Every year is full of anniversaries, happy, middling and sad. Sept 17 is particularly tragic. On this day, in 1948, India attacked the landlocked Hyderabad state from five sides, and a miniscule defending army and a dishevelled militia were crushed by huge numbers of troops, tanks and planes. Estimated tens of thousands of innocent, unarmed Muslim children, women and men were massacred.
With the forced annexation of South Asia’s largest of the 565 Princely states, the new Indian state continued the direction of aggressive expansion initiated in Kashmir on Oct 26, 1947 — and repeated for the past seven decades, and then reinforced on Aug 5, 2019.
In addition to the irreparable loss of lives at the hands of forces never held accountable, the exclusive, synthesising, Hyderabad’s Sufi culture in which a Muslim Nizam representing only about 14 per cent of the population ruled over about 85pc Hindus, and about one per cent of other minorities, in generally stable conditions was eroded and distorted. Soon thereafter, the Hyderabad state was divided into Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Most Pakistanis born after 1947-48 remain largely unaware of Hyderabad’s remarkable features as also about the supportive aspects of its last ruler, Nizam Osman Ali Khan, who sent cash-starved Pakistan secretly-conveyed funds and gold and unsuccessfully publicly announced (Rs20 crores in 1948, about equal to Rs2,000 crores in 2019).
One hopes this letter to the editor encourages readers to choose one or more of several well-researched books that document this significant dimension.
Among the finest of such books is by Dawn’s own esteemed columnists, A. G. Noorani, who has written The Destruction of Hyderabad. Websites provide links to books and sources.
As we aim to prevent Indian-occupied Kashmir’s absorption into the Indian predator state, it is vital to learn about the multiple facets of the tragedy of Hyderabad — whose cultural legacy includes the hosting of numerous scholars , scientists, writers and poets and unrivalled services to Urdu, Pakistan’s national language and lingua franca. And let’s not forget the jewel in the crown, Osmania University.