How Sardar Patel prevented Hyderabad from becoming another Pakistan – Operation Polo

If I am asked to prepare a list of leaders who could be truly called “The Makers of Modern India”, I can say for sure that the Iron Man of India, Sardar Patel, would be on the top in my list. Unfortunately, his own Congress party has not acknowledged his herculean efforts in shaping up the nation, especially when it was most vulnerable during its transition from British-rule to Self-rule. Even the school textbooks, which are nothing but propagandic tools by prevailing Govts to brainwash children, have never given Sardar Patel his due credit. Not just the textbooks, but even best-selling books by popular authors have denied the credit which Patel deserves. When Ramachandra Guha released his book “Makers of Modern India”, I was shocked when I could not find a mention of Sardar Patel in his long list of 19 Indians. 

That was when I decided to narrate youngsters about Sardar Patel’s achievements and as part of the effort, had recently given a brief overview of his role as visionary & architect of India here:

Today, we shall go into the details of the Hyderabad problem during 1940s, and find out how Sardar Patel prevented Hyderabad from turning out into another Pakistan.

A little bit of history to begin with. The state of Hyderabad ruled by the Asaf dynasty traces its origins to the late 17th century when Asaf Jah from Turkey was appointed by the Mughals as the Nizam-ul-Mulk (Governer) of Southern Province. As the Mughal rule weakened during the early 18th century, Asaf Jah seized control & established himself as the Nizam, and hence began the dynasty lineage of Nizams of Hyderabad which continued for the next 200+ years, with Osman Ali Khan being the last Nizam.
Under Osman Ali Khan (Nizam Usman Ali Khan) in the 20th century, Hyderabad was not only prosperous but also was recognized as the richest state, and the Nizam Osman Ali Khan was the richest man in the world, regularly being featured in international magazines like TIME.
Although Hyderabad was in a subsidiary alliance with British, the state was actually self-reliant, had its own currency (Hyderabadi Rupee), its own army, railway network, radio network, postal system etc.
Hence, during independence of India in 1947, when Lord Mountbatten offered all the 565 princely states the choice of either acceding to India or Pakistan, the Nizam of Hyderabad wanted to choose neither, and was adamant on remaining as an independent state ruled by own Govt. While most of the 565 princely states, were signing the instrument of accession without making much noise, the Nizam of Hyderabad turned out to be a tough nut to crack. The Nizam sought to buy more time by getting into a “Standstill agreement”, for the next 1 year to maintain status quo. This had not gone down well with Sardar Patel, because he could sense some foulplay in the Nizam’s strategies & intention.
The main reason Patel opposed the plan & suspected the Nizam’s intention, was due to the geography of the state. Hyderabad state was right in the middle of India, surrounded by land on all sides. It was basic common sense that any prosperous country would need ports for sea route (for the purposes of trading, navy etc), but the Nizam was least bothered about building relations with India, which meant that he had some other plans in his mind. That’s when Sardar Patel setup an investigation team to find out what the Nizam was upto, and it was found that the Nizam was actually trying to strike a deal with Jinnah to use Karachi port. i.e Hyderabad was trying to build friendly relations with Pakistan, while at the same time, being hostile to India.

Also, it was found that Hyderabad had agreed to give a loan of Rs 20 crore to Pakistan (which was against the “Standstill agreement”). Pakistan was planning to use that Rs 20 crore to buy arms & ammunition for war against India over the Kashmir issue. In a way, the Nizam of Hyderabad was planning to fund Pakistan army for its war against India. Thanks to Sardar Patel’s timely intervention, Hyderabad was forced to hold the loan sanction to Pakistan till the end of the standstill agreement.


Although Sardar Patel managed to pull the Nizam away from Jinnah (thereby not allowing Hyderabad to become a part of Pakistan), the state was still in the standstill agreement, which meant that there was still a probability of Hyderabad carving out itself as a separate nation. Any such over-ambitious plans could have been laughed-off as a hazy dream, and the Govt of India could have simply waited for the fizzle to die down over time, after which one would have expected the state to automatically approach Govt of India and acceded to Indian Union. But this was not the case with Hyderabad, because it had Razakars, a group of religious fundamentalists (rather militants) who were determined to establish Hyderabad as an Islamic Caliphate at any cost, and as you might have already guessed, they had complete backing of none other than the Nizam himself.
The history of Razakars traces back to the 1920s when upon the advice of Osman Ali Khan, a political party called “Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM)” was formed to protect Islamic interests of Hyderabad and whose ultimate aim was to establish Islamic Supremacy. In order to further the agenda of the party, it had a paramilitary wing which used to train hundreds of thousands of volunteers including brainwashed children, and these militants were called “Razakars”.
These Razakars were not only militant in nature but also highly ideological, with their moral policing being the norm throughout the state, with their tentacles reaching out all the way into offices as well as schools, to ensure everything was in line with their agenda of Islamic Supremacy. If you had read the book “Insider” (written by PV Narasimha Rao) I had recommended few days ago, you will be able to recollect the following excerpt from the book which depicts how anything, be it nationalism or even freedom struggle, which was not in line with their agenda, would be considered a taboo, and children were chided for venturing into such “immoral” paths. (Anand was PVN’s childhood name when he was a student in Hyderabad)

