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Hyderabad Liberation Day, Partition Horrors Remembrance Day: Why India needs to scrape away the whitewashing and look at the dark realities of its past

It is almost a miracle that India exists the way it does today. Looking back, it seems unbelievable how Sardar Patel managed to not only keep the broken pieces together, but he used all the available resources, diplomacy, and force when needed, with a decisiveness so absent in leaders of that era, to glue the pieces together into a formidable nation-state.

On 12th March, the Ministry of Home Affairs declared that every year henceforth, the 17th of September will be observed as the ‘Hyderabad Liberation Day’. Noting that the erstwhile territory of Hyderabad did not get independence as the rest of India for 13 months after August 1947 and it was only on 17th September 1948 that the Nizam rule ended and Hyderabad officially became a part of India, the MHA highlighted the importance of ‘Operation Polo’.

Marking September 17th as the ‘Hyderabad Liberation Day’ is an important step towards truth and reconciliation, as important as marking August 14th as the Partition Horrors Remembrance Day. In August 2021, the Modi govt announced August 14th as the Partition Horrors Remembrance Day, a day when the nation remembers the dark reality of partition.

Both the days, and the above-cited incidents that they commemorate are crucial in modern India’s history, for they have shaped our past, present and future.

Operation Polo has been a largely ‘unknown’ affair for most Indian youngsters through the decades. For generations of Indian children, the school books never mention this aspect of our history. They don’t know how there existed a Muslim-ruled kingdom, with a ruthless militia unleashing a regime of horror and torture on its Hindu majority citizenry. The Muslim ruler was considered one of the wealthiest men in the world and wanted the kingdom to merge with Pakistan. Imagine a territory of that size, right in the middle of the Deccan Plateau, being a part of Pakistan.

The erstwhile Hyderabad state under Nizam shahi

The British, with expert diplomacy and tight control over the then so-called leaders of India, had left so many open wounds to bleed India for centuries. The creation of Pakistan on religious lines, the haphazard separation of houses, cattle, villages, and families on a whim, just to appease the Islamic demand for a separate country and accommodate the political ambitions of some ‘elite’ Indians like Nehru was a recipe to inflict enough damage on a newborn geopolitical entity to obliterate itself in a matter of few years.

It is almost a miracle that India exists the way it does today. Looking back, it seems unbelievable how Sardar Patel managed to not only keep the broken pieces together, but he used all the available resources, diplomacy, and force when needed, with a decisiveness so absent in leaders of that era, to glue the pieces together into a formidable nation-state. We were broken, bleeding, and fighting a dozen battles at once, but India endured through it all. And here we are today, after 75 years, stronger than ever.

Why was Operation Polo crucial?

Multiple generations of Indians grew up without knowing about Operation Polo, about Direct Action Day in 1946, without the slightest idea about the Navy rebellion of 1946, that forced a struggling World War II-battered British empire to its knee, making them realise that they could no longer ‘control’ India. Very few of us realise that if we had leaders who loved the country more than their personal ambitions and habits, the partition could have been prevented. All this memory-loss is not some organic eventuality, it has been so by design.

The political, educational, and media narrative in post-Independence India has been manipulated, controlled, and carefully designed to whitewash the ugly realities of pre-independence India, and the events after Independence. We were made to forget, made to grow up without knowing who we were and how we came to be. We were fed with the potion of “दे दी हमें आज़ादी बिना खड्ग बिना ढाल, साबरमती के सन्त तूने कर दिया कमाल”.

We were made to believe that India became Independent through some otherworldly ‘non-violent’ protest magically carried out by Gandhi and his followers. We were made to believe that Nehru became the PM of independent India through his sheer talent and charisma, and apart from some inconvenient clashes and violence around the creation of Pakistan, mostly because it would have been impossible to ignore Pakistan and the wars India fought with it, we just went to sleep on the night August 14th 1947, and woke up nice, happy and Independent on the next morning.

Razakar atrocities against Hindus

Operation Polo wasn’t a one-day affair, it needed meticulous planning, vision, and some hard decision-making that only Sardar Patel could do. To suppress the Hindu majority’s growing desire for acession with India, Nizam of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan had allowed the Razakars to raid, rape, kill and pillage Hindus across the state, unleashing a regime of terror and murder. violating the ‘standstill agreement’ with India, he secretly loaned Rs 15 million to Pakistan and raised a semi-private militia of the Razakars in Hyderabad. Had Operation Polo not happened, and not concluded the way it did, India would have had another sizeable Pakistan literally ‘inside’ Indian territory.

Frightened by the growing awareness amongst the Hindu population in Hyderabad, Nizam Khan ordered the formation of a semi-private army called ‘Razakars’ to suppress the agitations. The Razakars were a wing of the Majlis-e-Itihadul Muslimeen (MIM, or AIMIM as it is presently known). The Razakars managed to raise 1 lakh Jihadis in their army within a span of days.

