20th August, 1671. A son was born to Aurangzeb’s favoured general Ghaziuddin Khan Siddiqui Feroz Jung, who had commanded the siege and capture of the famous Golconda fort. The child was named ‘Mir Qamaruddin Khan Siddiqui,’ and grew up to serve his emperor as well. In 1724, Qamaruddin was sent to the Deccan to replace an existing viceroy who had fallen out of favour, and Qamaruddin had to wage war with him to take up his new assignment. He won. As a reward, he was bestowed the title of ‘Asaf Jah’ (one equal of Asaf, prime minister of King Solomon). Over time, with his devout loyalty to the Mughal court and his hard work in the Deccan, Qamaraduddin earned the title ‘Nizam-ul-Mulk, Asif Jah I’, to become the first Nizam of Hyderabad. Vikramjit Singh Rooprai tells the story of Hyderabad and its Nizams, in this glimpse into Deccan’s History …
Hyderabad in later times became a princely state under British rule. The Nizams had during their 224-year reign, assiduously developed their empire – they established railways, an airline service, postal and telecommunication systems, and even a radio broadcasting system. With its own currency and a stable economy, a robust education system and good civic services, Hyderabad Deccan was, for all practical purposes, an independent country. With 16 million subjects and covering more than 215,000 sq.kms, the state was bigger than today’s Bangladesh and Sri Lanka combined.
It prospered. 1911 saw the state ruled by it’s 10th ruler, Nizam Sir Mir Osman Ali Khan Siddiqi Bayafandi Asaf Jah VII, who was highly respected. He supported the British during WWI and contributed large sums of money, he even gifted several aircrafts to the RAF which bore his mark, and were known as the ‘Hyderabad Squadron.’ Financially strong, he established the Hyderabad Bank (today the State Bank of Hyderabad) to manage the ‘Osmania Sikka.’ During his period, Hyderabad was the only state allowed its own currency.
Then came a day in the August of 1947, when the British decided to move out of India and leave the princely states to decide their own fate. The Nizam chose to declare ‘independence’ and refused to join India or Pakistan – approaching the crown for grant of dominion status – implying that British India be partitioned into the Dominions of India, Pakistan and Hyderabad. The British turned down his proposal, influenced by the results of the 1936-37 Indian elections where Jinnah had tried to create an Islamic State centred around the Nizam. This campaign, which was not supportive of the idea of democracy, suffered a major defeat handed to it by the Congress with support from the Hindu Mahasabha and Arya Samaj. This British rejection of Hyderabad’s independence bid was also fuelled by fears of Balkanization.
Partition saw communal riots erupting across the subcontinent, also engulfing Hyderabad. The Nizam deployed Razakars and Deendars, his islamic militia responsible to restore law and order. The Razakars however turned hostile towards Hindus soon after partition, indulging in mass kidnappings, rapes and killings of non-muslim Hyderabadis, and hindus started fleeing Hyderabad. The communist rebels from the Telangana Rebellion rose in support of the people, joined forces with the Andhra Mahasabha and fought the government, leading to even more bloodshed with killings of muslims in the state. All this was taking place when Hyderabad had signed a 1-year standstill agreement with the Dominion of India, whereby India would not invade Hyderabad or interfere in its affairs as long as Hyderabad does not join the Dominion of Pakistan.
By mid 1948, however, it was found that Hyderabad was not only importing arms from Pakistan, but had also stationed a bomber squadron near Karachi to take action if India invaded Hyderabad. The state had also passed 200 million rupees to Pakistan through the Bank of England, against which India had to take a stay, and it is said that this matter remains pending even today. Hyderabad banned Indian currency and the import of ground-nuts, beefed-up their irregular army of Razakars to 200,000, and prepared for an all-out liberation battle, with arms supplied by Pakistan, Portugal (via Goa) and an Australian company. The Razakars, meanwhile, were getting increasingly out of control. On the 6th of September 1948, the Indian police post near Chillakallu was fired upon and when Indian soldiers came to investigate, they were also fired upon by the Razakars. Indians were forced to send backup, which met with stronger opposition from the 1 Hyderabad Lancers. An Indian army unit of Poona Horse then chased the Razakars to Kodar and forced the surrender of the state garrison.
This incident added fuel to the fire for Sardar Patel, then defence minister of India, who was in favour of annexing Hyderabad outright. Lt. General Eric Goddard of the Southern Command was asked to prepare a plan and the Indian Army moved out from Vijaywada and Solapur. Codenamed Operation Polo, this campaign became famous as the ‘Hyderabad Police Action.’ On 13th September 1948, the first battle was fought at Naladurg Fort on the Solapur Secundarabad Highway. The first day ended with heavy casualties for the Hyderabadi forces. By the next day, Indians had captured towns like Aurangabad, Osmanabad and Rajasur. Day 3 and 4 were equally painful for Hyderabad and by the evening of Day 4, the Nizam had ordered his PM Laiq Ali to resign. By the next morning, the entire cabinet of Hyderabad had resigned, and within a few hours a messenger was sitting in the office of India’s Agent General to Hyderabad, Shri K.M. Munshi. At 4pm, Munshi reached the Nizam’s office, who said, “The vultures have resigned, I don’t know what to do now”. Munshi advised him to order a ‘cease-fire’ to ensure public safety and stop further damage.
By 5pm on the 5th Day – 17th September – with India already in possession of most of Hyderabad and the Razakars reduced to a few hundred, the Nizam announced a cease-fire, signalling his surrender. At 4pm on the 18th September 1948, Major General (later Army Chief) Joyanto Nath Chaudhuri led a small unit into Hyderabad, where Major General Syed Ahmed El Edroos surrendered on behalf of the Hyderabad State Forces.
5 days later, on 23rd September, the Nizam reached Hyderabad Radio Station and addressed his subjects: “In November last , a small group had organized a quasi-military organization and surrounded the homes of my then Prime Minister the Nawab of Chhatari, in whose wisdom I had complete confidence, and that of Sir Walter Monkton, my constitutional Adviser. By duress they compelled the Nawab and other trusted ministers to resign and forced the Laik Ali Ministry on me. This group, headed by Kasim Razvi, had no stake in the country nor any record of service behind it. By methods reminiscent of Hitlerite Germany they took possession of the State, spread terror … and rendered me completely helpless.”
Mir Laik Ali, held partly responsible for this act, was kept under house arrest in Begumpet. He escaped to Pakistan in 1950 and lived on to serve as a high ranking official in the Pakistani government. He died in New York in 1971, and now rests in Medina.
Hyderabad was merged into India and Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur maintained the title ‘Nizam of Hyderabad’ till 1950, after which he was known as the Rajpramukh till his death on 24th February, 1967. He had wanted to be buried in the Mosque opposite King Kothi Palace, and his funerary procession was the largest that India had ever seen. During his lifetime the Nizam had 7 wives, 42 concubines, 34 children and 104 grandchildren. He was portrayed on the Times Magazine cover in February 1937 for being the world’s richest man, with a worth equivalent to 2% of the then US economy and double that of the then Indian treasury. The State of Hyderabad was first split into Andhra Pradesh, with some portions going to the Karnataka and the Bombay state, which was later further bifurcated into Maharashtra and Gujarat. And as late as in 2014, Telangana State was also carved out of Andhra Pradesh.