Hyderabad: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been celebrating 17 September as ‘Liberation Day’ ever since the state of Telangana was formed in 2014. But the party has been demanding state recognition of this day, which commemorates the accession of the princely state of Hyderabad to India in 1948, for over a decade now.
This demand was levelled up during Home Minister Amit Shah’s public gathering in Hyderabad Friday, where he said the BJP will commemorate ‘Liberation Day’ when it comes to power in 2024.
However, Shah’s speech specifically on Liberation Day is part of the BJP’s larger Hindu-Muslim politics to expand its footprint in Telangana. The speech also focused on the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), which shares the same parentage as the dreaded Razakars of Hyderabad state, and the party’s chief Asaduddin Owaisi, who is a close ally of Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao.
“When BJP comes to power (in 2024) we will celebrate Hyderabad Liberation Day. We are not scared of MIM or anyone. The day we took freedom from Razakars is 17 September and that day shall be celebrated as Liberation Day in Telangana,” said Shah at the gathering.
When India got independence from the British, all the 500-odd princely states and chiefdoms were given a choice to join India or Pakistan or remain independent. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel asked the Nizam to accede to India after independence, the ruler refused and Hyderabad was declared an independent nation on 15 August 1947.
The Nizam established a feudal state and under him, the Razakars carried out violent atrocities against the people of Hyderabad and also molested women. This eventually led to a rebellion against the Nizam.
“People rebelled against feudalism. They wanted their rights on the lands, equal representation in the administration. And that led to the whole movement in the state against the Nizam ruling and the Razakars,” Professor Kodandaram, activist and founder of the party Telangana Jana Samithi, told ThePrint.
Indian armed forces then intervened, when Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was the Home Minister, and the state of Hyderabad was annexed from the Nizam with ‘Operation Polo’ on 17 September 1948.
This is what the BJP wants to be commemorated as ‘liberation’ from the Nizam and Razakars.
However, experts noted that the Hyderabad freedom movement did not have a Hindu-Muslim angle since people from both communities were part of both the Nizam’s administration as well as the resistance movement.
Reacting to Shah’s statement later in the day, MP Owaisi called himself the ‘Laila’ of politics, saying the focus of different parties is always on him.
“Be it BJP, Congress or TRS — all of them are praising ‘Laila’ … all of them are talking just about Owaisi and MIM. They can’t see anyone else except us. Even we are not scared of anyone … Home Minister Amit Shah is really troubled that he came to our constituency, to Charminar, but lost both wards. UP CM was made to roam for four hours in our constituency … but no use, they lost. So, they’re troubled about it and they’re expressing it this way. Why are they talking about ‘fear’ in a democracy? In a democracy, should they not instil confidence in minorities? They’re the ruling government, majority … why are they talking about ‘fear?,” he said.
BJP on AIMIM-TRS ties
After Hyderabad’s accession to India, Qasim Razvi was jailed for almost a decade and then released in 1957 on the condition that he will leave for Pakistan. It is then that Razvi handed over the reins to Abdul Wahid Owaisi, Asaduddin’s grandfather, who rebranded the organisation as AIMIM.
This connection of the AIMIM and Owaisi to the erstwhile MIM and the Razakars has been consistently evoked by the BJP.
The party has even said Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi do not observe 17 September as ‘Liberation Day’ because of the former’s close ties with the AIMIM party chief.
At the public meeting Friday, Shah implied that KCR was scared of Asaduddin.
“CM KCR, at the time of separate state agitation, promised he would observe liberation day- but why is he not doing it now? Who is he scared of? Does CM not remember people’s sacrifices?” said Shah.
K.T. Rama Rao, KCR’s son, responded to Shah’s comments Saturday and said that for the Telangana government, 2 June — when Telangana was officially carved out — is the ‘Liberation Day’.
This is a U-turn from the promise made by KCR during the separate state agitation, of observing 17 September as ‘Liberation Day’.
Rao further said that the party does observe the day but the state government will not support any efforts or let anyone use liberation day as a tool to target one particular community.
Meanwhile, Asaduddin Owaisi has always been against commemorating the day and had also said it would open up old wounds.
Shah’s meeting also came in the wake of a crucial Huzurabad bypoll in the state. It was also held at Veyi Udala Marri, where the Razakars allegedly killed 1,000 people fighting against the Nizam near a banyan tree at Udala Marri.
The Hyderabad state under the Nizam rulers constituted the present Telangana region, the Marathwada region of Maharashtra and parts of Karnataka.
Shah Friday also said that Karnataka and Maharashtra observed Liberation Day, then why wasn’t Telangana.
No Hindu-Muslim angle, say experts
While BJP has been promoting the ‘Liberation Day’ issue as a Hindu-Muslim one, according to experts, the freedom movement of Hyderabad had no such communal angle.
“The (rebellion) movement was led by the Communist Party, Hyderabad State Congress (not part of Indian National Congress then) and socialists. BJP was not even in the picture,” said Kodandaram.
He added: “This was never a Hindu vs Muslims issue. There were a lot of Hindu ministers in the administration who supported the Razakars and the Hindu community fought against them too. Similarly, a lot of Muslims opposed Razakars atrocities and fought against them.”
According to senior political analyst Nageshwar Rao, the BJP is trying to project 17 September as a day when Hindus got freedom from the Muslim king’s rule.
“But, in reality that was not the case. Both communities together fought against the administration. But because there is this Hindu-Muslim angle to it, even ruling party has refrained from celebrating it anyway because of their relationship with MIM. The party is under opinion that talking against Nizam might hurt Muslim sentiments and votes. But, what is the relation between Nizam and Muslims?” Rao said.
Columnist Mohan Guruswamy highlighted that several Hindus were also part of the Nizam’s administration, even though it was predominantly Muslim.
“It is said that the Deshmukhs helped Razakars. One of the key persons in the Communist Party which spearheaded the movement was Khaja Moiunddin – then how is this a Hindu-Muslim fight? BJP is creating a Hindu-Muslim cleavage here again. A clear attempt to polarise and break communal harmony,” said Guruswamy.
Independent researcher Faisal C.K., meanwhile, pointed out that Razakars terrorised the Hindu community and the MIM supported these activities.
He also noted that during Nizam’s rule 50 per cent people spoke Telugu, 25 per cent spoke Marathi, 11 per cent Kannada and hardly 1.2 per cent spoke Urdu.
Furthermore, Muslims constituted less than 15 per cent of the population but held 75 per cent of the positions in bureaucracy.
According to Professor Hargopal, senior political expert, the BJP is cashing in on Muslims’ vulnerability.
“Muslims in Hyderabad still have a feeling that once they were the ruling class, that soft corner for Nizam rule will be there. And distorting history and presenting it, especially when people do not know what happened exactly will obviously help them with the polarisation. They’re talking about Sardar Patel and his operation — he was a Congressman, secular and in fact banned RSS,” he added.
This report has been updated with MP and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi’s comments.