On the eve of Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary last year, that is, on October 30, 2012, the Pioneer of New Delhi published a news report which said that following some sharp comments made by Prime Minister Nehru in which he disapproved Sardar Patel’s decision to send the Army into Hyderabad, Sardar Patel walked out of an important Cabinet Committee meeting.
A major controversy has erupted since then more particularly after I used the Pioneer news story in one of my blogs. The news story was no doubt based on a Malayalam book written by an IAS officer Shri M K K Nayar who passed away in 1987. As I mentioned in one of my later blogs, the book has now been translated into English, but it is still to be published.
But those who are disputing the contents of the Malayalam book affirm that the so called differences over the Hyderabad action are the product of the author’s partisan imagination. They keep emphasising the fact that M K K Nayar could not have been privy to what happened at a Committee meeting of the Government of India.
I have before me a 621-page extremely well documented book written by Dr., K.M. Munshi way back in 1967. It is titled “Pilgrimage to Freedom”. Munshi was India’s Agent General in Hyderabad before the Police Action. I am reproducing at some length excerpts from a chapter of this volume about the armed action in Hyderabad. This chapter provides clinching evidence from a participant in the crucial episode that the events mentioned in the Malayalam book are substantially correct.
The chapter opens with these tell-tale paragraphs :
The most ambitious of Indian Princes was the Nizam of Hyderabad who declared on June 12, 1947, that “the departure of the paramount power in the near future will mean that I shall become entitled to resume the status of an independent sovereign.” He also demanded the ‘retrocession’ of Berar, that had once formed part of his State, and started negotiations with Portugal to acquire the port of Goa, to secure an outlet for his State to the sea.
The Nizam had set his heart on becoming a “Third Dominion’ of the British Commonwealth. Sir Conrad Corfield, the Adviser to the Crown Representative, was reported to be its sponsor. It is possible that he himself had presented the idea to the Nizam in the first instance.
On November 29, 1947, after prolonged negotiations, a one-year Standstill Agreement was signed between Hyderabad and India. Sardar, in his statement to the Constituent Assembly on that occasion, expressed the hope that during that period the way would be paved for the permanent accession of Hyderabad.
Sardar asked me (Dr. K.M. Munshi) to go to Hyderabad as the Agent-General of the Union of India, as one had to be appointed by each party under the terms of the Standstill Agreement. When I consulted Gandhiji, he approved of the idea; so I accepted the commission, but refused to take any remuneration”.
The chapter goes on to add :
“My (K.M. Munshi’s) position in Hyderabad was most embarrassing to me because of the parallel approaches to the Hyderabad problem by those who held power in New Delhi. Sardar and V.P. Menon were dealing with the situation through me to secure the accession of the State on the same terms as the accession of other States. Lord Mountbatten, the Governor-General, carried on negotiations with the Nizam’s Prime Minister, Laik Ali, supported by Sir Walter Monckton, and was prepared to concede substantial autonomy to Hyderabad if the Nizam only signed a document to come into the Union.
Jawaharlal Nehru was averse to the line followed by Sardar. At one stage, it was suggested to Sardar that I should be replaced by someone else at Hyderabad. Sardar would not think of it. More than once I was disgusted at being distrusted by my Prime Minister, having had to provide independent corroboration every time I reported an atrocity on the part of the Ittehad. I would have thrown up the job but for Sardar’s confidence in me.
As the Hyderabad situation was inexorably moving towards a climax, due to the intransigence of the Nizam and his advisers, Sardar considered it advisable to let the Nizam’s Government know clearly that the patience of the Government of India was fast getting exhausted. Accordingly a communication to that effect was sent from the States Ministry by V.P. Menon.
When Jawaharlal Nehru came to hear of this, he was extremely upset. A day before our army was scheduled to march into Hyderabad he called a special meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, excluding the three Chiefs of Staff. The meeting, held in the Prime Minister’s room, was attended by Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar, Maulana Azad, the then Defence and Finance Ministers, the State Secretary V.P. Menon and the Defence Secretary H.M. Patel.
The discussion had scarcely begun when Jawaharlal Nehru flew into a rage and upbraided Sardar for his action and attitude towards Hyderabad. He also directed his wrath against V.P. Menon. He concluded his outburst with the remark that in future he would himself attend to all matters relating to Hyderabad. The vehemence of his attack, as well as its timing, shocked everyone present. Throughout the outburst Sardar sat still without uttering a word. He then rose and left the meeting accompanied by V.P. Menon. The meeting dispersed without transacting any business.
V.P. Menon registered his protest by letting Jawaharlal Nehru know that if that was how he felt about things there was no point in his (Menon’s) continuing in the States Ministry.
By then the Prime Minister felt that he had overshot the mark and apologized to Menon. He never carried out his threat to take the Hyderabad portfolio out of Sardar’s hands, and the latter adhered to his schedule regarding the police action. There was no further discussion between the two on the subject of Hyderabad.
Shri V.P. Menon and H.M. Patel have borne out the truth of the foregoing incident.
Even a little while before zero hour for the police action attempts were made by the British army chief to defer action, but Sardar stuck to the time-table and our forces marched into Hyderabad.
Swift action followed. No sooner had the military appeared on the scene than the straw-stuffed power of the Nizam collapsed.
V.P. Menon’s book “The Integration of States” reports a speech by Kasim Rizvi that if the Indian Dominion comes to Hyderabad it will find nothing but the bones and ashes of the one and half crores of Hindus.
On September 13th the Army’s Operation Polo commenced. On September 17th the Operation ended and Laik Ali and his cabinet tendered their resignation. The same day the Nizam told his army to surrender to the Indian Armed Forces. There was not a single communal incident in the entire country.
After the successful Army Action, Shri K.M. Munshi tendered his resignation from the office of Agent General. The States Ministry issued a press note generously acknowledging how Munshiji had worked with single minded devotion to achieve the task assigned to him.
Munshi says in his book- Pilgrimage to Freedom :
When I was back in Delhi Sardar insisted that I should call on Jawaharlal Nehru as a matter of courtesy. When I went to the Prime Minister’s office in Parliament House, he came out in the ante-room and frigidly accosted me: “Hello Munshi”. “I have come to call on you, now that I am back in Delhi,” I said. He almost turned as if to go; then he turned round, shook hands with me and left.
I told Sardar how sorry I was to have accepted his advice to see Jawaharlal Nehru. Sardar laughed and said: “Some of them are angry that you helped in liquidating the Ittehad power. Some others are angry that you did not allow them to remove the Nizam from Hyderabad straightway. Some cannot vent their anger on me, and therefore make you the target.”
L. K. Advani
19 November, 2013