Memoirs of a City to Hyderabad – A Biography

The Police Action against Hyderabad was started on Monday, 13th September 1948. There was hardly any resistance from the Hyderabad forces.

On Friday, 16th September the Director General of Police, Deen Yar Jung called Zafar, the executive incharge of the Deccan Radio to broadcast only music. The Indian forces were hardly thirty miles away.

On the morning of the 17th, Kasim Razvi rang up the Deccan Radio to say that he wanted to contradict rumours that he had fled Hyderabad. He was asked to come to the studio at 10-30.A.M. Then Zafar realized that in the new circumstances, he ought to take the permission of the controller of broadcasting for that. He was not to be found. He contacted ADC to the Prime Minister. He had gone to meet the Nizam. Razvi’s talk was delayed by over half-an-hour. He made a brief speech, starting on a strident note but sobering down to assure people that he would not desert them.

At noon, a messenger brought a personal note from the Nizam to K.M.Munshi asking him whether he could see the Nizam at 4-00 p.m. He had not granted Munshi an interview since his appointment as India’s Agent General ten months ago.

Earlier, the Nizam had spent the morning in hectic consultations. His premier had seen him twice already. The Nizam had summoned him the previous day and asked for his resignation by the morning of the next day. The cabinet decided to resign forthwith.

As soon as Munshi entered the sitting room, the desolate ruler said: “The vultures have resigned. I don’t know what to do”. He handed him his premier, Laik Ali’s letter of resignation. His hands were shaking. He had had this problem for some time which became pronounced when he was tense or angry.

Munshi had come to know about the resignation earlier from Laik Ali himself. He said: “I am worried about the citizens of Hyderabad. There is no government. The troops and the police have disappeared from the streets. General Choudhuri will take a day or so to reach because the approaches to the city have been mined. I suggest that Your Highness may ask General El Edroos to take steps to preserve law and order in the city”.

The Nizam noted that Munshi had not used the word ‘Exalted’ before Highness. But it was no occasion to point it out. He asked that the Army Commander be sent for.

“Munshi Saheb says that steps have to be taken to maintain law and order in the city. What do you say?” The Nizam asked General El –Edroos.

“Yes, Exalted Highness. The proper course is that I should take charge of the city and surrender it to General Choudhuri when he arrives”.

“Go ahead”, he said. Then turning to Munshi, added, “I am sending a chartered plane to Sir Mirza Ismail. He must carry on the government”.

Munshi was surprised. Obviously the Nizam had not grasped the full gravity of the situation. He still thought he was the master. Munshi put him wise: “I have no communication from my Government so far. I don’t know whether they would like Sir Mirza to take charge. But some arrangements must be made meanwhile to carry on the administration so that innocent blood is not shed needlessly”.

They discussed the possible composition of the new interim government. Munshi did that without any brief from Delhi.

He suggested that the Nizam may make a broadcast welcoming the Police Action and withdrawing his complaint to the Security Council.

“Broadcast!” The Nizam repeated the word as his glazed eyes met Munshi’s. The latter helped by paraphrasing the term – “I mean speak on the radio.”

“But how does one broadcast?” asked the Nizam innocently.

Munshi explained.

It was the Nizam’s first visit to the Radio Station. There no red carpet was spread for him; no formalities were observed. No music, no anthem was played before or after the broadcast. The speech was in English. Nobody bothered to translate it into Urdu.

He was nervous, as all broadcasters are when they first face the microphone. The gravity of the occasion and the text of the broadcast added to that. All the braggadocio had been done on his behalf by others. He had signed some letters indicating his intractability. But now he had to eat his words and reverse his stand in his own voice which would be heard all over the world. The glory of defiance had belonged to others; the humiliation of public apology was his.

At that moment an era ended. While the Indian army was yet to arrive, the old order had already collapsed.

After the broadcast the Nizam drove back to King Kothi to brood. Munshi on his way to Bolarum found the streets full of excited crowds shouting national slogans. Munshi was mobbed and had to address groups of people enroute. They wanted to be told by India’s official representative that they were now part of the great motherland.

