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Hyderabad’s ‘Liberation’ or ‘Integration’?: Why 17 Sept will be political showdown for TRS & BJP

The BJP has planned for year-long celebrations. KCR’s announcement on three-day celebrations came after AIMIM chief Owaisi’s letter to the CM and Union Home Minister Amit Shah on 3 September.

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Hyderabad: Arch-rivals Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), ruling party of state, and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are gearing up for a showdown on 17 September, the day on which the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad became part of the Union of India, about 74 years ago. The recognition and celebration of this day has become a political flashpoint in the state amidst BJP’s growing efforts to establish itself as the key opposition to TRS.

While the BJP, which has been aggressively trying to establish itself in Telangana ahead of the upcoming Assembly polls next year, announced last week that it will celebrate Hyderabad Liberation day in a grandeur way accompanied by year-long celebrations, with Union Home Minister Amit Shah as the Chief guest for a public meeting. Invitations have been sent to the Chief Ministers of Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Telangana.

The K.Chandrasekhar Rao-led government in the state also announced last week that the government will celebrate ‘Telangana National Integration Day’ to mark the occasion. The Chief Minister’s office announced three-day celebrations for the same.

With the BJP and the TRS standing at opposite ends on how the day should be acknowledged, the issue has brought back the focus on Hyderabad’s history and why political parties are taking sides on Hyderabad’s ‘Liberation’ or ‘Integration’ debate.

For the BJP, Hyderabad’s ‘Liberation Day’ is a strong message that the party wants to give to the Hindu community on how the region was liberated from the Nizam rule, said Haragopal, a senior political expert and former professor at University of Hyderabad.

“Given their ideology and key vote bank, the BJP wants to remind people that the ruler was a Muslim, how Hyderabad got liberated from a Nizam’s rule, and about the atrocities committed by Razakars,” he told ThePrint.

The BJP in Telangana is on a high after the party won two crucial bypolls over the last two years and showed a remarkable performance in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) polls in 2020. The party, under its ‘Mission South’, has prioritised Telangana, with its top leaders setting their focus on the state.

From party chief Bandi Sanjay calling himself a “Protector of Hindu Dharma”, to comparing the older parts of Hyderabad to Pakistan due to the high Muslim population in the area, to one of the party MLAs, Raja Singh,getting arrested for making anti-Islamic comments last month, polarisation has been BJP’s way of establishing itself further in Telangana.

The party, in the past few years, has been celebrating Liberation day, but on a much smaller scale. Amit Shah, in 2021, promised that the day would be officially celebrated if BJP comes to power in the next elections in Telangana.

“The day we took freedom from Razakars, 17 September, shall be celebrated as Liberation Day in Telangana,” Shah said last year, who, also on several occasions, said that AIMIM shared parentage as Razakars, a paramilitary force, that committed violent atrocities, killed people, and led a resistance against joining the Union of India.

“Razakars committed horrendous atrocities against the people of Hyd State during freedom struggle. I call upon all to hoist our Tiranga at every burj (bastion) on 17th Sept in remembrance of historically significant burjs that were constructed to bar Nizam’s forces from invading,” Union Tourism Minister Kishan Reddy, who also hails from Telangana, tweeted last month.

Not just KCR, even All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, who was also quite passive about celebrating 17 September, wrote to Union Home Minister and Chief Minister on 3 September that the day should be celebrated as Integration Day. KCR’s announcement to celebrate the day came hours after Owaisi’s letter.

Also Read: ‘Protector of Hindu dharma’ with dozens of hate speech cases — who is arrested BJP MLA Raja Singh

What happened on 17 September 1948?

When India got independence from British rule, all the 500-odd princely states and chiefdoms were given a choice to either join India or Pakistan, or remain independent. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel asked the Nizam of Hyderabad to accede to India after independence, to which the ruler refused, and Hyderabad was declared an independent nation on 15 August 1947.

Although the Nizam was touted as one of the richest men in the world back then, his wealth was a result of the exorbitant taxes collected from the peasants, who were harassed by their landlords for the same. During the same period, under Nizam’s rule, there was a powerful militia called Razakars, headed by Qasim Razvi, the leader of Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), which later transformed to AIMIM, the political party, which is now headed by Asaduddin Owaisi.

The Razakars committed violent crimes against people, terrorised them, suppressed the peasant movement, and the idea of joining the Union of India. In the meantime, a strong peasant movement in Telangana also took shape. The movement, opposing Nizam’s feudalism, was led by the Communists – who, unfortunately, are struggling for visibility in today’s political landscape amidst the aggressive attempts of the mainstream parties to celebrate the merger.

Following the failed negotiations of Hyderabad’s annexure to India, Indian armed forces intervened under ‘Operation Polo’ when Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was the Home Minister. Hyderabad was rid of Nizam’s rule and merged with India on 17 September 1948. This is exactly what the BJP wants to celebrate and it lays emphasis on how Patel freed Hyderabad from the rule of Razzakars and the Nizam.

Why do MIM and TRS call it ‘Integration Day?’

Historians often point out on how ‘Operation Polo’ was a painful memory, especially for the Muslim minority community. The Sundarlal Committee Report, which was submitted in 1949, said that about 27,000-40,000 people were killed during the operation. The report also cited how the Indian troops allegedly indulged in looting, rape, and murder of innumerable Muslims.

Citing the report in his letter written to Amit Shah last week, Asaduddin Owaisi mentioned the mass violence against Muslims during the period, adding that the struggles of people against feudalism are a symbol of Integration than Liberation.

“The common Hindus and Muslims of erstwhile Hyderabad state were advocates of a united India under a democratic, secular, and republican government. This is also reflected in the Sundarlal Committee report. The Committee was appointed by the Government of India to report on the situation after the merger of Hyderabad. The Committee also found that mass violence was committed against common Muslims living in these territories,” Owaisi said in the letter.

“The struggles of the people of erstwhile Hyderabad state against colonialism, feudalism, and autocracy are a symbol of national Integration rather than merely a case of ‘liberation’ of a piece of land,” he said, adding that MIM would conduct a Tiranga rally on motorcycles on that day followed by a public meeting.

KCR’s announcement came on the heels of Asaduddin Owaisi’s letter to the Union Home Minister and the Chief Minister asking them to recognise 17 September as National Integration Day.

The BJP has consistently been alleging that the TRS is reluctant to celebrate Liberation Day officially to not upset AIMIM followers. The MIM got shaped into AIMIM when Qasim Razvi handed over the reins to Asaduddin Owaisi’s grandfather – Abdul Wahed Owaisi, who was not associated with the outfit.

“For many years, this day was never an issue. Now, it has become purely political. A sizable population does not even know why this day is being celebrated. The fight was primarily against feudalism, it was liberation from slavery and Hyderabad was integrated into the country. It’s like political parties are rewriting their own kind of history,” professor Vishweshwar Rao, who freelances at multiple colleges, told ThePrint.

Telangana Congress, which is being massively clouded by the roaring TRS and BJP, welcomed the Union Government’s decision to celebrate Hyderabad Liberation Day, and demanded the Centre to give Rs. 5,000 crore rupees for the year-long celebrations.

(Edited by Siddarth Muralidharan)

Also Read: Cornering YSRCP, alliance in Telangana — what’s in it for TDP, BJP if Naidu returns to NDA fold

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