Updated: Mar 10
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Background to the Annexation
Hyderabad State was an Indian Princely State located in the south-central region of India with its capital at the city of Hyderabad. It is now divided into the state of Telangana, the Hyderabad–Karnataka region of Karnataka, and the Marathwada region of Maharashtra. Its complicated and diverse history makes its annexation to the Indian nation state in 1948 a brutal and bloody affair that displaced millions and resulted in the massacre of 30,000–40,000 civilians.
A.G. Noorani in the book Destruction of Hyderabad writes: ‘It is a criminal folly to let loose the army on a section of one’s own people.’ In a detailed study of correspondence between the State of Hyderabad, the Government of India and the British government, and reports that were hitherto unavailable to the public including the Sunderlal Committee report, he surmises the political failure on all fronts that resulted in the Police Action of 1948 and the annexation of Hyderabad in one of the bloodiest events of modern Indian history. Noorani claims that the annexation of Hyderabad belongs in a trilogy of entirely foreseeable events that tore apart the fabric of the nation at its very birth—the partition between India and Pakistan had created a divide in the country that was further cemented by the Kashmir dispute.[i] Something far worse than bankruptcy of statesmanship was responsible for the continuing tragedy that is the story of the annexation of Hyderabad.
History, Demography and Structure of Hyderabad
The Hyderabad State was formed in 1724 by the Nizam ul Mulk Asaf Jha, previously Grand Vazir of the Mughal Empire. After 1798, it was reduced to a subsidiary feudatory state covering an area of about 83,000 square miles under the British after the cession of Berar of the Maharashtra area and the coastal and ceded districts of the Andhra area to the British. The Hyderabad State consisted of three linguistic areas: the eight Telugu–speaking districts with Hyderabad city, the capital of the state, constituting the Telangana area; the five Marathi–speaking districts in the north-west of the state constituting the Marathwada region; and the three Kannada–speaking districts in the south-west.
The Telangana region occupied 50 per cent of the area as against 28 per cent occupied by the Marathwada region; and the remaining 22 per cent was occupied by the Kannada region. The Telugu–speaking population in 1951 was 9,000,000 (50 per cent); the Marathi–speaking population about 4,500,000 (25 percent); the Kannada–speaking population 2,000,000 (11 per cent); and the Urdu–speaking population 2,100,000 (12 per cent).[ii]
Since the Nizam was Muslim, Urdu was made the language of the courts and the administration at all levels, and also the medium of educational instruction right from the primary stage. Though the vast majority of the people of Hyderabad State belonged to the Hindu religion and its various sects, they were disproportionately represented in the administrative set-up.
The British as imperial extractors
Noorani observes that the Nizam’s relationship with the British was one of unequal exploitation, and his hold over the state only steadied through British support, for which he paid copiously in land and money.
The British had bound successors of the second Nizam of Hyderabad State, Mir Nizam Ali Khan Asaf Jah (II) with ambiguous treaties of protection, all forged under deceitful and duplicitous pretences and sometimes downright threats, extracting whatever land, power or resources they wanted in the State over time. It was these treaties that Osman Ali Khan cited in 1947 to ask for independence instead of accession. The leaders of the League and Congress could have just as easily contested the treaties that stood on dubious legitimacy but were too bitterly divided to oppose the authority of the British legislations. Instead what occurred was a violent transfer of power.
The basic feature that dominated the socio-economic life of the people of Hyderabad and especially in Telangana, was the unbridled feudal exploitation that persisted till the beginning of the Telangana armed peasant struggle. Out of the 53 million acres in the whole of Hyderabad State, about 30 million i.e. about 60 per cent were under the governmental land revenue system (the diwani or khalsa area); about 15 million acres i.e. about 30 per cent were under the jagirdari system; and about 10 per cent constituted the Nizam’s direct estate (the sarf-e-khas system).
