On September 17, the day that the former princely state of Hyderabad joined the Union of India nearly 74 years ago, archrivals Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the state’s ruling party, and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are preparing for a showdown. In light of the BJP’s increased efforts to position itself as the leading opponent of TRS, the acknowledgment and celebration of this day have become a political flashpoint in the state.
While the BJP, which has been actively attempting to gain ground in Telangana ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections next year, declared last week that it would celebrate Hyderabad Liberation Day in a grand manner with year-long celebrations, with Union Home Minister Amit Shah as the Chief Guest for a public event.
“The police action was not only against the atrocities of Razakars, but it was also against communists who were waging a war against feudal lords. Though the Nizams believed in Islam, their rule was based on Hindu landlords who had amassed huge acres of land. Together, they served the so-called Christian British empire,” he said.
But the Sunderlal Report, which was ordered following the bloody Operation Polo, by which Hyderabad state was seized, stated that 40,000–2,00000 Muslims had died. According to N Venugopal, editor of Veekshanam magazine, the events preceding up to September 17 could not be seen through a dichotomous prism of Hindus versus Muslims.
According to VP Menon’s book The Integration of Indian States, although the Razakars’ crimes were the main impetus for police action, the communists’ rising authority also played a significant role.
Back then, a system known as Vethi allowed feudal landowners to compel peasants of all castes to perform labour for nothing. The Brahmins prepared meals, created leaf plates, and attended to ceremonies while the Dalits toiled in the fields. The Mahasabha, also known as sangam in rural areas, focused primarily on this matter while opposing unequal landholdings. At a protest in the former Nalgonda district in 1946, a landlord’s goon killed one demonstrator. The Communist Party and the Andhra Mahasabha resolved to launch an armed uprising against the feudal lords following this occurrence. In Telangana, 3,000 villages had become involved in this conflict by 1948. Lands were reclaimed from landlords and managed by populist councils.
“The day we took freedom from Razakars, 17 September, shall be celebrated as Liberation Day in Telangana,” Shah said last year, who, also on several occasions, said that AIMIM shared parentage as Razakars, a paramilitary force, that committed violent atrocities, killed people, and led a resistance against joining the Union of India.
“Razakars committed horrendous atrocities against the people of Hyd State during freedom struggle. I call upon all to hoist our Tiranga at every burj (bastion) on 17th Sept in remembrance of historically significant burjs that were constructed to bar Nizam’s forces from invading,” Kishan Reddy, the minister of tourism for the Union and a Telangana native, tweeted last month.
Not only KCR, but Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and a member of parliament from Hyderabad, was also very apathetic about commemorating September 17; however, he wrote to the Union Home Minister and Chief Minister on September 3 urging them to do so. Hours after Owaisi’s letter, KCR declared the day a holiday.