On August 15, as India celebrated 75 years of Independence, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi addressed the nation from the Red Fort and spoke of “panch pran” (five pledges). One of the five included erasing traces of all forms of slavery, subjugation or colonial baggage by actively decolonising our minds and outlook.
For a long time, our civilisational ethos of accommodating all points of view resulted in either suppressing or sidestepping issues that need an honest conversation. Over time, this graduated into a form of perverse appeasement where truth and reconciliation were replaced by the whitewashing of past events in the interest of an elusive harmony.
The liberation of Hyderabad is one such event. While India secured Independence in 1947, the princely state of Hyderabad was not liberated till heroic police action under India’s first home minister (HM) Vallabhbhai Patel. The erstwhile Hyderabad state comprised present-day Telangana, the north-eastern districts of Kalaburagi, Bellary, Raichur, Yadgir, Koppal, Vijayanagara and Bidar in Karnataka and the Marathwada region in Maharashtra. Maharashtra and Karnataka officially observe September 17 as Marathawada Mukti Sangram Diwas and Hyderabad-Karnataka Liberation Day, respectively. During the commemorations, the efforts of Swami Ramanand Tirtha, Govindbhai Shroff, Vajayantra Kabra and PH Patwardhan, who fought to gain Independence from the Nizam, are recognised.
However, my home state of Telangana had to wait for 75 years to officially commemorate Hyderabad Liberation Day, which will be celebrated this year as a part of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. Now, we have an opportunity to revive the memories of the sacrifices made by regional leaders such as Komaram Bheem, Ramji Gond, Turrebhaz Khan, Shoebullah Khan, PV Narasimha Rao, Vandemataram Ramachandra Rao and Narayanarao Pawar. If not for these celebrations, the contributions of these heroes would have faded from our memory. We now can immortalise their deeds and actions and keep their memory alive through books, plays and memorials.
Hyderabad Liberation Day was not celebrated in Telangana for purely political reasons. The state government was protecting its ally — the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) — and its inglorious past. The MIM’s leader at the time of India’s Independence, Qasim Rizvi, wanted Hyderabad to accede to Pakistan. So, he supported the Nizam by providing about 150,000 volunteers to augment the Nizam’s regular army of 24,000. Many of them later became Razakars, who unleashed carnage in the princely state. It was the citizens who were at the receiving end of this violence. Bhairanpally, a tiny village in Warangal, sacrificed hundreds to the bullets of the Razakars. Three people were tied to a tree and shot mercilessly at Rangapuram village. The women of Laxmipuram were raped and their gold and money were looted. Former PM Narasimha Rao once described the events of Rangapuram and Laxmipuram as South India’s Jallianwala Bagh. The state government tried to suppress these inconvenient truths and unsavoury past. Ironically, a political party that came to power with the promise of commemorating the liberation of Telangana relegated it to the backburner. The state government feared that the celebration of Hyderabad Liberation Day would bring to everybody’s notice the ideological roots of the MIM.
Some political parties equate the September 17 celebrations as an insult to the Nizam and, by extension, the Muslim community. People forget that Muslim journalists such as Shoebullah Khan were at the forefront of the agitation and were killed by the Razakars for advocating a merger with India. Moreover, by not celebrating this historic day, they turned a blind eye to the sacrifices made by the Hindus and Muslims of Telangana for integrating their state with the Indian Union.
This year, under PM Modi’s leadership, the Union government approved the year-long commemoration (starting September 17) of Hyderabad Liberation Day. The government has made continuous efforts to shed the baggage of colonial legacy and discover the contributions of those relegated to the margins of memory. During the celebrations, not-so-well-known heroes who made supreme sacrifices to build this nation and the events that narrate their saga of bravery have been highlighted.
In 1948, Patel unfurled the Tricolour after Hyderabad merged with the Indian Union. 75 years later, HM Amit Shah will hoist the national flag and kick off the celebrations as we shed the vestiges of our colonial past and baggage.