As mentioned before, the socio-economic life of the people of Hyderabad was marked by unbridled feudal exploitation. In P. Sundarayya’s ‘Telangana People’s Armed Struggle, 1946–1951. Part One: Historical Setting’, he expands in detail the social structure of a predominantly agrarian economy. In the sarf-e-khas area, the nearly 20 million rupees earned annually was reserved to meet the expenditure of the Nizam’s family and retinue. While it was treated like the Nizam’s own private estate, he was not responsible for paying for the costs incurred for development and livelihood in the region. This was in addition to the 7 million rupees he received from the state treasury. The peasants in this area were almost bond-slaves or serfs of the Nizam.
Paigas, samsthanams, jagirdars, ijardars, banjardars, maktedars, inamdars or agraharams were the various kinds of feudal oppressors in the Jagir areas. [iii] Some of them used to impose and collect taxes through their own revenue officers; some of them paid a small portion to the State; while others were not required to pay anything at all. In these areas, various kinds of illegal exactions and forced labour were common. In the Jagir areas, the land taxes on irrigation were ten times more than those collected in the diwani areas.
The owners were entitled to fleece the peasantry and take as much as they could extract. Apart from these, there were the Deshmukhs and Deshpandes who were earlier tax collectors for the government but who, after direct collection by the state apparatus was introduced, were granted vatans or mash (annuities) based on a percentage of past collections, in perpetuity. As collectors of taxes these Deshmukhs and Deshpandes grabbed thousands of acres of the most fertile cultivated land and made it their own property, reducing the peasants cultivating these lands to tenants-at-will. These feudal oppressors had acquired these lands by innumerable foul means from the people. The major portion of the lands cultivated by the peasants came to be occupied by the landlords during the first Survey Settlement. Using the power in their hands they got lands registered in their names without the knowledge of the peasants cultivating them.
Even lands which were left in the possession of the peasants in the Survey Settlement were occupied by the landlords in the years of the economic crises of 1920–’22 and 1930–’33. Owing to bad harvests or unfair pricing of the crops the peasants were unable to pay the taxes; the landlords tortured the peasants unable to pay the taxes and took possession of their lands. In many instances the acquisition took place without the knowledge of the peasants. Lending agricultural products like grain, chillies, etc. to the peasants at usurious rates, the feudal oppressors later confiscated the peasants’ lands under the pretext of non-repayment of the loans.
These landlords were not only Deshmukhs but also village chiefs (Patel, Patwari, Malipatel) with hereditary rights. Each one of them had about five to ten villages under him as vatan. These vatan villages were controlled through clerks or agents (seridars) appointed by the Deshmukh. These seridars collected products from the peasants by force. They did various other jobs for the Deshmukh including supplying information about the village.
Social Practices and Peculiarities
One of the worst practices of the social system in the State was of the vetti system forced on dalit families. Each dalit family had to compulsorily send one man to do vetti.
The daily work of these people consisted of household work in the house of the Patel, Patwari, Malipatel or Deshmukh; carrying reports to police stations and taluk offices (tehsils); and keeping watch on the village chavadi and the poundage.
Further, the dalits who carried on the work of cobblers—tanning leather and stitching shoes, or preparing leather accessories for agricultural operations, for drawing water from wells or for yoke belts for plough cattle or for draught bullocks—were forced to supply these to the landlords free of cost, while the rest of the peasantry used to pay them fixed annuities in grain and other agricultural produce. Certain other backward communities like boyalu, bestalu and chakali(washermen) were forced to carry on their shoulders men and women of the landlords’ families in specially-made carriers (pallakis or menas) over long distances from one village to another, whenever they wished to see their relatives or go to festivals. When members of the landlord family travelled in their fast bullock carts, these people were forced to run before the carts as well as behind them as path-clearers and escorts. When members of the landlord family rode horses, the horse servants were forced to run beside them.
