Jihad in Spring~I

Certain events in history are not forgettable but unfortunately have paled into oblivion with the passage of time. The merger of the princely state of Hyderabad (in the Deccan) is one such paradoxical exception that had taken place about 75 years ago.

Jihad in Spring~I

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Certain events in history are not forgettable but unfortunately have paled into oblivion with the passage of time. The merger of the princely state of Hyderabad (in the Deccan) is one such paradoxical exception that had taken place about 75 years ago. Choudhry Rahmat Ali, a Punjabi Gujjar Muslim, while studying law in England in the early 1930s had first coined the word Osmanistan for a proposed monarchy in the Deccan.

Ali was also credited with the term ‘Pakistan’, being the acronym of the provinces of the north-western part of the British Indian Empire, which would be the homeland for the Indian Muslims. For the portion of Bengal, and Assam, he coined Bangi-Islam (Islam in Bengal). Among the princely states during the British Raj, Hyderabad was the largest in terms of size, more than 82,000 sq miles, almost one-quarter the size of present-day Pakistan. It had a population of around 16 million. If the coastal rim of peninsular India is likened to the visible lace of a necklace, and the cluster of presentday Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala to an oversized gem hanging heavy at the bottom, then the hollow [neck] of it can fairly be equated with what Hyderabad was.

As the British were about to leave India, most of the princely states had agreed to the draft Standstill Agreement with the would-be Dominions of India or Pakistan. As the name suggests, the Standstill Agreement ~ which was to be signed between a princely state and the Dominion of India or Pakistan -guaranteed the status quo as that had existed between the British Crown and a vassal princely state. Technically speaking, it called for status quo of Administrative Arrangements for “common cause”.


The British Crown had had the ultimate say on three matters ~ defence, communications and external affairs ~ while dealing with the native rulers. Once the princely rulers enter into the Agreement with the Dominion of India or Pakistan, they would recognize the paramountcy of the Dominion. By 15 August 1947, Hyderabad did not sign the agreement but sought time. Hyderabad did not have any exit to Pakistan or to the sea. It was landlocked by India on all sides. On the other hand, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, offered to sign the agreement with both India and Pakistan, being contagious with both.

If Hyderabad had a Muslim ruler over a largely Hindu population, for Jammu and Kashmir, it was just the opposite. Pakistan responded telegraphically to the Maharaja. But the pact did not materialize with India, as the Indian side insisted on installation of a responsible government, which meant rule by the National Conference or its leader Sheikh Abdullah, arguably the most popular politician in that state at that point of time. History will judge whether India’s initial reluctance to sign the Standstill Agreement with the Maharaja proved to be detrimental, and if so then by how much, to both India and J&K particularly when Pakistan exploited this vacuum to send army regulars and the tribal fighters of the NWFP right up to Poonch in October 1947.

Srinagar came within a whisker of being overrun by Pakistani invaders. Negotiations went on, and so crucial time went by, between the state of J&K and the India Union on the Instrument of Accession so that on signing the same, India could enjoy much-needed legitimate authority to send troops to Srinagar. However, at the last moment, the Maharaja conceded authority to India; the Indian army reached Srinagar on 26 October 1947 and the Maharaja escaped death by the skin of his teeth. On encountering the challenges of addressing the concerns of the princely states ~ varying on multiple dimensions, size, ethnicity, geographical position, attitude, amount of pension and biases of the rulers etc.

~ in his initial years in India, Lord Mountbatten wrote afterwards, “Nothing had been said to me in London… I had been given no inkling that it was going to be as hard, if not harder, to solve as that of British India.” [pg-357, The Accession Of The States/ The Great Divide, by H.D. Hodson, e-book]. As stated, 26 October 1947 is an important date in our history. On this day, India had finally got Srinagar.

In the far south, His Exalted Highness the ‘Nizam’ [meaning Administrator] of Hyderabad was almost close to signing the Standstill Agreement with India. [All other heads of princely states were addressed as ‘His Highness’, but the Nizam was given the additional honorific title of ‘Exalted’ reflecting the special status conferred upon him by the British Crown.

Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh and last Nizam of the Asaf Jahi dynasty, was also one of the richest men of the world in his time]. On that day, his delegation went up to him to present a typed draft for his signature, which he had orally approved, and his cabinet consented to, before the team would fly to Delhi.

Without citing any reason, Nizam postponed signing. But this was as if it had not been enough to compound the uncertainty in the prospect of Accession. Inspired by the stories of the Pakistani invasion in Kashmir, at 3 am of 27 October, a proPakistani mob surrounded the houses where the delegates of the Nizam were staying. Slowly but steadily, Majlise-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen or in short, “Ittehad” (literally meaning a union in Urdu) had gathered so much strength as to call the shots. They threatened physical actions should the delegation make any attempt to sign any pact with India.

The Prime Minister of Hyderabad (the Nawab of Chhatari) of the Nizam’s Executive Council himself was a member of the delegation and he too became a hostage. No Hyderabad police were present. At 5 am that day, the Hyderabad PM called in the army and the delegates were evacuated. Three hours later, the Nizam directed the delegates to defer their departure to Delhi. The fate of Hyderabad slipped through the hands of the Nizam into those of uncertainty. Ittehad leader Qasim Razvi ~ not a Hyderabadi but of the United Provinces ~ became the de facto leader of Hyderabad.

This event is referred to as the October Coup. On 1 November, the Nizam replaced the Nawab of Chhatari with Mir Laik Ali, an Ittehad sympathiser, as the Prime Minister of his cabinet. Hyderabad absolutely slid into a pro-Pakistani state. On 29 November, the new delegation of the Nizam signed the Standstill Agreement, without any significant changes. The Standstill Agreement affirmed in the preamble the aim of both sides to work together.

Article one said that all arrangements of common concerns including defence, external affairs and communication that had existed between the British Crown and the Nizam would continue with India. This was a sort of association and surely not accession. The second article provided for an exchange of resident representatives in Delhi and Hyderabad. The third article ~ another most prejudicial to the interest of India ~ called for cessation of paramountcy functions of the India or what the British Crown would enjoy. The fourth allowed the scope for arbitration.

The agreement had a life of a year, as the fifth article said. Without exaggeration, the Agreement fell far short of what India had earlier desired. The Indian side had hoped that eventually the Nizam would fall in line. K.M. Munshi served as the Agent (representative) of India in Hyderabad.

He was steadfast in his mission, much to the dislike of Governor General Lord Mountbatten, the chief negotiator and conciliator on behalf of the Dominion of India. Despite all these concessions from India, anti-India feelings of the Ittehad were brewing up. India delayed release of Pakistan’s share of cash assets to the tune of Rs 55 crore from RBI in view of aggression in Kashmir.

The Laik Ali Government ~ at the turn of the year 1948 ~ secretly lent Rs 20 crore to Pakistan without informing India. This went against the letter and spirit of the Standstill Agreement and a collateral letter that the Nizam had signed assuring certain points in the interest of India. This amount was badly needed by cash-starved Pakistan which would otherwise have stopped its anti-minority steps kowtowing to India.

(The writer is a Deputy Commissioner of Income-Tax. The comments and views are personal)