Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is credited with the unification of India after the departure of British in 1947. He supervised the merger of more than 550 princely states into the Indian union, thereby preventing splitting of a country into smaller nations. But the task of unifying India was not an easy one. As the home minister, with a lot of tact, consideration, and even force at times, Patel had the rulers join the country. Exactly 70 years ago, the Nizam of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan, was forced to merge his princely state with India.
Hyderabad started as a vassal of the Mughal dynasty in 1713, and the ruler was known as Nizam. Though more than 85 per cent of its population comprised of Hindus, the Muslims controlled police, army and the civil services. With the Indian Independence Act of 1947, the British left the princely states to decide whether they wanted to join India, Pakistan or remain independent. By 1948, most of the states had merged with India except Hyderabad. Noted historian Ramachandra Guha in his book India After Gandhi, wrote that the Nizam was not content with his personal wealth, and wanted direct relations with the British Crown. The Nizam’s ambitions, if realised, could have cut off north India from the south. This is because Hyderabad ran across the Deccan plateau in the centre of the Indian subcontinent, with an area of more than 80,000 square miles.
The Jawaharlal Nehru government was tensed over Nizam’s ambitions. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is believed to have said that an independent Hyderabad would be a cancer in India’s belly. The hostilities reached a flashpoint after the Nizam gave a loan to the newly-created Pakistan signalling that he might join Muhammad Ali Jinnah-led country.
By 1946-47, the Indian government had its state Congress leading the movement to integrate Hyderabad with India. On the other hand, the Nizam had Ittihad-ul-Muslimeen that reportedly promoted a paramilitary body called Razakars who marched to the streets of Hyderabad with swords and guns.
While hectic negotiations between the Indian government and the Nizam continued, Lord Mountbatten resigned as India’s Viceroy on June 21, 1948. Three days before his resignation, he had urged the Nizam to compromise and go down in history as a peacemaker in south India. But the latter was in no mood to listen. On September 13 that year, Patel ordered the Indian army to enter Hyderabad. In less than four days, the troops took control of Hyderabad. Guha wrote that at least 42 Indian soldiers and 2,000-odd Razakars were killed in the intense battle. On the night of September 17, the Nizam in a radio broadcast announced a ban on the Razakars and asked his subjects to live in peace with the people of India.
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