The toddy-tappers had to tap toddy and set apart five to ten trees for exclusive free supply to the landlords’ families. They were required to supply five pots of toddy every day and larger quantities on festive occasions. The weavers had to supply clothes to the landlords’ household servants. The carpenters and blacksmiths had to supply all agricultural implements to the landlords free of cost and carry out free repairs. The washermen were forced to wash clothes and vessels in the houses of the Deshmukhs and village officials and barbers had to do daily service in the house of the Deshmukhs, including pressing the feet of the landlord and massaging his body at night. The shepherds were forced to give sheep from each of their herds.They were also forced to give sheep when the landlords demanded them on some pretext or other. The merchants in the villages had to supply by turn, to any officer who came to the village, all commodities including good ghee on receipt of a letter from the police Patel. If they were not amenable to this exaction they were subjected to torture and various indignities.
The people of the village, especially the poor who had no other goods to supply, were forced to supply fowls. Whenever an officer came, the peasants had to give them a lift in their carts and reach them to their destinations, irrespective of the time and whether the animals were fed or not. The peasants had to till the lands of the village officials and landlords before they would take up work on their own fields. Till the landlord’s fields were watered, the peasants could not get water for their fields. Agricultural labourers had to work in the fields of the officials and landlords without any remuneration; only after this could they go to work for other peasants for their livelihood.
The worst of all these feudal exactions was the prevalence of keeping girls as ‘slaves’ in the houses of landlords. When landlords gave their daughters in marriage, they presented slave girls and sent them along with their married daughters, to serve them in their new homes. These slave girls were used by the landlords as concubines. The various forms of forced labour and exactions were extracted not only by the landlords but by all the officials, petty or high, living in the villages or coming on tours and special visits. The vetti system made the life of the Telangana people one of abject serfdom and utter degradation.
The Nizam, being Muslim, made Urdu the language of the courts and administration, and also the medium of education in Hyderabad State. Though the state’s population was primarily Hindu, there was a 12 per cent ruling and administrative class that was Muslim. The growing middleclass intellectuals and Hindu business and industrial interests, primarily the Arya Samajists, were instrumental in creating a narrative of ‘Hindu masses’ against ‘Muslim oppressors’.
Located near the Hyderabad border, Nagpur was the headquarters of both RSS and the Mahasabha and the epicentre of militant Hindu nationalism. During the Satyagraha of 1938–’39, the Mahasabha had sent thousands of cadres to Hyderabad declaring that Hyderabad was the site of a ‘dharmayuddha’ on the basis of which the political existence of Hindus depended. By the end of of the 1940s the state had become an archetype of Muslim oppression and foreign misrule for Hindu nationalists.
Hyderabad as the third frontier
Hyderabad, colonial India’s largest, most populous and wealthy state, was run by Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan, who refused to accede his Princely State to either India or Pakistan in 1947 during the region’s independence from colonial rule. He consequently signed a Standstill agreement with the Government of India. The November Standstill Agreement maintained indeterminate constitutional relations with the Government of India under the British crown, known as a Paramountcy.
What followed was an excruciating diplomatic process of negotiations that were offset by violence among different factions on the ground. It finally all fell through in June 1948 when the government of India instituted a blockade of Hyderabad.
During the period of negotiation, several hundred thousand Muslims moved into Hyderabad seeking the Nizam’s patronage and protection and an estimate of 500,000 Hyderabadi non–Muslims left for the Indian Union.
History of Operation Polo
Amid the increasingly straining stalemate between the Government of India and the State of Hyderabad, the Nizam dispatched a delegation to the United Nations headed by his Prime Minister Liaq Ali on 4 September 1948. The possibility of internationalizing the conflict precipitated the Government of India’s military intervention.
The Indian Army entered Hyderabad on the morning of 13 September with the main force under Major General J.N. Chaudhuri, who would later lead Project Vijay, the annexation of Goa. The ‘Police Action’ consisted of two infantry brigades, an armoured brigade and a strike force of Stuart and Sherman tanks. These were accompanied by IAF Tempests that conducted aerial bombing raids and 9615 armed policemen from various provinces and states of the Indian Union.
