India in the Time of Gandhi

9145.essay-gandhiDhirendra K Jha in Open the Magazine:

History, or certainly its interpretation, is always fraught with risk, but it would seem that one crucial episode of Indian history, the events leading up to the annexation of Hyderabad and the years immediately after, should have been studied well enough for there to be little reason for controversy. But the position taken by Ramachandra Guha in a recent debate with Prakash Karat that unfolded on the pages of Caravan magazine suggests that neither are the facts of the episode known well enough, nor are their interpretations anywhere near settled.

While the debate between the two has more to do with the contemporary situation of the Indian Left, Guha has managed to roil the Left with his controversial remark relating to the Communist-led peasant rebellion that swept through the Telangana portion of Hyderabad princely state at the dawn of Independence. The uprising against the Nizam’s autocratic regime began in 1946. Though the Nizam surrendered to the Union in September 1948 when the Indian Army entered Hyderabad, the peasant rebellion against landlords continued and was formally withdrawn by Communists only in October 1951. For almost a year after India’s independence, the Nizam did his utmost to block Hyderabad’s accession to the Union. Around the middle of 1947, the Nizam, fearful of losing control, sought to play the Muslim card; at his behest, Kasim Razavi, president of the Majlis-i-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen, created a paramilitary body of Islamic supremacists called Razakars. The Ittehad and its corps of Razakars started a reign of terror to keep Hyderabad an independent Islamic state and the Nizam its representative and symbol of sovereignty.

What Guha wrote in his reply to Karat, published in the November 2011 issue of Caravan, was this: ‘These Islamic supremacists (Razakars) came to the fore in the middle of 1947, whereupon they advised the Nizam not to join the Indian Union. This was a demand the communists were sympathetic to, since they thought an independent Hyderabad would be more congenial to a Leninist revolution.’