Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Trial of Hyder

The erstwhile Hyderabad State ruled by the Nizams and its accession to the Indian Union is a fascinating part of the making of this nation. At one end were the nationalists represented by the congress and other players in the freedom struggle including the Hindu Mahasabha advocating the integration of Hyderabad with the Indian Union. At another end was the defiant Nizam who wanted to exercise the choice of staying independent and just negotiate on aspects that Hyderabad would like to co-operate [such as defence and currency] with the Indian Union. A supplementary angle that brought in the people’s movement in Telangana against the oppression of the Landlords or the Zamindars; a rag-tag army of Razakars trying to fight hand in glove with the Nizam in order to retain the autonomy added flavour. The fact that about 80% of the population was Hindu, spoke three different tongues and for centuries were under Islamic rule adopting an alien tongue for official and court dealings added more to the variety.

There is a strand of literature that examines aspects on whether Hyderabad should have indeed been integrated with the Indian Union; whether the military action [though given a civilian term - Police Action] should have indeed happened; and an associated strand on whether the State should have been trifurcated on linguistic basis. A fascinating book “Hyderabad: After the Fall” Edited by Omar Khalidi brings out the diverse arguments that were drowned out under the nationalist rhetoric.

When one looked at the book October Coup the expectation was that this would bring out some interesting aspects of how an administrator [in this case a Taluqdar of Osmanabad District] would have looked at and dealt with such issues. Unfortunately these expectations stemming from the sub-title of the book [A Memoir of the Struggle for Hyderabad] were unwarranted. While the context of the book is around the independence struggle, it is a tragic personal story of a civil servant who faced persecution by the new administration.

This book is Kafka’s delight. The author Mohammed Hyder is picked up soon after the Indian forces occupy Hyderabad and without much of an explanation put into prison. Almost like the re-enactment of Kafka’s Trial, charges are framed much later, he is shifted from one prison to another, documents are withheld on flimsy reasons, even a death penalty is ordered and then the cases are withdrawn even as the persecution outside the courtrooms continue. The book deals with Hyder’s trial and incarceration and what came out of the process. It is the story of a passive struggle by a civil servent, within the confines of civility to restore his honour and position. While the first part of the book is friendly, having a neat narration, the second part of the book has large parts of reproduction of legal documents, affidavits, counter affidavits and judgements.

It is interesting to have glimpses of the administration of Hyderabad State from Hyder’s perspective. From whatever description that Hyder gives, he possibly did not have a strong position on either accession or otherwise. His comes across as an earnest civil servant wanting to maintain law and order, and also feed the higher ups about the ground situation in the district under his control. He does not seem to have a soft corner for Quasim Rizvi the leader of the Razakars, and an accusation that he had to deal with. At the same time he is willing to engage with him. Quasim Rizvi, generally painted as the villain of the episode that involved the Razakars appears very reasonable in all his encounters with Hyder. It is also evident from the book that while the Nizam took the line that “India is a geographical notion. Hyderabad is a political reality” [p.13], the preparation for resistance was based on false ground level assurance and a notion of external support. Reading Hyder one gets the impression that acceding to India was for them a forgone conclusion and any resistence at best was a symbolic one, based more on pomp and ego and less on data.

Hyder somewhat disappoints in the way he has constructed the book. It could have been a great piece of literature, a personal account of the incarceration, a conspiracy theory hatched, and a persecution carried out with clinical precision. It could have been a piece of history re-told, the pressures of being loyal to a losing employer, a tragic story of losing friends and allies who were mostly moving away to Pakistan, a story of Muslim rule in a Hindu state which converts into a majority [hindu] rule in a state that was predominantly ruled by muslims. He could have brought out the marginalization of the muslims, particularly in the post accession regime where the erstwhile rulers became minorities. The potential was immense. However, Hyder restricts it to a dispassionate personal tale, where conspiracies are played down, villains are played up, and everybody shown as reasonable. October coup suffers from decency. It is too decent a book to be set in the tumultuous period.

October Coup: A Memoir of the Struggle for Hyderabad
Mohammed Hyder
pp.228. Price Rs.295.
New Delhi: Roli Books [Lotus Collection]

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