By 17 September, the Indian Army had snuffed out the Hyderabad Army and the Razakars—a paramilitary force of the ruling party Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM). The Nizam surrendered and agreed to Hyderabad’s unconditional accession to the Indian Union. He was maintained as the titular head of Hyderabad under a military administration led by Chaudhuri, which remained until December 1949, when an unelected civilian government appointed by the Ministry of States took over. Elections were finally held in 1952.
Kazim Razmi and the Razakars
The MIM was the ruling party of the Hyderabad government and had initially been founded in 1929 as a modest religious and cultural organization dedicated to Muslim unity. The Razakars were the wing of militant youth for the MIM, a typical feature of political parties of that time. As Hindu–Muslim violence increased after 1946, the Razakars began to receive greater support from Hyderabad’s Muslims—like the RSS did from the Hindus—who felt abandoned, vulnerable and fearful of their demographic position after the formation of Pakistan.
The Razakars earned their notoriety especially through their brutal border raids into Indian territory and exploitation of non–Muslims. Their behaviour was seen by Indian intellectuals as proto-fascist seeds that could destabilize peninsular India. It was due to the perceived ‘law and order’ threat of the Razakars that Sardar Patel, then Deputy Prime Minister, could mobilize the Congress into initiating the Police Action despite Nehru’s reticence to go to war within the country.
The Razakars were deployed primarily to do the Nizam’s bidding, especially to aid the landed classes in the Telangana region of the state where the Communist Party of India (CPI) was leading a popular revolution. In India, however, all of it was reported as attacks on Hindus rather than on communists—and the peasant revolution in Telangana (suppressed in the next three years after the annexation by the Indian Army) was an effective alibi for intervention in Hyderabad.
The violence in Hyderabad was not solely wrought by the Razakars, though they often played a bloody and brutal role in it. As Purushotham notes in his paper, there were simultaneous armed campaigns of sabotage and guerilla warfare that were conducted by members of the Hyderabad State Congress, the Socialist Party, the Arya Samaj and the Hindu Mahasabha.[iv]
Reports and Accounts of the Violence
While the Indian government and press were overtly silent about the Hyderabad violence, scholars have unearthed scores of internal correspondence within the Ministry which puts together tacit complicity and full awareness of the violence meted against Muslims in the state.
Chaudhuri, the military leader under whose command the annexation was conducted, openly denied the report of the Sunderlal Committee. He however reported to the Minister of States in November 1948, occurrence of a retaliatory action by Hindus in districts of Bidar, Osmanabad, Gulbarga, Nalgonda and Warangal where he estimated 2000 Muslims may have been massacred.
In large areas of the State there wasn’t even a semi-functional government for weeks after the surrender, which is when most of the violence occurred. Purushotham maps the accounts of violence in the Sunderlal Report and Hyderabad Reborn Military propaganda report of 1949 to demonstrate the scale and inexactitude of information related to the violence.[v]
In Bidar and Gulbarga there was considerable challenge (according to the military report) to the majority Hindu community’s wreaking havoc on Muslims. The Sunderlal Report claims 5,000–8,000 Muslims were killed in Gulbarga, same as Bidar. In Nanded, 2,000–4,000 Muslims were killed. A 1950 report by Maulvi Hifzur Rahman, a member of AICC and the Constituent Assembly, claimed 2000 Muslims were widowed in Osmanabad. Other Hyderabad districts have reports of similar figures of 1500–2000 killings.
Communist leader P. Sundaryya claimed that there were massacres of ordinary Muslims by the Army during the Police Action in most areas not under communist control. Interestingly, rival Communist leader Ravi Narayan Reddy notes that the killing of unarmed Razakars by Communist guerrilla squads had gone unreported.
Taking into account all of the above perspectives, it seems as if everyone had done their share of killing Muslims in some form of retaliatory or vigilante justice.
People’s History of Operation Polo
Journalist Yunus Lasania, co-founder of the Hyderabad History Project, has taken several interviews of those who lived through the violence and death surrounding the annexation of Hyderabad. Through his interviews we find a parallel human story—one that brings out the memories of blood and loss so often forgotten behind the numbers, treaties and declarations of history.