Historian Frank Moraes records, “From the beginning of 1948 the Razakars had extended their activities from Hyderabad city into the towns and rural areas, murdering Hindus, abducting women, pillaging houses and fields, and looting non-Muslim property in a widespread reign of terror.”

Nehru was aware of all this, but exercising the classic Nehruvian aloofness, he kept ignoring the problem. He was afraid that any attack on the princely state would attract retaliation from West and East Pakistan. Nehru was hesitant to take the decision of storming into the state and annexing it.

Finally, he had to give in, under Sardar Patel’s guidance, the might of the Indian Army fell upon Nizam. It took 5 days, but the Nizam bowed down, and Hyderabad became Indian territory officially, not just geographically.

Take a moment and imagine the consequences of having a ‘central Pakistan’ inside India, apart from West and East Pakistan flanking India on both sides. That is what Operation Polo prevented.

How did the whitewashing work? And how does it continue to this day

When PM Modi announced that 14th August would be observed as the Partition Horrors Remembrance Day, the first reaction from Congress party, India’s ruling party for decades after Independence and for nearly 60 years, was, “Pakistan will feel bad”.

Chidambaram’s tweet from 2021

As per the senior Congress leader, India should just ‘forget’ that millions of Hindus were slaughtered in a prolonged, planned massacre right under their own leaders, while the ‘Sabarmati ka Sant’ did nothing, and while their beloved Nehru sat on the throne in Delhi. Millions of Hindus had become homeless overnight, displaced from the lands of their ancestors and looted of their belongings because the ‘government’ that was supposed to take care of them, just left them to die and rot.

Last year, Manickam Tagore, the Congress MP from Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar raised concern over CBSE’s decision to hold exhibitions on the theme of partition saying that such a move would instill hatred into the minds of India’s younger generations. Tagore urged the Centre to ‘preserve’ social harmony by withdrawing its decision in this regard.

The rot of whitewashing runs so deep that there was a veritable trend among ‘secular liberals’ to object to Partition Horrors Remembrance Day. They made statement after statement as if Partition and the violence it unleashed on millions of Indians was just a figment of Modi’s imagination, a minor inconvenience that should remain buried and never remembered.

Some victims of partition are still alive, it is not that old an incident that we just forget and pretend it never happened. The demand for a separate Muslim nation took away one-third of India’s land territory and caused a genocide of millions, it gave us hostile borders on the west, north west, north and east. It took away crucial coastal territory, forests, rivers, farmlands, mineral wealth, and sacred mountains from us and cursed us to perpetual wars for decades.

What kind of justice will we ensure to our citizens if we just forget their sufferings? What sort of future will we build for our children if we annihilate the realities, the mistakes, and the pains of the past and make them believe they just got prosperity by sheer benevolence and brilliance of some specific leaders?

How do we protect the territorial integrity of our nation if we choose to forget how hard it was to obtain in the first place? We have got what we have today through centuries of bloodshed, struggle, poverty, and famines. Every inch of India has been secured through pain and sacrifice and we need to remember that very well.

Pseudo-secular whitewashing of India’s unpleasant realities

The attempts at whitewashing are not limited to Hyderabad liberation, partition, or Direct Action Day. Multiple generations of Indians were made to believe that the Khilafat movement was ‘patriotic’ Muslims protesting against the British rule, not Indian Muslims demanding the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate and venting their anger against the British for sacking the Turkish Caliph. We were told that the Moplah riots were peasants protesting against landlords, who just happened to be Hindus. We were never told that the so-called ‘peaceful’ Congress leaders, firmly believing in the Ahimsa principle of MK Gandhi, had massacred, lynched, and assaulted thousands of Brahmins across Maharashtra after Nathuram Godse killed Gandhi.

Multiple generations of Indians were kept in a state of post-lobotomy ignorance. The stories that connected us to the pain and realities of our struggle were painted over with a dead white coat of secularism. The intricate cultural, civilisational connections that defined our sense of belonging were severed just like Radcliffe’s pen dissecting the ancestral land of our forefathers into separate halves.

By commemorating the ‘Hyderabad Liberation Day’, and Partition Horrors Remembrance Day, the GOI is ensuring that the present generation of Indians knows how hard it was to secure a fragmented nation, how difficult it was to protect a wounded, bleeding country from enemies outside and inside, and how hard our predecessors fought for our sovereignty to build today’s India.

To know who we are, we need to face the reality. The white paint must be scraped off the wall and fragmented memories must be brought out to the sun for healing. The truth will not endanger us. Truth will make us stronger, and set us free.

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