That night the city changed a great deal. Many khaki uniforms were discarded, many beards shaved. The shouting, rampaging crowds of razakars disappeared magically. The citizens emerged from their cocoons. People of all ages came out in throngs waving the tricolours of India. Suddenly where there was fear and restraint, now there was life and laughter. There was a general release of tension and a new, quivering anticipation.

Earlier, it had been agreed that the surrender ceremony would take place 8 kilometres out of the city at midday on the 18th. But the progress of the march of the army was slower than expected. The mines laid on the way by the Hyderabad forces were posing problems. The ceremony was therefore postponed to 4 p.m.

General Edroos was waiting at the appointed place with one aide. General Choudhuri reached the spot dot on time.

The two adversaries stood facing each other. Both were slim and tall — about the same height. Edroos in his beret cap, tucked-in shirt, rolled-up sleeves, leather belt, and his swagger stick under his left arm; Choudhuri in his peaked cap, full-sleeved bush coat and without his baton. Edroos saluted. Choudhuri returned it and then spoke gravely:

“I have been ordered by Lt. General Maharaj Rajendresinhji, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command to take the surrender of your army”.

“You have it”.
“You understand that this surrender is unconditional”.
“Yes, I understand”.

Choudhuri’s grim visage melted into a smile. He stretched his hand and shook Edroos by the hand. Then he opened his cigarette case and offered him a cigarette. Edroos pro-offered a lighter. Choudhuri’s team joined them.

The party drove to the residence of India’s Agent General. A jubilant crowd cheered the victorious general there. He waved in return and then sat down to discuss the details with Munshi, Edroos and others.

Crowds had begun to gather at the corner of the Parade Ground in Secunderabad since morning to greet the Indian army.

It was a sea of humanity, heads, heads, heads, bare and covered. Men and women, ten deep, twenty deep, children on shoulders, on heads of adults, young people perched on the railings, on tree-tops, even on telephone poles. It was a riot of colours, dresses of all types in all the colours of rainbow, only deeper, like a field of flowers of different hues. And then tricolours, thousands of them, each hand holding one, even two, green, white and ochre, fluttering joyously. Flags made of cloth, and of paper quivered in the gentle breeze. They reflected the frisson of the hands holding them. There was clapping and wild cheering, shouting and shrieking. People threw flowers at soldiers sitting on top of armoured cars and waving to crowds. Suddenly, garlands would land on the vehicles. Throngs of people shouting slogans which could not be uttered till the previous day.

‘Quami nara’ – a shrill, lone voice shouted. And the mob shouted back in unison, in a loud abandon — Jai Hind. This was taken up and repeated from different groups.

“Mahatma Gandhi” cried one voice — “Ki Jai” responded the chorus.

‘Pandit Nehru’ … ‘Zindabad’
‘Sardar Patel’ … ‘Zindabad’
‘General Choudhuri’ … ‘Zindabad’
‘Hindustani Fauj’ … ‘Zindabad’
‘Bharat Mata’ … ‘Ki Jai’

There was no order, no sequence but one slogan followed another without any interruption. Each time as a thousand throats shouted in unison flags went up. The din multiplied. Far in the distance some people were dancing. There was celebration everywhere. People had this brief spell to squander recklessly all their pent-up emotions of these past weeks when the flame of life had burnt low.

They were now free!

There were friendly cross-talks between the soldiers and the spectators at the turnings of the road. Near the Plaza Talkies, a soldier shouted: “We have driven out the razakars from the field. Tell us where the rest are.”

The crowd shouted back: “Everywhere”!

Somebody suddenly shouted: ‘ Razakar’ — and the crowds roared:‘Murdabad’.

But that was a discordant note. The chant-leaders brought them back to the cycle of recitation of Zindabads. It was a positive, hallowed moment. Let it not be marred by negative outbursts.

Then light began to fade. Vans were going up and down announcing the imposition of the curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. The crowds began to melt. They hurried to reach their houses in time. There would be celebrations there too.

Soon there was quiet everywhere. Silence and knowledge of security such as the city had not felt for the last many months overcame it. A feeling of peace wrapped it, like a snug coverlet. It too slid into asleep — exhausted and relieved.

Tomorrow would be a new dawn.

* * *