Lasania includes excerpts from his interview with 90 year-old M. K. Moinuddin, who had joined the Communist Party of India in 1948 and taken part in the Telangana armed struggle. Moinuddin belonged to a family of landlords who gave up their ancestral property in Siddipet District to join first the CPI, and then later the armed struggle. The former revolutionary says that contrary to State narratives the Razakars were not all Muslims. There were also Hindu landlords who were primarily aiming to protect the feudal lords and were a part of the Razakars. Vishnu Ram Chandra Reddy, one such landlord, was killed by the communists. This is in contrast to how Kasim Razvi’s Razakars have been remembered in history as a dreaded group of Muslim fanatics oppressing the Hindu population.
Another interview with Burgula Narsing Rao, who was in class 12 at that time, illustrates how the Muslim militia of Kasim Razvi not only targeted Hindus but anyone who they disagreed with. Rao recalls how they shot at Muslim journalist, Shoaibullah Khan, minutes after he last spoke to him for supporting the idea of the Hyderabad State joining the Indian Union. As the journalist ran an Urdu paper, Imroz, they cut off his hand as a forewarning to anyone else who might support the accession.[vi]
Then, when the Indian Army entered Hyderabad on 13 September, people like Syed Amir Shah, then seven years old, had to flee with their entire families in fear for their lives because Muslims were being systematically slaughtered by goons in retaliation to the Razakar’s bloodshed. A native of Mehkar village in Karnataka’s Bidar district, Shah, his four brothers, one sister, mother and maternal grandmother walked about 30 kilometres on a rainy night to Bhalki village for safety, and days later proceeded to Bidar to take shelter in one of his relatives’ homes.[vii]
People’s stories often bring out the messy realities behind the clean-cut incident reports that make up History. The records of lived experience humanize narratives that are otherwise twisted and trimmed to fit into a particular storyline. It is therefore imperative to remember how, while the leaders fought over their land and ideals, common people suffered unspeakable violence that was destined to be forgotten.
Telangana Uprising and the CPI
In 1945, there was a popular agrarian revolution against the landlords in parts of the Hyderabad State, especially in Telangana. This revolt was initially primarily targeted at the local landlords who ran independent systems under the Nizam; later at the Nizam and after his accession, the Government of India.
The communist struggle against the Nizam’s feudal oppression was successful for a brief period of time. During the course of the struggle, the peasantry in about 3000 villages, covering roughly a population of 30,00,000 in an area of about 16,000 square miles (mostly in the three districts of Nalgonda, Warangal and Khammam) had succeeded in setting up gram raj on the basis of fighting village panchayats. In these villages, the hated landlords—the pillars of the Nizam’s autocracy in the rural areas—were driven away from their fortress-like houses, and their lands were seized by the peasantry.
One million acres of land were redistributed among the peasantry under the guidance of the people’s committees. All evictions were stopped and the forced labour service was abolished. The plunderous and exorbitant rates of usury were either drastically cut down, or forbidden altogether. The daily wages of agricultural labourers were increased and a minimum wage was enforced. The oppressive forest officialdom was forced to abandon the entire forest belt, and the tribal people and the people living in the adjoining areas of these forests were able to enjoy the fruits of their labour. For a period of 12 to 18 months, the entire administration in these areas was conducted by the village peasant committees.
According to P. Sundarayya, during the course of this struggle against the Nizam’s autocracy, the people could organize and build a powerful militia comprising 10,000 village squad members and about 2000 regular guerrilla squads in defense of the peasantry against the armed attacks of the Razakars and the Nizam’s police.
