of the princely state.
The BJP’s demand for officially celebrating September 17 as 'Liberation Day' is not new, but the manner in which it is being pushed is interesting to note, according to political observers.
Presently, the BJP wants the state government to include a lesson in school curriculum on the struggles of the Telangana Rebellion, which was sparked by discontentment against feudal rule that led people to revolt against the Nizam and the Razakars, a private militia led by Kasim Razvi that fought for the Nizam during Operation Polo.
Nelli Srivardhan Reddy, BJP's Telangana Vimochana (Liberation) Committee Secretary, reiterated to TNM that the state government should officially celebrate September 17 as Liberation Day.
"Hundreds of Hindus were killed, such as for trying to hoist the tri-colour. Incidents like the Bairanpally massacre, where hundreds of villagers were killed on August 27, 1948, resonate with other major incidents like Jallianwala Bagh. There were atrocities, and Hindu women were abducted. People fought for freedom and this must be acknowledged,” he said.
However, it is pertinent to note that historical evidence suggests that it was a fight between landlords and peasants as many landlords backed the Razakars, while the Telangana Peasant Rebellion was led by communists from 1946.
"The existing reference to the history of the liberation of Hyderabad doesn't really recognise the struggles of the people. The ruling KCR government is not celebrating the 'Liberation Day' as it fears the AIMIM party, as it comes from the legacy of the Razakars,” Srivardhan Reddy says.
Kasim Razvi was a former president of the MIM, but the party has strongly distanced itself from the Razakars. “After partition, the Razakars went to Pakistan but all nationalist Muslims stayed back in India,” AIMIM President Asaduddin Owaisi said in the past.
Srivardhan Reddy alleged that it is the TRS which is "communalising" the matter by not celebrating the issue, and stated that poets and journalists such as Dasaradhi Rangacharya and Shoyabullah Khan were persecuted for writing against the rule of the Nizams.
The BJP's claims are not new, but the party seems to be upping the ante after it won four Parliamentary seats in the state. It is now eyeing the 2023 Legislative Assembly elections, where it is planning to make a bid to seize power.
The BJP is also set to launch 'awareness campaigns' on the issue from September 10 among college students, and Union Home Minister Amit Shah's presence is also expected, as per sources.
BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav recently remarked that Telangana would also have had Article 370 if Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, had handled the annexation of Hyderabad state. He made the remark while speaking about the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, which indicates the ultimate politics that BJP is heading towards.
Hyderabad-based political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy observed that the BJP would consider implementing it's "Hindutva-brand of politics" in the state, given the demographic composition of Telangana in general and Hyderabad in particular.
"If the results in the Parliamentary elections in which the BJP won an unprecedented 20% of votes in Telangana is considered a criteria, then the ground is fertile for the party to rake up the issue of September 17. This issue alone will not help the BJP come into power in Telangana in 2023, but can act as a catalyst to instigate a description [of the Nizam] that suits the party and helps in its growth,” Palwai said.
Palwai pointed out that the KCR government's failure to acknowledge the historic event is giving ground to the BJP. “Thousands of Muslims suffered due to the atrocities of the Razakars, and its end necessitated ‘observance’, if not grand-scale celebrations. The lack of it has now provided an opportunity to Amit Shah to make it into an issue to gain political mileage."