Every other political party is trying to arouse sentiment over the historical Telangana armed peasants struggle to suit their political interests.

Telangana peasants march during the armed rebellionTelangana peasants march during the armed rebellion
news Opinion Friday, September 16, 2022 - 19:34

Every year in the month of September, all the political parties in Telangana raise a hue and cry over the merger of Hyderabad state into the Indian union. While some firmly call it a ‘liberation’, others, depending on their political lineage, call it ‘merger’, ‘forceful occupation’, ‘aggression’ and even ‘betrayal.’ This year, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government has called for celebrations and organisation of a giant event on September 17 to mark 75 years of the merger at the historic Parade Ground in Secunderabad. No less than the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, is expected to participate. 

On the other hand, Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government decided to observe the same day as Telangana ‘National Integration’ day. The state government is separately organising a series of programmes to commemorate the martyrs and celebrate the spirit at different venues. Every other political party is trying to arouse sentiment over the historical Telangana armed peasants struggle to suit their political interests. In fact, the TRS and BJP, the apparent main contenders in the coming general elections, are vying to gain political mileage on this event. The Communist Party of India (CPI), which led the peasant struggle in the 1940s under the banner of Andhra Maha Sabha, has fallen into the trap of ambitious BJP and has been organising celebrations on September 17 for the last 25 years. The CPI (Marxist), which broke away from the CPI in 1964, is also doing the same. 

One should call it a trap, because the September 17 merger does not concern the communist parties in any way. In 1948, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, then Deputy Prime Minister of India, took the initiative to add Hyderabad into the Indian union under the guise of assisting the Nizam government in restoring “law and order.” Patel’s envoy in Hyderabad, KM Munshi, while addressing in Deccan Radio made an announcement that would change the course of Hyderabad forever: “I take this opportunity because no other means of communication are available for the moment. Last night, I was contacted and I conveyed to His Exalted Highness (Nizam Osman Ali Khan), the meaning and purpose of ‘police action’, which my government was taking to restore law and order in Hyderabad.”

Read: There is more to Hyderabad state’s history than BJP’s 'Liberation Day' narrative

What was happening on the ground, however, was quite different. On September 11, Pakistan’s Mohammed Ali Jinnah died after losing a long battle with tuberculosis. The United Nations was about to begin the discussions on the Hyderabad issue on September 13, 1948. Immediately after the death of Jinnah, Sardar Patel ordered Indian forces to invade Hyderabad, which he described as “a cancer in the belly of India.” On the way to capturing Hyderabad state, the Indian military massacred many Muslim families in erstwhile Marathwada and Hyderabad-Karnataka region. The Nehru government appointed a committee to probe into these incidents, under the Uttar Pradesh Gandhian leader Pandit Sunderlal. In his report, Sunderlal recorded the excess force used by the Indian troops. 

The irony is, till 1998 no communist party had celebrated 17 September as armed struggle day or merger day. Indeed, it was the BJP which saw history as a tool to make inroads in Telangana and found September 17 to be the perfect avenue to inflame communal passions. In this, they have succeeded to some extent. The BJP has flaunted the version that the Muslim ruler Nizam Osman Ali Khan surrendered to the Iron Man of India, Sardar Patel on September 17. They claim that this is how Hyderabad was liberated from the “shackles of Muslim rule and Razakars atrocities.” Communists have danced to these narratives that have been strategically spread by the BJP since 1998. 

In 1998, on the eve of the 50th year of Hyderabad merger into Indian union, BJP stalwart LK Advani, addressed a mammoth meeting at Nizam college in the city. He instantly vitiated the air by sowing the seeds of communal tension, saying there was no development under the Nizam and he was anti-Hindu. Since then, the BJP has demanded every year that the event be celebrated as a state festival. Ironically, the saffron stalwart was addressing the gathering at the historical Nizam college, which was founded during the regime of sixth Nizam Mahabub Ali Khan. In spite of opposition from many quarters, the CPI, and later the CPI(M) too, gave a call to celebrate September 17 as commemoration day for the armed struggle martyrs.

The fact is that Indian military hands were soaked in the blood of the Muslims in the aggression and even the Jawahar Lal Nehru government-appointed Sunder Lal, talked about the killings of around 27,000 to 40,000 Muslims during the “military action/police action.” It is to be noted that more cadres of Andhra Maha Sabha were targeted and killed during the reign of the military government, than during the Nizam’s rule. Knowing these things very well, the communist party and its cadre, continued to blame the Nizam alone for the loss of lives, especially in the period between the 25th anniversary and the 50th anniversary. They chose the Nizam as a scapegoat, because neither is he alive, nor are his heirs in politics.

The peasant movement in Telangana turned into an armed struggle with the martyrdom of Doddi Komuraiah on July 4, 1946, at Kadavendi in Jangaon taluk of erstwhile Warangal. He was killed by the local landlord Visunuru Deshmukh Ramachandra Reddy’s henchmen. Between July 4, 1946, and September 12, 1948, nearly 400 cadres were killed at the hands of Nizam’s police and the Razakars. On the other hand, more than 4,000 communists lost their lives at the hands of the Indian military in Telangana, especially in erstwhile Nalgonda and Warangal districts. By criticising Nizam Osman Ali Khan and sparing Sardar Patel, the communists created a conducive atmosphere for the BJP in Telangana, which wanted to brand it as a Hindu victory over a Muslim ruler. 

Their selective narration of history has never included the Nizam’s contributions towards modern education and health care. He founded the famous Osmania University, Osmania Hospital and gave donations to Aligarh Muslim University, Benaras Hindu University, protected Ellora and Ajanta caves, beside giving huge donations to temples.

This false reconstruction by the communists has given a wide scope to BJP to appropriate history, while placing the Telangana society at a vulnerable juncture. 

(The author is a Hyderabad based social historian and writer. Views expressed here are the author’s own.)

Also read: 

Union government and BJP both have separate elaborate plans lined up for Sept 17

TRS govt, Cong, MIM set to celebrate Telangana Integration Day on September 17

Watch: Hyderabad Liberation or Telangana National Integration Day? What history says | Let Me Explain

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