The repercussions and retaliation against the communists and peasant militants was brutal and swift. As many as 4000 communists and peasant militants were killed; more than 10,000 communist cadres and people’s fighters were thrown into detention camps and jails for a period of 3–4 years; no fewer than 50,000 people were dragged into police and military camps from time to time—there to be beaten, tortured and terrorized for weeks and months together. Several lakhs of people in thousands of villages were subjected to police and military raids and to cruel lathi-charges. In the course of these military and police raids people lost property worth millions of rupees, which were either looted or destroyed; thousands of women were molested and had to undergo all sorts of humiliations and indignities. In brief, the entire region was subjected to brutal police and military terror for five years, initially by the Nizam and his Razakar armed hordes, and subsequently by the combined armed forces of the Union Government and the State Government of Hyderabad. After the Police Action, a 50,000-strong force of armed personnel of different categories was deployed to violently suppress the movement and restore the shattered landlord rule.
Pandit Sunderlal Committee
Over the last six decades, the Sunderlal Report has come to be seen as the authoritative account of Police Action violence, a reputation fostered by its perceived suppression. It is currently held at the Nehru Museum and Memorial Library in New Delhi. The file also contains a draft copy of the report and 14 pages of Confidential Notes.
Sunderlal and Ghaffar delegations toured 9 of the 16 districts of Hyderabad between 29 November and 21 December 1948. They visited 7 district headquarters, 21 towns and 23 ‘important’ villages, and interviewed over 500 people from an additional 109 villages. They concluded that Osmanabad, Gulbarga, Bidar and Nanded were the districts worst affected by the violence, where they claimed ‘the number of people killed during and after the Police Action was not less, if not more than 18,000’.They estimated that in Aurangabad, Bir, Nalgonda, and Medak districts ‘those who lost their lives numbered at least 5000’. While these 8 districts were the hardest hit, the report claims that no district remained ‘wholly’ free of ‘communal trouble’. For Hyderabad as a whole they gave ‘a very conservative’ estimate, that in the whole state at least 27,000 to 40,000 people lost their lives during and after the Police Action.
Repercussions and Relevance Today
Sunil Purushotham, in his paper ‘Internal Violence: The Police Action in Hyderabad’, writes about how the conversion and co-option of subaltern violence were central to generating consent for the nascent nation-state project. The peasant revolt was wrongly given a communal angle and used to generate fear. He devotes extensive research from government sources to establish that the Police Action was a major event of violence directed primarily at Hyderabad’s Muslims and also notes that this violence remained largely under-reported by Indian national media. This violence that ended the Hyderabad empire in a lot of ways is instrumental in turning India’s Muslims from a national community to a religious minority after 1947, erasing a culture, art and ways of life built over centuries.
[i] A.G. Noorani, ‘Confidential Notes Attached To The Sunderlal Committee Report’, Destruction of Hyderabad (London: Hurst, 2014), pp. 372–373. [ii] P. Sundarayya, ‘Telangana People’s Armed Struggle, 1946–1951. Part One: Historical Setting’, Social Scientist 1(7) (1973): pp. 3–19 (available at www.jstor.org/stable/3516269; last accessed on 25 March 2021). [iii] The paigas were estates granted to Muslim feudals, especially the Nizam’s relatives, for recruiting and maintaining armed personnel for the Nizam in his wars. The jagirs and samsthanams were given to reward officers who distinguished themselves in the Nizam’s service. Maktas, banjars, agraharams and inams were given for various services. [iv] S. Purushotham, ‘Internal Violence: The “Police Action” in Hyderabad’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 57(2) (2015): 435–466. [v] Purushotham, ‘Internal Violence’, pp. 435–466. [vi] Yunus Lasania, ‘September 17, 1948: Remembering Operation Polo, and the end of Hyderabad’s monarchy’, The Hyderabad History Project (17 December 2017) (available at https://bit.ly/3lReVvP; last accessed on 25 March 2021). [vii] Yunus Lasania, ‘Operation Polo: 70 years on, massacres still fresh in the minds of eyewitnesses’, The Hyderabad History Project (17 September 2018) (available at https://bit.ly/3slKpg1; last accessed on 25 March 2021).
CLASSROOM ACTIVITY IDEAS
In finding relevance of history, context is everything.
While going over the timeline of events surrounding the accession of Hyderabad, discuss other events that happened in the same year/timeline in other parts of the country and the world. It helps to better visualize and contextualise the incidents surrounding history and time.
