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The legacy of Razaakars


To avoid joining India, the Hyderabad Nizam helped create a Muslim terror outfit in 1947, and unfortunately that communal divide in what is now Andhra Pradesh, lives on, says Naresh Nunna
TSI | Issue Dated: January 4, 2009
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The legacy of Razaakars His massive palace in the mien of that of the Shah of Iran is one of the hottest tourist destinations in southern India. Now called the Salarjung Museum, it is fabled for its priceless artifacts, statues, jewellery, startling paintings, gorgeous chandeliers and yes, scores of chiming clocks. When they chime all together at noon, they create an ambience that is magically musical. Nizam’s Hyderabad was the largest princely state of India. And yet, though the clocks remained, time ran out for the Nizam’s in 1948.

In 1740s, the State of Hyderabad comprised most of the Deccan Plateau. Mir Qamar-ud-din Asaf Jah became independent of the Mughals and established his kingdom in 1724. Like all princely states under Muslim rulers, Hyderabad too had a Hindu majority. By 1798, the ruler seemed surrounded on all sides by hostile enemies and was forced to come under British protection, though the Nizam’s internal independence stayed guaranteed.

In 1947, the Nizam of Hyderabad was Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan, a man of vast wealth. Dreaming of an independent state, he sought Dominion Status from the British. But the idea was rubbished by Lord Mountbatten. The Indian government was averse to a forced takeover and agreed to conclude a Standstill Agreement. It was hoped that this would open negotiations and the eventual peaceful accession of the state. But the Hindu leadership went against this and the Congress fished in troubled waters.

“It was the Arya Samaj under Swami Ramanand Tirth which led the anti-Nizam movement. Most of his followers joined the Congress by 1946-47,” historian Vavilala Ramalinga Deekshithulu told TSI. According to him, Muslim elites, in turn, set up the Majlis-e-Ittehad ul-Muslimeen, or Organisation for the Unity of Muslims, and believed that Hyderabad's Muslims were its natural hakim kaum, or ruling race. It was deeply influenced by the work of the 19th century revivalist Sayyid Ahmad.

Besieged by the Congress’ demands for democratic elections and the Arya Samaj’s religious mobilisation, Osman Ali Khan responded to the growing violence by proscribing both organisations. He turned to the Majlis for support. In response, Qasim Rizvi, who was in the Nizam’s army, set up the Razaakars as a paramilitary Islamic force. Majlis leaders candidly stated their objective was to “keep the sovereignty of His Exalted Highness intact, and to prevent Hindus from establishing supremacy over Muslims”. In 1947, Rizvi unleashed his forces in support of the Nizam’s claims to independence.

“The leadership of the Arya Samaj also gave a communal colouring to the struggle, with a call for ‘liberation’ of Hyderabad,” an analyst on Telangana affairs, Kesava Rao Jadav told TSI. The acceptance of this term – liberation – by other political parties has lent indirect support to the interpretation of this period in Hindu-Muslim terms. Such an interpretation, which emphasises the religious aspect of liberation from autocracy, becomes a handy tool for sectional political mobilisation. The legacy of Razaakars The Nizam's autocracy undoubtedly had an anti-Hindu streak. His administration was largely Muslim, Urdu was imposed on the people. The Nizam administered a system in which religious affiliation was a key source of legitimacy. Although Muslims made up just 10 per cent of the population, they held three-quarters of all state jobs. And of the seven major feudal estates, six were controlled by Muslim notables.

During the course of this struggle, the people built up a powerful militia comprising 10,000 village squads members and about 2,000 regular guerillas, defending the peasantry against the armed attacks of the Razaakars and Nizam's police. “However, Hindu landowners formed part of Nizam's support base. A section of Dalits joined the Razaakars, and a number of Hindu monasteries lent support to Nizam,” renowned journalist and Telangana expert Dr Ambati S Raju told TSI.

Ironically, thousands of Muslims along with Hindus, who collectively opposed Osman Ali Khan, were killed before the Indian Army swept in in September 1948. The surrender of the Nizam on September 18, 1948, did represent for the people of Hyderabad state liberation from the repressive hold of feudal autocracy, not communal supremacy, as some have interpreted. Historians also often suppress the fact that thousands of Muslims were massacred by Hindu communal elements after the take over. “Because of communal enmity towards Muslims, the heinous atrocities in Marathwada and Hyderabad-Karnataka region were buried on the sly,” Sangisetti Srinivas of Hyderabad Central University said. Several thousand Muslim men were killed, their women raped or forced to commit suicide. Muslim properties were burnt and their agricultural lands grabbed, forcing large-scale migration to Hyderabad city, he added.

Muslims suffered insecurity with the trifurcation of Hyderabad. The official language was no longer Urdu, so thousands of Muslim employees, who only knew that, became jobless. This deprivation, which began in the early 1950s, got accentuated with the systematic exploitation of Telangana. Rizvi was eventually captured and imprisoned. He was finally expelled to Pakistan – some say he fled – in 1957, but the story did not end there. The Majlis was reborn in 1957 under the leadership of the affluent cleric and lawyer, Abdul Wahid Owaisi. Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, his son, took over in 1976. Salahuddin sons, Member of Parliament Asaduddin Owaisi and MIM floor leader in Andhra Pradesh legislative Assembly, Akbaruddin Owaisi are, in turn, now its most visible faces.

But repeated communal violence marred the Majlis’ repute. The decade of 1960s saw riots in eight years. After 1978, the trend took a turn for the worse. Except for the period 1986-89 (the NTR’s regime), riots took place virtually every year between 1978 and 1993, often many times in the same year. Majlis leaders had the resources to defend the city’s Muslims, and slowly became their sole spokespersons. With the Congress and the Majlis locked in political duel, Hindu nationalist forces were able to represent themselves as the sole credible defenders of their interests. Violence served the political interests of all sides, bestowing a unique inheritance of communal hatred in the minds of present generation.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017