By the mid 1940s, as the independence of India was imminent, the firebrand militant leader Kasim Razvi (Qasim Razvi) who headed the Razakars, seized it as an opportunity to fulfill the organization’s agenda. His idea was to carve out Hyderabad as a new Islamic nation and drew inspiration from Rahmat Ali’s plan to rename Hyderabad as Osmanistan.
By 1948, Kasim Razvi (Qasim Razvi) had galvanized more than 2 lakh Razakars to demonstrate his show of strength, threaten & thereby use it as a tactic to blackmail Govt of India into submitting to the demands of Razakars to allow Hyderabad to become an independent Islamic nation (A similar strategy called “Direct Action Day” was used by Jinnah to blackmail Congress leaders to accept creation of Pakistan). The Razakars had a women’s wing as well in which girls were trained guerrilla warfare & even trained to become experts in Guns!!
When Sardar Patel invited Kasim Razvi to work out on a feasible & practical solution, Razvi was ruthless & arrogant throughout his meeting with Sardar. He wanted nothing less than an independent nation for Hyderabad, and he even hinted at Patel that if Govt of India tried to intervene in this matter, he would order his Razakars to “get rid of” all Hindus of Hyderabad. The following video clip from the movie “Sardar” dramatizes this meeting pretty well:

Subsequently, in his public speeches, Kasim Razvi encouraged not just Razakars but also all people of his community to revolt, and in several speeches, openly called for violence, as the following excerpt describes in detail.

When Govt of India refused to budge even after his repeated threats, Kasim Razvi turned furious and instigated his Razakar militants to go on a rampage. Looting, arson, murder, rape, destruction was drastically increasing throughout Hyderabad. The following statistics suggests the magnitude of the communal violence by Razakars which was tearing apart the prosperous state of Hyderabad.

By September 1948, the madness was at its peak. The Hindus who but were subjugated to violence by the 2 lakh Razakars, despite Hindus surprisingly comprising an overwhelming majority of around 85% of Hyderabad population, felt helpless & looked to Sardar Patel to save them.


Sardar Patel did not want to wait any longer. In the first week of September 1948, Patel called for a high level meeting with Indian Army to explore ways to march troops into Hyderabad and take control as a form of “police action”. Unfortunately, Nehru was not in favor of such “police action”, and even tried to delay the operation, but Patel who was determined to resolve this issue at any cost, bypassed Nehru & gave the green signal to Army to march ahead.


In the early hours of 13th September 1948, under the code-name “Operation Polo”, Indian troops under Major General Chaudhuri started marching into Hyderabad. It was a two-pronged advance, with the main force along the Sholapur-Hyderabad road (186 miles), and a smaller diversion along the Bezwada-Hyderabad road (160 miles).
hyd_mapWith “state of the art” military equipments (of the 1940s), the Indian Army was generations ahead of Hyderabad Army, and the Razakars who were just guerrilla militants started falling like a pack of cards.
However, the Hyderabad Army & Razakars still managed to put up a brave fight, but within 100 hours, “it was all over”.  On 17th September 1948, the Nizam went on air & announced ceasefire. On 18th September 1948, the formal surrender ceremony was held at 4 pm in which he Hyderabad Army, led by Major General El-Edroos, surrendered to General Chaudhari leading the Indian Army.
This was followed by a high level meeting between Sardar Patel & Nizam Osman Ali Khan, in which the Nizam assured that in spite of all that happened in the past, he shall now be loyal to the Indian Union and work in the closest collaboration with the Government of India for the benefit of his people. In this manner, Sardar Patel had strategically prevented Hyderabad from becoming an independent Islamic nation like Pakistan right in the middle of the Indian sub-continent.patel_nizam
What happened to the militant revolution of establishing Islamic supremacy? The militant Razakar group was banned, its leader Kasim Razvi was arrested, and the court upon finding him guilty in 1948, sentenced him to life imprisonment. But it laid the condition that if Razvi wished to go to Pakistan after his release, then the sentence could be reduced. Finally, in 1957, upon his release, for one last time (before leaving for Pakistan), Razvi visited Hyderabad to check the status of his political party “Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM)”. The party which had become dormant needed a strong successor for revival, and Razvi chose Abdul Wahid Owaisi to lead the militant party whose vision was to “Establish Islamic Supremacy”.

Abdul Wahed Owaisi took up complete responsibility of the party from Kasim Razvi and as part of the restructuring process, renamed it to “All-India-Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM)” to reflect the party’s ambitions of growing into an All-India party. Over the decades, 
descendants of Abdul Wahed Owaisi took charge of the party (his son Salahuddin Owaisi had joined hands with Indira Gandhi of Congress party), and the party is now headed by Salahuddin’s sons, the Owaisi brothers (Akbaruddin Owaisi & Asaduddin Owaisi) who are still carrying out the legacy of firebrand communal politics of Kasim Razvi, and are also infamous for their inflammatory speeches.

To receive notifications of insightful articles like these in future, consider subscribing by entering your email address & confirming it from your inbox.

  • Enter your email id