For example, in the year 1798, Nizam Ali Khan is forced to sign a treaty with the British, creating the Princely State of Hyderabad. The year also marks the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which is one of the biggest uprisings against the British in Ireland.
In 1945, when the peasant uprising was only beginning in Telangana under the CPI, the Second World War was coming to an end in Europe. This year marked the only use of a nuclear weapon. In 1952, when the State of Hyderabad finally had a democratically elected government, Queen Elizabeth is crowned monarch of the British Empire.
Find out about the ‘Nizam Culture’ in Hyderabad State. The simultaneous patronage of arts and humanities, the flourishing of educational institutions, galleries and prosperity of the city at the cost of poor peasant labour is a significant aspect of the Nizam’s legacy. The idea of the ‘nizam-culture’ has been misappropriated; it also means different things to different people. For some it means the cultural flourishing during the Nizam’s rule—but for many it signifies the feudal oppression and torture that took to sustain it.
Each group of students can pick an aspect of the culture developed during this period that is still celebrated today—food, clothes, music or art forms. For example, they could explore contemporary Indian music that borrows from the musical tradition of Qawwalis.
Food is an important historical marker and an intrinsic part of culture that is passed down over generations. Especially in the context of Hyderabad, where annexation caused the loss of a culture as well perpetuated the forgetting of the deaths it brought, forgotten histories can be remembered and celebrated through identifying food that emerged in that period. A project can also be in finding how food culture has changed with migrating and mixing populations. How a cuisine is developed in a region and reflects the society and demography is always enlightening in making history relevant to our lives in the present.
For example, the different kinds and forms of Biriyanis found in India have a history of migration and hyperlocal preferences and traditions, which turns basic rice+meat dishes into so many local variants. Doing a comparative study of the different kinds of biriyani and how and where they were found, developed and morphed can be a group-wise project.
Oral interviews are the foundation for preserving peoples’ history. In order to contextualize the historical facts studied so far, it is useful to read about the experience of people who lived through Operation Polo. Some did not suffer at all, some left everything they owned to travel as refugees across whimsical lines drawn by great men, and others witnessed terrible violence and death. Links to two interviews revealing varied experiences are given below:
Lekhraj Isardas Mohinani who had to flee to Ajmer when he was 10, lost his mother to grief but survived and eked out an existence. https://in.1947partitionarchive.org/story/2271
Maryam Babar, who belonged to an affluent family in Hyderabad was only six when the Police Action began. She had memories of her parents contemplating taking their lives to protect them from the angry mob outside their mansion, and eventually fled from Hyderabad in fear for their lives. https://in.1947partitionarchive.org/story/1959
Students are encouraged to go through these interviews, search for more of these narratives and draw parallels between oral history narratives of major refugee crises happening today. Students can look for stories of refugees travelling from Syria in dangerous conditions to start a life in Europe, or the difficulties Rohingya Muslims are subjected to once they flee persecution. They could also look at climate refugees created by the loss of islands in Sundarbans. Comparing refugee experiences from different spatial and temporal intervals might help students create empathetic connections that humanize for them peoples’ histories.
RESEARCH PROJECT IDEAS
I. Give students a list of names of what are now states in the Indian Union that had not become part of the republic by 1947, for instance Manipur, Goa, etc. Divide the class in groups and assign each group the task of researching the trajectory of their accession in the Indian Union.
II. In groups have the students research the Telangana Peasants' Movement. Have them look up recognized/acknowledged figures in the Telangana Peasants' Movement (Chakali Ilamma, etc.). They could then make a chart of faces associated with the Telangana Movement. Who would make it to the chart and what info about them would they want to share on the chart? This could also be done via asking students to conduct and manage a 'Telangana Peasants' Movement awareness week' on social media.
III. Organize a debate in class on Hyderabad's inclusion in the Indian Union. This could let students view ‘nation-forming’ as the complex, often messy process it was in the Indian context.
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